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Technical Terms

AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Is also known as machine intelligence, which refers to the technology that presents human intelligence through ordinary computer programs. Usually, the term "artificial intelligence" is used to describe machines that mimic human "cognitive" functions associated with other human minds, such as "learning" and "problem solving". In the computer science, the AI research is a study of any device that senses its environment and takes actions to maximize the chance of achieving its goals.

Artificial intelligence is now more widely used in the computer field. And it is applied in robots, economic and political decision-making, control systems, and simulation systems. In general, the current definition of artificial intelligence can be divided into four categories, the machine "thinks like a person", "acts like a person", "rational thinks" and "rational acts". Here, "action" should be broadly understood as taking action or making decisions about actions rather than physical actions.

Barcode Printer

Is a printer for printing barcode labels or tags that can be attached to, or printed directly on, physical objects. Barcode printers are commonly used to label cartons before shipment, or to label retail items with UPCs or EANs. The most common barcode printers employ one of two different printing technologies. Direct thermal printers use a printhead to generate heat that causes a chemical reaction in specially designed paper that turns the paper black. Thermal transfer printers also use heat, but instead of reacting the paper, the heat melts a waxy or resin substance on a ribbon that runs over the label or tag material. The heat transfers ink from the ribbon to the paper. Direct thermal printers are generally less expensive, but they produce labels that can become illegible if exposed to heat, direct sunlight, or chemical vapors.

Barcode Scanner

A hand-held or counter-embedded device which reads the barcode of a specific product with a laser and transfers that information to a receiving system, usually a POS computer, inventory software or accounting program.

Cash Drawer

Is usually a compartment underneath a cash register in which the cash from transactions is kept. The drawer typically contains a removable till. The till is usually a plastic or wooden tray divided into compartments used to store each denomination of bank notes and coins separately in order to make counting easier. The removable till allows money to be removed from the sales floor to a more secure location for counting and creating bank deposits. Some modern cash drawers are individual units separate from the rest of the cash register.

Cash Register

Is a digital or analog sales terminal that houses the cash, change, coupons, vouchers and any other items associated with exchanging immediate payment for goods at a business establishment. The register is actually a collection of components, usually: an input keypad (actual keys or a touch screen computer screen) for the cashier, a cash drawer, a display for the cashier to keep track of the sales and a receipt printer. Various extra components can add functionality and convenience to improve check-out speed, including: credit card swipers, hand-held barcode scanners, digital/analog scales, in-counter embedded scanners, customer pole displays, extra/remote receipt printers for other areas of the establishment and wireless hand-held devices.

CPU(Central Processor or Main Processor)

Is the electronic circuitry within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logic, controlling, and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions. Traditionally, the term "CPU" refers to a processor, more specifically to its processing unit and control unit (CU), distinguishing these core elements of a computer from external components such as main memory and I/O circuitry.

Customer Display

Is a device used to show details, the total payment and other pertinent information to a buying customer during a purchase at a point of sale. It is available as pole or desktop models, and it usually connects to your system through a USB or Serial port.

  • VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display) – is a display device once used commonly on consumer electronics equipment such as video cassette recorder, car radio, and microwave ovens. For the POS application, it is usually installed on the back side of ECR or POS system and shows 2x20 characters in blue or green color.
  • 2nd display – since the price of LCD panel is getting lower and a LCD display can present more information, such as advertisements or promotions than a standard VFD, many business owners start to use LCD display as customer display instead of VFD.

EMV Card Reader

originally stood for "Europay, Mastercard, and Visa", the three companies that created the standard. The standard is now managed by EMVCo, a consortium of financial companies. EMV is a payment method based upon a technical standard for smart payment cards and for payment terminals and automated teller machines that can accept them.

Finger Print Reader

Is an electronic device used to capture a digital image of the fingerprint pattern. The captured image is called a live scan. This live scan is digitally processed to create a biometric template (a collection of extracted features) which is stored and used for matching. Many technologies have been used including optical, capacitive, RF, thermal, piezoresistive, ultrasonic, piezoelectric, MEMS.

