In a sense, Toronto-based ITC Systems hasn’t fundamentally changed the mission of its core offering of providing Integrated Transaction Control Systems (hence the name) since its 1989 founding. But as company President Campbell Richardson happily notes, the technology level has exploded to unprecedented heights as ITC Systems approaches its 30th anniversary of being in business, and the manufacturer now boasts a product offering he believes is unparalleled, and virtually uncontested, in the transaction control niche.
“We’re pretty pumped about the marketplace right now,” Richardson exclaimed. “No one else can do what we do.”
ITC Systems has flourished from its humble beginnings north of the border as a three-person operation to 60 employees and a 6,500-sqaure-foot St. Louis operation in 2001, (formerly Access Control Technologies) which handles shipping to all of its U.S. clientele, as well as assembly, service, engineering, sales and admin, among other functions. Half of the Toronto headquarters’ 20,000-square-foot facility is dedicated to production, with the balance geared toward (among other things) sales and admin, service, engineering and validation.
Richardson follows a laser-focused market approach tailored toward three sectors:
- Office-technology dealers and manufacturers who sell their systems to customers in need of pay-per services for copying and printing
- Libraries, for copy and print transactions, point of sale and PC-reservation tools
- Its biggest sector: colleges and universities, with a full suite of products to facilitate a commerce-based, closed-loop solution (two of its largest clients are Central Florida University, with 65,000 full-time students, and the University of Ottawa, with 45,000 students)
ITC Systems cut its teeth in the education space. It offered stored-value card readers that students used to perform transactions from making copies, to vending, to laundry and food service POS across campus. Another early innovation developed by the firm was a keypad tracking system that enabled paper-intensive verticals such as law firms and real estate businesses to monitor copy usage—a great dealer-focused add on.
But it was coin mechanism devices that laid the foundation for its PayStation series of units that integrate with virtually every MFP on the market. They charge for, and control the use of, consumer printing and copying services not only on campus or at the public library, but also at copy centers, retail stores, hotels and other venues that host self-service printed output.
Calling the PayStation series “coin-operated printing” is akin to calling the internet a repository for pictures and words. Each of the three offerings in this dealer-centric line is rich in features tailored toward the needs of the respective customer’s environment. It consists of the following:
PayStation Swift: This podium-shaped unit, weighing 20 pounds, is compact and utilizes an integrated, cellular-based credit/debit card “reader” to transact copy and print functions (no cash). Guest card processing is an available option.
“What makes the Swift so attractive is that you can hook it up to any print release station and the MFD,” Richardson said. “It handles PaperCut, Pharos or Nuance Equitrac, as well as our own GoPrint print release station. The New York Public Library liked it so much that Konica Minolta installed Swifts there. The library liked how easy it was to install, the simplicity of the operation, and the price-setting is very straightforward.”
PayStation Grand: This single-piece unit accepts any combination of coins, bills, credit/debit cards or stored-value cards. Sleek and lithe at 50 pounds, the Grand can control an MFP, while also being interfaced to a print release station. It has fewer moving parts and less potential point of failure with the modular board design. Cash options include a bill recycler to reduce payout issues.
“With other offerings, if you want to set it on the floor, you need an extra stand,” Richardson noted. “Our stand comes included, either with feet or a roller wheel should you mount the Grand to a copier security housing, used to prevent paper theft.”
PayStation Elite: The newest offering in the PayStation line, released 19 months ago, accepts all manner of payment (coin, bills, credit-debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Wallet) and offers a barcode reader, mag and contactless card reader. It comes with a 7.5” color LCD touch screen, includes SSL/TLS security certification and comes with ITC Systems’ GoPrint software.
The Elite has garnered significant favor with the library community. Patrons can use their barcoded card for authentication, which flows through GoPrint into the Library Management System, which can then pull the patron’s account, including fines, and bring their jobs down from the print server. Users can also load value onto their account. The Elite features a built-in Print Release station for GoPrint and PaperCut, thereby taking the Print Release PC off the floor.
We’re pretty pumped about the marketplace right now. No one else can do what we do.
Libraries are not the only application the Elite can address. Richardson notes that dealers have latched onto the idea of pitching the Elite to big-box stores such as Walmart, Starbucks, grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail locations that offer only coin-op payment systems. The Elite allows users to send jobs to the cloud, then print them out to any location that has an MFP with the Elite. ITC Systems also has a program called Remote Configuration that allows retailers to set prices and specials through an online interface to the Elite.
“The Elite is the only system on the market that can accomplish this,” he said. “This is groundbreaking. Retailers love it because it drives more traffic into the store. Hotels are another great venue for these devices. With self-serve locations, no one has done this before. It’s opening up a whole new world of self-serve, unattended payment.”
One of the strengths behind ITC Systems’ production process is the meticulous nature it employs in bringing concepts to life. The Grand began its life as a cardboard box, and the ITC team mocked up all the locations for the components. Pieces were added to replicate what Richardson & Co. envisioned for their unit and were functionally tested. The box was hardened with epoxy to make it a solid piece, and from there Richardson took it on a tour of the different departments at ITC Systems. This ensured the piece would not only be functional, but crafted in a way that would make it easy to produce, install and service.
Great care was also taken in designing the main board, with components attached to only one side. Richardson notes that installing components on both sides of the board can be more costly and difficult to service. The board is located inside the top panel of the display, and unlike competitive offerings, there is no cable between the board and display.
“All other coin-op manufacturers have a cable that contains 16 pins on one side for the display, and 16 pins on the board side,” he pointed out. “That creates a possible 32-pin failure opportunity. If one of those points of failure happens, a service tech would need to be called to plug the cable back in, which costs money. By soldering the display to the board, we avoid that potential failure.”
Another example of how ITC Systems eliminated a potential service hazard is the design of its bypass function. Where other manufacturers employ a bypass switch (which can be subject to failure), the PayStation uses a Cam-lock that passes in front of an opto-coupler, telling the board to operate in bypass mode.
Indeed, ITC Systems’ products are all designed to anticipate (and avoid) potential cost centers, from ensuring the machines are easy to service, down to the built-in stand that reduces shipping costs and handling combined with an ease of installation.
Spreading the Word
ITC Systems sells the PayStation units at a set price, but does not partake in a revenue-sharing model. According to Richardson, dealers often include these products in lease packages. ITC Systems works with the MFP reseller to help sell the total solution into library or school markets. Since ITC Systems is so familiar with these types of solutions, the re-sellers rely on them for best-of-breed products, solutions and advice. For example, all libraries charge overdue-book fines and need some sort of POS along with the copy/print control, and ITC Systems can help any reseller (plus the sale) by including these systems. It makes the library comfortable that it only needs to call one source for a complete payment solution.
Richardson has been spreading the word of the PayStation line through its website, as well as social media blasts, print advertising and email campaigns. Niche-oriented trade shows, such as events targeted for libraries and college/university products, and manufacturer/dealer gatherings ranging from ITEX to Ricoh-, Konica Minolta-, Sharp- and Xerox-hosted events, have proven to be fertile ground as well.
Richardson is excited about the possibilities for future growth. “The Elite has really opened our eyes to the retail markets, especially the big guys,” he said. “The chain stores, convenience and grocery stores, hotels…we think those places are the next big thing for our Pay 4 Print/Copy. The PayStation Elite has really exceeded our expectations. We are continually talking to our customers, seeing what else they need, then build it into our products.”