Interfacing | NACS – Magazine – Past Issues – 2012 – June 2012
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With an ever-increasing number of devices on the counters, in the offices and on the walls of convenience stores, it's more important than ever to create standard interfaces between all these devices and the POS systems that control them.

Under the direction of PCATS (the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards), the Device Integration Committee defines and promotes standards and message-level interfaces for many of the devices critical to the successful operation of our industry — tank gauges, auto safes, car wash controllers and electronic price signs, just to name a few.

By defining standard interfaces, PCATS not only documents a common language for these devices to communicate but also creates effective ways for equipment suppliers to interact. Like matching puzzle pieces, a point-of-sale vendor that implements their side of the standard auto safe interface can automatically plug into any safe vendor in the marketplace that also supports the standard. From the other perspective, a PCATS-standard safe vendor can immediately interface to a wide range of corresponding point-of-sale suppliers.

Either way, the end result for retailers is increased choice and flexibility. Standard interfaces also help ensure system stability, capture industry best practices, leverage the knowledge of experienced partners and provide a channel for the adoption of innovative ideas.

Building on past successes, the Device Integration Committee is currently focusing on the standardization of two areas. The first is a standard interface to a Forecourt Device Controller (FDC). The FDC interface enables a point-of-sale to issue a single set of commands that control the behavior of dispensers, price signs and tank gauges. The FDC then translates these commands into specific actions to control whatever dispensers, price signs or tank gauges are at the site.

Second, the committee will expand its efforts to standardize the Security Camera interface, which provides a real-time transactional stream overlaid on a security camera feed. With a wide variety of systems that record this data, the adoption of an industry standard will ensure that the integration of these devices meets retailer needs.

Additionally, an increasing number of ancillary devices, such as customer-facing displays and kitchen bump-bar systems, are using the Security Camera interface. A standardized interface is expected to increase the opportunities to leverage these devices as well.

Retailers and suppliers can contribute to defining these standards that help ensure a successful future for us all. For information on how to participate please contact Michael Symonds, PCATS Device Integration Committee chairman, at (336) 547-5112.