Using mobile phones as point-of- sale (POS) terminals that can read any payment card - a notion painted by Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon recently - may be years away from becoming a reality.
But a similar notion of a unified POS is taking hold here and could be on the cusp of widespread deployment.
United Overseas Bank (UOB), which recently rolled out 1,000 unified POS, is targeting to increase that to 10,000 over the next two years.
OCBC Bank is planning a commercial rollout later this month. And DBS Bank is set to expand its unified POS deployment in the next few months.
Separate terminals have traditionally been installed to accept ATM, credit and contactless cards. The new POS machine that accepts all cards will replace them - as well as banish the mess of cables sprawling over retailers' countertops.
Unified POS is touted to improve productivity as cashiers need not learn to use so many machines or reconciliate accounts manually from the various terminals at the end of the workday.
A unified POS is also a precursor to a safer payment culture where consumers do not need to hand over their ATM or credit cards to the cashier.
Instead, consumers are the ones to insert their cards into the payment terminals, which can be rotated to face them, or at self-service checkouts.
"This unified POS movement will drive self-service checkouts, which will, in turn, ease the need to hire more cashiers," said Ms Jacquelyn Tan, UOB regional head of cards and payments.
Over the past year, UOB has been testing its unified POS. To date, it has rolled out 1,000 of such terminals, chiefly at the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores. Other retailers include camera retailer Olympus Singapore and car-repair shop Kaizen Motors Engineering.
"Cashier training is easier now as they need to learn to use only one machine," said Mr David Goh, 7-Eleven Singapore chief executive officer.
Tallying the accounts at the end of workday is also easier as one machine now generates data for the entire day's takings.
In the past, an employee had to manually add up the takings registered by three separate machines.
UOB - whose network of merchants includes Cold Storage, Guardian and Ikea - said it is targeting to roll out 10,000 unified POS over the next two years.
OCBC Bank is also trialling its unified POS at Han's, which has 21 eateries islandwide. A commercial rollout is slated for later this month.
"A unified POS will reduce customer confusion at self-service checkouts as they are now confronted with three machines - one for ATM cards, one for credit cards and one for contactless cards," said Mr Desmond Tan, head of group lifestyle financing at OCBC Bank.
DBS has also been busy with its unified POS deployment. Last year, it installed unified POS in Comfort DelGro, Transcab and Premier taxis. It will roll out unified POS in Sheng Siong supermarket and Watson's retail outlets in the next few months.
Mr Anthony Seow, head of Cards & Unsecured Loans at DBS Bank Singapore, said: "A unified POS reduces confusion when (shoppers) make their purchases and this scheme will further proliferate cashless payments."
This article was first published on May 11, 2016. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.