The ATM turns 50 and enters a new, card-less era

Bangalore, July 2 2017: The cash dispensing terminal known as ATM or Automatic Teller Machine, is 50 years old,  increasingly threatened by electronic payment options, yet  refuses to die. 
There are  over 3 million   ATMs world-wide,   some 2 00,000  of them in India,  including  a few in unconventional locations: The world's highest  ATM is at  Nathula Pass on the Sikkim-Tibet border, at 4023 metres (13,200 feet).   The only ATM  on an Indian warship,   is operated by SBI  on board  the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, serving 1500  seamen. Floating ATMs routinely   serve customers on dozens  of tiny islands in Kerala's  backwaters.
 Yet attempts are being made, to render ATMs obsolete.  After demonetizing 80% of all currency notes in circulation and forcing people to adopt some form of e-cash, the Indian government  has virtually stopped  growing  the ATM network. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant   has suggested  that by 2020,   credit and debit cards and ATM machines will  be totally irrelevant. He is wrong in multiple ways. The need for physical currency will never go away: Even in the most advanced economies, half of all consumer transactions are in cash.  The ATM is not about to fade away, it  is reinventing itself in  new and innovative ways.
With over a billion Indians having an Aadhaar number, DCB bank launched India's first  Aadhaar-based ATM in  Mumbai last year  and is  extending this technology to  400 ATMs  nationwide. Their   terminal   has a  fingerprint scanner instead of a  card reader.  Finger print replaces ATM card and  Aadhaar number  replaces the PIN number. The Card-less ATM has come. 
Internationally,  ATM maker Diebold has  designed a very small-footprint terminal called  'ATM Extreme' that is just 10 inches (25 cms) wide and  can be operated with the customer's finger print.  Diebold is also one of the leading ATM  suppliers in India -- so  a platform for  large scale rollout of Aadhaar-based ATM payments   is  readily available.
If card-less, why not contact-less?  This is a parallel trend that  has swept many  banks abroad.  It uses a mobile phone -- and removes the most vulnerable element of today's card-based ATM operation: the card itself,  which baddies can clone or skim.  Users need to download a banking app  on their smart phone. The actual connection is wireless -- Bluetooth or  Near Field Communication (NFC).   With early mobile-based ATMs  deployed in Spain in 2011, the customer had to scan  a QR or Quick Response code on the ATM screen. This is cumbersome -- and India will likely leapfrog into later, easier technologies in   card-less ATMs.
Samsung  launched  its mobile payment app, SamsungPay,  in India in March this year -- and users can use it to pay through their credit or debit cards at Point of Sale terminals in shops without swiping the actual card.   In South America  SamsungPay  joined with ATM maker Diebold- Nixdorf  --  and  owners of the Samsung Galaxy S8,  can  use their phone to withdraw cash from ATMs  in Puerto Rico.
Google has launched an  Android  payments app called "Pay",   which works like SamsungPay with your credit cards. Bank of America   was the first to use Android "Pay" to enable  card-less payments at many of its  US-based ATMs.  The app is not launched in India --yet.
|The world is moving  towards mobile-phone- based ATMs --and Indian banks will inevitably follow, once RBI  takes the first bold step.