RIP: Cash Registers?

Green Tea. Salad. Oatmeal. Soup. Fruit. Yogurt. Bacon Cheddar Muffin (caught my eye at a sprout style coffee shop, but not for me). These are just a few of the items I’ve purchased when on travel using increasingly popular iPad “cash registers”. Interacting with them more frequently, I’ve begun to catalog installations and reflect on their use.

The term “cash register” [wikipedia] understates much of what the iPad and the supporting cloud software is actually doing. I often ask the attendant or proprietor how they like the iPad + software combination. The most popular response – admittedly, unscientific – is the ease with which they can manage their products and prices. One manager mentioned how difficult it was to reconfigure pricing and products on their previous Windows based “cash register”.

Apps + Cloud

The examples I’ve witnessed use a “cloud” based service: NCR “Silver”, Square and ShopKeep to name a few. The proprietor configures and manages the POS (“Point of Sale”) iPad system from a browser or a management app. Changes are often available immediately. The iPad provides a fast, touch interface to cloud-based data processing. In some ways, this phenomena is a return to the client/server era of the 1990’s.

Google Trends “iPad POS”

Google Trends “iPad Cash Register”


I observed a number of clients selecting their contact record to tag a purchase for the store’s affinity program.

This points out another benefit of iPad Point of Sale Apps: clients can often enter or update their own information, saving staff time. The iPad stands quickly rotate so that the customer can complete their information and request a receipt – via email.

I observed one cafe with “black box” 7″ tablets tied to a POS system. Presumably we will see more payment service bundling, particularly from Google, Amazon and others.


The cloud is not perfect, it’s not for everyone” – so said the owner of a multi-generation successful restaurant – still using traditional cash registers. I asked this fellow if he considered an iPad cash register app/service?

“You know, the cloud has flaws from privacy to business risk. I’ve looked and looked (and looked) for an iPad POS app that keeps my data local and have yet to find one. I want to control my data.”


One can imagine many interesting business and service combinations from banking, crm, delivery and ibeacons. New user experiences will emerge, perhaps including “frictionless” purchases via emerging credential services ala Touch ID.

iPad POS system growth is yet another indicator of the iOS eco-system’s strong developer appeal.

The next logical step is to eliminate – or make irrelevant – the physical “cash register”, moving the order and payment process to the client’s device such as a smartphone and/or iPad. Perhaps the POS vendors, or one of the eco-system platforms will create and grow a pervasive location aware payment service that interacts with iBeacon-style devices.

Cloud Financial Data
I concur with the proprietor concerned about cloud financial data.

On a related personal data matter, I recently contacted Automatic to see if I might use their auto data tracking device and app without moving all of my information to their services (and “business partners”). I received this response:

This is technically possible, but not as easily done. As long as you have a data plan on your phone, it will upload data to our servers for processing. The only way to prevent it entirely is to not be connected to the internet at all. You’ll still need to connect initially to create an account for the setup process though.

Without an internet connection, trip recording may not work flawlessly all the time as some of it is dependent on our servers for processing. You won’t be able to install any firmware updates for the Link and other features of Automatic won’t work without a connection. Check out this topic in our Community for more information.

Customer Success

An optimist, I am hopeful that we will see more user controlled data options, soon.

I suspect within 5 years (3?) the iPad cash register app model will be old news, largely replaced by location aware client devices.

Notes: The photos above were taken with my iPhone 5s, with the exception of the first, which was taken with my Sigma DP2m. The wood iPad POS stand was my favorite. It was found in a rather high-rent tea cafe.

Black Swan? A Blackberry Store

I snapped this photo in Charlotte while quickly changing planes recently. Its presence caused me to do an about face as I had not previously seen a Blackberry branded retail store – nor did I ever expect to encounter such a place.

RIM was once a high flyer, but, via this informative Horace Dediu chart, has been unable to address the iPhone led smartphone disruption.

Black Swan Theory.

Brian S. Hall has been following the Smartphone wars for some time.

Going to the doctor and worrying about cybersecurity

Jeremy Epstein:

For most people, going to the doctor means thinking about co-pays and when they’ll feel better. For me though, it means thinking about those plus the cyber security of the computer systems being used by the medical professionals.

I’ve spent more time than usual visiting doctors recently. I broke my hand – sure I’ll tell you how. It was a hit-and-run accident with a woodchuck.

I was riding my bike, the woodchuck ran in front of me, I ran over him, and he fled into the woods, leaving me lying on the ground moaning in pain. Okay now that we got that out of the way…

So the emergency room doctor ordered a CT scan (to check for a concussion and the presence of a brain) and various x-rays. I thought about the computer controls while in the CT scanner, but what was really interesting was when the hospital emergency room digitized the results and gave them me on a CD to provide to the orthopedist.

Before going to the orthopedist, they had me fill out a bunch of forms online. As I provided the detailed medical information, I wondered how secure the web interface is, and whether someone could attack the medical record system through the patient input interface.

Kodak Files for Bankruptcy Protection

IT WAS the Apple of its era. Just like the late Steve Jobs with computers and music-players, George Eastman (pictured below behind the camera, with Thomas Edison) did not invent the camera and photographic development. But he simplified the technology. He outmaneuvered rivals. And he marketed his products in novel ways.

Yet the empire Eastman started to build at the end of the 19th century, and which dominated the 20th, did not last long into the 21st century. On January 18th Eastman Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. The firm was laid low by the rapid shift to digital photography and away from film, where Kodak once earned 70% margins and enjoyed a 90% market share in America.

