Mississippi company rolls out talking ATM

Thursday, December 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Triton Systems Inc. has introduced an automated teller machine with standard equipment that speaks to visually impaired customers.

The new 9700 Series, on display this week at a trade show in Anaheim, Calif., will be available in production quantities next month.

Large banks began using ``talking ATMs'' in the past couple of years, but the technology is new to machines at nonbank locations such as convenience stores, airports and hotels.

The Long Beach, Miss.-based company, a wholly owned operating division of Dover Corp., is a leading maker of retail ATMs.

``If Triton carries through with what I understand their plans to be _ to make all of their new ATMs with voice capability as a standard feature _ it could have a significant impact in an area where there's been no significant change,'' said Curtis Chong, technology director for the National Federation of the Blind.

Cash-dispensing machines have had to meet federal guidelines related to the Americans with Disabilities Act since 1992, primarily with Braille on ATM keypads and other controls. Because of technological advancements, those guidelines are being revised.

Industry officials expect new ADA rules regarding ATMs to become law next year, possibly in July.

``We've designed the 9700 to meet the coming regulations and to set a new standard in the mid-tier, off-premise ATM market,'' said Triton president and chief executive Ernest Burdette.

Triton began working on the 9700 Series early last year. The system uses text-to-speech synthesis software that provides audible instructions to the user.

Chong, who is blind, said he visited the Triton plant in September and advised them on the voice scripting that guides the person through the transaction.

He said the new machine is easy to use: plug in a set of headphones and follow the instructions.

Triton spokeswoman Mary Edith Dressel said it's not certain if the federal government will require ATM operators to upgrade the 325,000 machines already in use in the United States, but the company is designing a retrofit kit for some existing models.

The kits are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2002.

In September, Triton laid off 90 of its 340 workers in Long Beach, citing competitive pressure, falling profits and uncertainty about the economy. The layoffs were the first for the manufacturer in 10 years.

A month earlier, the company had reported record sales for the first half of 2001, up 21 percent from the same period last year. Triton sold 13,557 ATMs worldwide in 2000, a 17 percent increase over 1999.