WNYC reported this week on the emergence of the iPad for point-of-sale terminal use, particularly in small establishments that want to minimize the space requirements of a traditional register while adding a bit of Apple cachet to go with their cash drawer.
Stephen Nessen's story highlighted a Brooklyn artisanal ice cream parlor, Ample Hills Creamery, which has deployed the ShopKeep POS system to handle the counter. Rather than requiring an in-store server to process transactions, ShopKeep's iPad app sends the sales data directly to the company's cloud service for reporting and accounting purposes.
While the data transfer requires Internet access, an outage won't shut down your checkout line; the app will store all the transactions locally while offline and then batch them up to the cloud when service is restored. The company also suggests going with a hybrid Cradlepoint router that can instantly switch from conventional to 3G/4G wireless connectivity as needed, or work in mobile-only mode for food trucks or craft fairs. Basic service covering one register starts at $49 a month (that's BYOiPad, and you still need to buy your cash drawer, printer and other gear).
ShopKeep, launched in August of this year, is reportedly intuitive and easy to use, but it's suited primarily for outlets with
20 270 items of inventory or fewer; large and complex stores apparently aren't a good match. While the iPad probably won't replace the vast majority of POS systems anytime soon, the fact that the 17-month old device has shown up subbing into retail contexts ranging from wine lists to menus to cash registers shows just how flexible this Swiss Army Tablet has become.