These handsome profits meant that the firm could invest huge sums in research and development. Yet ironically, extensive R&D contributed to Kodak’s undoing, since the firm ended up pioneering the very digital cameras that went on to kill its core business. The profits also allowed Kodak to be a generous and caring company for generations of employees in Rochester (New York), where it is based, and beyond. This, too, added to its troubles, since its pension obligations left it with less capital to diversify or invest in promising areas that might have saved it.

Kodak’s icons.

The Rise of the Craft Film

Steven Walsh:

Before prohibition the seaside landscape of beer was flourishing. Variety was truly the spice of life, and every locale had its own. Styles traveled from the old world, and were enjoyed in the new. Then the 21st amendment happened, and the fields were burned, and salted. A once flourishing industry was destroyed, and all that remained was a weakened few. Before the microbrew revolution, 3 players came to dominate the entire empire. The feudal consumer was left to choose between three piss colored lagers all tasting exactly the same. They obtained these thrones through a brutal war. Expensive marketing budgets boasted a generic flavor that was at best, not offensive. As large corporations tend to do, the players got big, and they earned power. They used this power to influence policy in an effort to maintain their oligopolistic positions.

It’s hard for me not to draw parallel lines between Hollywood today, and big beer. Today only 6 studios produce nearly the entirety of our big screen entertainment. Much like beer they rely on marketing to drive their product. A script can be great, but if a studio can’t find a sure way to market it, it’s dead. The result is a series of the same movies over and over again. We put up with these movies, because when we go to the theatres, much like the bars of yesterday… there just aren’t any other choices. There is something happening though. The home-brewers are starting to talk to each other!

Apple and the American economy

The Economist:

THE macroeconomic discussions that Apple’s success prompts tend to be very curious things. Here we have a company that’s been phenomenally successful, making products people love and directly creating nearly 50,000 American jobs in doing so, criticised for not locating its manufacturing operations in America, even as Americans complain to Apple about the working conditions of those doing the manufacture abroad: life in dormitories, 12-hour shifts 6 days a week, and low pay. It isn’t enough for Apple to have changed the world with its innovative consumer electronics. It must also rebuild American manufacturing, and not just any manufacturing: the manufacturing of decades ago when reasonable hours and high wages were the norm.

The utility of Apple, however, is that it does provide a framework within which we can discuss the significant changes that have occurred across the global economy in recent decades. Contributing to that effort is a very nice and much talked about piece from the New York Times, which asks simply why it is that Apple’s manufacturing is located in Asia.

Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun

Alexander Neubacher:

The costs of subsidizing solar electricity have exceeded the 100-billion-euro mark in Germany, but poor results are jeopardizing the country’s transition to renewable energy. The government is struggling to come up with a new concept to promote the inefficient technology in the future.

The Baedeker travel guide is now available in an environmentally-friendly version. The 200-page book, entitled “Germany – Discover Renewable Energy,” lists the sights of the solar age: the solar café in Kirchzarten, the solar golf course in Bad Saulgau, the light tower in Solingen and the “Alster Sun” in Hamburg, possibly the largest solar boat in the world.

The only thing that’s missing at the moment is sunshine. For weeks now, the 1.1 million solar power systems in Germany have generated almost no electricity. The days are short, the weather is bad and the sky is overcast.

As is so often the case in winter, all solar panels more or less stopped generating electricity at the same time. To avert power shortages, Germany currently has to import large amounts of electricity generated at nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic. To offset the temporary loss of solar power, grid operator Tennet resorted to an emergency backup plan, powering up an old oil-fired plant in the Austrian city of Graz.

Mr. Daisey & The Apple Factory

Ira Glass:

Act One. Mister Daisey Goes to China.

Mike Daisey performs an excerpt that was adapted for radio from his one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” A lifelong Apple superfan, Daisey sees some photos online from the inside of a factory that makes iPhones, starts to wonder about the people working there, and flies to China to meet them. His show restarts a run at New York’s Public Theater later this month. (39 minutes)

Act Two. Act One.
What should we make of what Mike Daisey saw in China? Our staff did weeks of fact checking to corroborate Daisey’s findings. Ira talks with Ian Spaulding, founder and managing director of INFACT Global Partners, which goes into Chinese factories and helps them meet social responsibility standards set by Western companies (Apple’s Supplier Responsibility page is here), and with Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times who has reported in Asian factories. In the podcast and streaming versions of the program he also speaks with Debby Chan Sze Wan, a project manager at the advocacy group SACOM, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, based in Hong Kong. They’ve put out three reports investigating conditions at Foxconn (October 2010, May 2011, Sept 2011). Each report surveyed over 100 Foxconn workers, and they even had a researcher go undercover and take a job at the Shenzhen plant. (15 minutes)

Stopping SOPA

The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy. Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your Internet experience and put an end to reddit and many other sites you use everyday. Internet experts, organizations, companies, entrepreneurs, legal experts, journalists, and individuals have repeatedly expressed how dangerous this bill is. If we do nothing, Congress will likely pass the Protect IP Act (in the Senate) or the Stop Online Piracy Act (in the House), and then the President will probably sign it into law. There are powerful forces trying to censor the Internet, and a few months ago many people thought this legislation would surely pass. However, there’s a new hope that we can defeat this dangerous legislation.

We’ve seen some amazing activism organized by redditors at /r/sopa and across the reddit community at large. You have made a difference in this fight; and as we near the next stage, and after much thought, talking with experts, and hearing the overwhelming voices from the reddit community, we have decided that we will be blacking out reddit on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC).