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Does mobile POS increase data security risks?

April 11, 2013

Angella Emmett is senior director of product management at Starmount

By Angella Emmett

Wireless connections in the store are altering the way we shop — a trend that will continue to grow as retailers successfully deploy in-store mobile point-of-sale technology in their bricks-and-mortar stores.

But even with the right wireless technology infrastructure firmly in place, data security concerns around payment cards and personally identifiable information are still a barrier to mobile POS adoption.

Every time the media runs a story about identity theft or hacking of private information, it sends fresh waves of anxiety through consumers and retailers alike. This is typical with emerging technology.

But it is important that the retail industry do its part to show the advancement of security measures in wireless transaction solutions by being willing to share information about how wireless transactions positively affect retailers’ businesses.

Industry-leading retailers are reluctant to share their side of the story because of the risk of losing their competitive advantage. That is understandable, but it is slowing the growth, adoption, and economic benefit that could be experienced if consumers accepted wireless in-store transactions as the norm.

Interestingly, early adopters are also keeping the use of wireless transactions quiet because they do not want to lose their own competitive advantage as consumers on the cutting edge. Retailers need to capitalize on this cutting-edge, yet highly secure technology.

Simply put, any risk that exists on a standard desktop or laptop computer may also exist on a mobile device.

Barrier to sentry
Security risks will always be a concern as long as technology and hackers are evolving and standards are lagging.

The only sure-fire way to mitigate risk is for merchants and service providers to spend the dollars and effort on implementing the right authentication strategy as well as placing the appropriate level of ongoing attention on monitoring for new threats and potential risks in their working environments.

More importantly, they need to avoid scenarios that may lead to compromising personal data.

In reality, the barriers are trivial — except that the barriers in the minds of retailers and customers can prevent advancement that is critical to generating foot traffic to the stores.

Here is the truth: The solutions and guidelines for developing and implementing in-store mobile technology are available, proven and retail hardened.

Also, with the advancement of mobile selling technologies and revised safeguards dictated by PCI DSS over the last two years, it is safe to say the industry has successfully created a competitive market of available, secure mobile POS hardware, software and implementation methods to choose from.

FOR THOSE considering a mobile selling strategy, there are plenty of other reasons for using in-store mobile.

Regardless of the fear, uncertainty or doubt, both the merchant and customer benefit from a highly tailored, real-time and high-tech availability of information for things such as cross-channel product research, clienteling and personal shopping, task management, and inventory visibility and availability.

These types of mobile solutions exist for the enterprise, are often quick and inexpensive to pilot and, once adopted, can demonstrate shareholder value faster than implementing wired solutions.

Angella Emmett is senior director of product management at Starmount, Austin, TX. Reach her at

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