Understanding Payment Devices and Making the Right Choice

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Jonathan Jacobs

In the payments industry, merchants have the choice between commercial off the shelf (COTS) devices and purpose-built devices when it comes to their card machines. It is important for business owners to understand the differences between the two devices, the benefits, and the drawbacks of each device to make an informed decision for their business.


A COTS device is a pre-built, mass-produced device that is readily available in the market to consumers for a wide range of applications. A COTS device is most commonly a smartphone or a tablet. Other forms of COTS devices include rugged devices that are built to be more durable to handle accidental damage or rough handling. COTS devices are traditionally not manufactured for use in payments.


Purpose-built devices are specifically designed and tailored for a particular industry or use case. In the payments industry, purpose-built card machines are designed with the sole purpose of securely processing payments.


Key differences between purpose-built and COTS devices:


Purpose-built card machines are built with robust security features that meet payments industry standards and regulations. They are designed to securely handle sensitive payment data, protecting both the business and the consumer.

COTS devices may not have the same level of security measures in place, as they are primarily designed for consumer use and not specifically for payment processing.


Purpose-built card machines are designed to seamless integrate with existing payment systems and processes and often come with features and functionalities that are specific to the payments industry.

COTS devices are built to provide a variety of functionality that may not include payment acceptance. They may require additional software or external hardware to be used to accept payments.


SoftPOS is an emerging technology in the payments industry that allows businesses to transform COTS devices into fully-fledged card machines. SoftPOS leverages the built-in capabilities of COTS devices such as NFC technology and secure connectivity to enable businesses to accept payments seamlessly and easily.


Businesses are able to download dedicated payment applications, such asHalo Dot powered applications, onto their COTS devices, effectively turning them into secure payment terminals. The technology is integrated with payment processors and, allowing businesses to seamlessly manage their payment workflows.


Advantages of using SoftPOS on COTS devices:

1.       It provides cost savings for businesses as they can leverage existing devices without the need to invest in dedicated card machines.

2.       A SoftPOS solution offers flexibility and mobility. COTS devices are portable and widely available, allowing businesses to accept payments anywhere with an internet connection.


It is important to note that SoftPOS solutions like Halo Dot need to meet industry security standards and regulations to ensure the protection of payment data. The Payments Card Industry have set out clear standards that SoftPOS solution providers need to comply with in order to process transactions. These standards include, but aren’t limited to, PCI MPoC, PCI DSS, PCI PIN and EMV L2 and L3 certifications.