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Dallas merchants leverage image recognition to simplify mobile checkout

The new system, Cartwheel Register, allows merchants to process a transaction all through an iPhone or iPad application without the need to purchase any additional hardware. Tantrum Street, which rolled out Cartwheel Register, also plans to release a mobile wallet called SkipWallet in the next few weeks to complement the mobile POS.

“We thought of Cartwheel Register as simplifying the small business owner’s life,” said William Cervin, co-founder/CEO of Tantrum Street, Dallas. “They don’t have any extra hardware that they need. They don’t have to sign any contract.

“From the start, it means that a business can use Cartwheel Register and a consumer doesn’t have to change,” he said. “The real experience is kind of a more fun store environment.

“The merchant will be able to be on the sales floor and engage more directly with [customers]. It should feel cooler for the customers.”

The modern register
Three of the 15 merchants who are piloting Cartwheel Register are Stash Design, Pompeii Italian Cuisine and LaDonna Stein.

Cartwheel Register uses image recognition to accept credit and debit cards. Merchants can take a picture of the card, and the app will send the numbers through the back end to process the payment.

Consumers can also pay by cash, and in the near future they will also be able to pay using SkipWallet.

Both Cartwheel Register and SkipWallet are free iOS apps. Tantrum Street plans to create Android and Windows versions once it perfects the iOS apps.

Tantrum Street also plans to add more features such as loyalty and personalization in the near future.

The beta partners are getting to use Cartwheel Register for free, and Tantrum Street has not yet decided on a pricing plan for the final rollout in the first quarter of 2014.

Mobile POS
A number of different vendors have been releasing mobile POS systems to ease the transaction process for smaller merchants.

There is a lot of competition in the restaurant space with mobile apps such as Dash, TabbedOut and MyCheck (see story).

Then there are larger competitors such as Google Wallet, Isis and PayPal.

However, many of the mobile POS systems require further hardware such as contactless terminals, and not only does that require more investment from merchants but it also seems that NFC is struggling to catch on (see story).

Cartwheel Register is taking a different approach by keeping it all within the app and not even requiring bar codes to make a purchase.

“The bottom line there is the only thing a merchant needs to run a store is their smartphone,” Mr. Cervin said.

“Second is the implication on transaction price,” he said. “Traditionally today there’s a price for a transaction and double the price for keyed in and oftentimes merchants aren’t aware or they get penalized because the swiper doesn’t work well.

“It ends up costing the merchant a lot of money. We have one rate, and it’s the same no matter what, whether it’s American Express, Visa or MasterCard. And it’s a competitive rate to the swipe transaction. Third is the idea that the interface on a tablet and phone gets the item level recording and being able to understand their business better.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York