Transaction Network Services talk TNSLink

I spoke to Tiffany Trent-Abram, Vice President of Product Management for Payments, Transaction Network Services, about how TNSLink is improving transaction transport speed worldwide. Tiffany joined TNS four years ago, and prior to that was First Data for seven years, in the strategic solutions department. Before First Data, Tiffany was in a start-up for fourteen years.

What is TNSLink?

TNS Link is a fully managed, PCI compliant communications solution for ATMs, POS terminals, gaming systems, and kiosks to enable secure, high-speed transaction transport. Anywhere you have secure data coming from a remote location into a centralised location is where TNS Link sits best. We put in place a router with either a domestic SIM, or one of our roaming SIMs, depending on the provider’s needs. The ATM space is a great market for us to help our customers expand globally. We started out in the European market focusing on ATMs, and that very quickly expanded to both the North American market and Asia-Pacific. Our solutions offer a primary communication method with a secondary communication method if the primary is down.

Our communication options include wireless backup, which means we can offer dual SIMs for a primary wireless provider and a backup wireless provider, or utilize wireless as the secondary communication option only. For instance, if you lose connection to an ATM, and it can no longer get back to the host processor, we are immediately alerted and begin working to resolve the issue. Our solution arms ATM providers with stability so they can think about other questions, such as, ‘What does my market need from a perspective of, are they only depositing money or are they just taking money out of the ATM?’ Some ATMs and remote devices require more data capacity as the devices become more complex, so we offer many solution options.

Our customers want to focus on their core business, which means thinking about which ATM models need to be located where, how much cash should be kept in the machines and so on. We allow them to focus on this by taking care of the communications for them. We monitor the ATM, make sure that it’s online, and if one method of communication goes offline, we utilize the backup and alert the customer that we are working to resolve the issue. So if it’s a Telco issue, we address that – whether it’s wireless or wired, we work to resolve the issue. And the rest of our network is completely redundant as well. We call it a self-healing network, because when something goes down we can automatically jump on to a backup.

So that’s why we really push our customers for primary and backup communications out of the ATM. If it’s wired then we go for a wireless backup, if it’s already wireless we’ll have a primary wireless and a backup wireless. Leave it to TNS to keep the ATM, or any remote device, online.

TNSLink is well known for ATM communications in industry, but less known for its retail version. What are the retail point of sale aspects of the solution?

So, on the retail side there are multiple points of sale, which means bringing in those transactions and managing them across for approval. Retailers need somebody to manage their network all the way out of the store. It’s not only payment transactions that are coming out of the store – it could also be recording, for a convenience store it may be fuel levels, it may be transactions that are going to their fuel card provider for approval.

For all of that, we can route for them through our routers. It’s a primary backup communication, but for some of our retailers we’ve gone as far as to provide a complete primary router with a backup router, or even dual in case the router goes down. It’s perfectly understandable that they’d want this support, as their complete storage is reliant on it. That’s another part of what they get from us – we have a primary and a backup, and then we do the monitoring for them. If anything goes down with any one of those providers then immediately we’re alerted and we can begin working on getting that connection back up.

How does it benefit retailers?

The key benefit is having a third party managing your network. Some IT teams might have fallen behind on some of their other technology, then of course, as you can imagine, their primary focus is making sure that they can continue processing payments, processing their daily work and daily reports.

Offloading this allows their IT team to focus on new technologies that they need in the store. That was another thing we found in working with their IT teams, understanding that there was something else that we could provide them as far as data, so that they knew what to bring into the store next, and maybe even what storage to focus on first. They hadn’t created that level of reporting for them to be able to understand what was coming out of their stores previously.

Where is it seeing particular success?

In the US, it’s seeing great success in convenience stores. In Europe it’s largely been successful in retail. It’s really starting to grow in Asia-Pacific, too, especially in the Asian market for retailers. It’s a quick-gross product for us as well.

With TNS link and all of our other products, we started out with the ATMs then, when we started working with customers, we discovered that a real pain point was in retail. We quickly made sure there was a solution there. Now, we’re discovering that there may be other opportunities, such as with the ‘Internet of Things’. There continue to be opportunities for growth, especially in helping technology companies to focus on their technology. They let us handle the communication and the monitoring and the alerting, with 24 hour support, and by taking away that load we allow them to innovate.

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