The Once and Future ATM

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Happy 50th anniversary to one of my favorite uncelebrated but ubiquitous tech advancements: the ATM machine. There are over three million ATMs worldwide, including one in Antarctica and a mobile floating one in Indonesia. And just about everyone in the world has their favorite ATM story, like the ones in these photos, which left me laughing out loud.

But by and large, even though ATMs once revolutionized how we access money, they haven’t changed much over the years. You stick something in the slot, enter a secret pin and out pours the cash (funds permitting). They’ve been expensive to maintain, have myriad clunky interfaces and a garden variety of hoses and pipes that need to record transactions in near real time.

They’re also known for risky encounters with thieves, scam artists and other undesirables. “For consumers,” says David Kuchenski, head of the Diebold Nixdorf Innovation Team, “it’s always been a matter of convenience vs. risk.”

Kuchenski and his team set out to rethink ATMs of the future. In a nutshell, they operate more like your mobile device, have biometric authentication like iris recognition built in, and let you talk to the ATM like just another IoT device through NFC or Bluetooth.

Kuchenski and I got to spend some time walking through Diebold Nixdorf’s new concepts. The first is the Extreme (which stands for extremely small). Part of the new experience is authentication. This model uses finger-vein authentication. It has NFC and Bluetooth proximity, which means you can use your mobile device to make a transaction instead of a card. And it uses the same type of card reader as the more secure EMV ones should you opt for the old-fashioned swipe. The user interface is designed around touching bubbles that reveal deeper menus, much as those you’d find in a web-interface. Because of its demure footprint, this machine can be placed in unattended retail situations.

The second concept, Essence, is what you’d imagine if The Matrix met the ATM. More like a piece of display signage than a cash machine, it operates more like a touch enabled smart phone. So, imagine this scenario: You can phone in your request for your ATM to package up a few hundred bucks. Then, after work, you could walk over to your ATM and identify yourself through some biometric authentication. Your money is ready and waiting for you. The only thing better would be having an ATM in your home (soon, I suppose).

Diebold Nixdorf

For any consumer who has approached their ATM with a bottle of antibacterial spray, you’ll be thrilled to know the new ATMs are made with antimicrobial glass touchscreens. Calling them ATMs is going to quickly become a misnomer. These machines will ultimately have robo-AI brains to be able to have a conversation, be there at point of purchase and be able to give you a mortgage as easily as a hundred dollars. So, while it may be the ATM’s 50th anniversary this year, it may also well be its last.