HDD (Hard Disk Drive)

Hard disk, hard drive, or fixed disk, is an electromechanical data storage device that uses magnetic storage to store and retrieve digital information using one or more rigid rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material. The platters are paired with magnetic heads, usually arranged on a moving actuator arm, which read and write data to the platter surfaces. Data is accessed in a random-access manner, meaning that individual blocks of data can be stored or retrieved in any order and not only sequentially. HDDs are a type of non-volatile storage, retaining stored data even when powered off.

i-Button

(also known as the Dallas Key) is a small stainless-steel package that resembles a watch battery. Manufacturers also produce devices more complex than a single component that use the 1-Wire bus to communicate.

LCD (Liquid-crystal Display)

Is a flat-panel display or other electronically modulated optical device that uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals. It works on the principle of blocking light rather than emitting it directly, which enables them to consume much less power than either CRT or plasma-based displays. Nowadays most LCD displays use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) backlighting the display instead of the cold cathode fluorescent light (CCFLs). LEDs enable more precise lighting than fluorescent lighting and lower power consumption.

MSR (Magnetic Stripe Reader)

Is the device to read magnetic stripe cards such as credit cards, debit cards, identity cards, transportation tickets…etc.

Pole Display

Is a device used to show details, the total payment and other pertinent information to a buying customer during a purchase at a point of sale, see also Customer Display.

RAM (Random-access memory)

Is a form of computer data storage that stores data and machine code currently being used. A random-access memory device allows data items to be read or written in almost the same amount of time irrespective of the physical location of data inside the memory. In contrast, with other direct-access data storage media such as hard disks, CD-RWs, DVD-RWs and the older magnetic tapes and drum memory, the time required to read and write data items varies significantly depending on their physical locations on the recording medium, due to mechanical limitations such as media rotation speeds and arm movement.

RFID (Radio-frequency Identification)

A transponder device and/or a microchip mostly used for business premises access control or electronic payment.

SSD (Solid-state Drive)

Is a solid-state storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently. It is also sometimes called a solid-state device or a solid-state disk, although SSDs do not have physical disks.

Thermal/Receipt Printer

Is a device used for printing out paper receipts for an establishment’s customers to take with them as a record of the purchase. “Thermal” refers to the ink heating process used in the actual printing, and requires a special kind of paper.

Touch Screen

Is a component of hardware with the ability or recognizing human touch, usually on a display screen. Replaces the need for a computer mouse, or used in addition of a mouse, for transaction speed and convenience, .

  • Capacitive

    – A capacitive touch screen panel consists of an insulator, such as glass, coated with a transparent conductor, such as indium tin oxide(ITO). As the human body is also an electrical conductor, touching the surface of the screen results in a distortion of the screen's electrostatic field, measurable as a change in capacitance. Different technologies may be used to determine the location of the touch. The location is then sent to the controller for processing. Unlike a resistive touch screen, one cannot use a capacitive touch screen through most types of electrically insulating material, such as gloves. This disadvantage especially affects usability in consumer electronics, such as touch tablet PCs and capacitive smart phones in cold weather. It can be overcome with a special capacitive stylus, or a special-application glove with an embroidered patch of conductive thread allowing electrical contact with the user's fingertip.

    - Project Capacitive – Projected capacitive touch (PCT; also PCAP) technology is a variant of capacitive touch technology. This is a simple 16 key capacitive touchpad was invented which could sense a finger through very thick glass, even though the signal to be sensed was significantly smaller than the capacitance changes caused by varying environmental factors such as humidity, dirt, rain and temperature.

    - Surface capacitance - In this basic technology, only one side of the insulator is coated with a conductive layer. A small voltage is applied to the layer, resulting in a uniform electrostatic field. When a conductor, such as a human finger, touches the uncoated surface, a capacitor is dynamically formed. The sensor's controller can determine the location of the touch indirectly from the change in the capacitance as measured from the four corners of the panel. As it has no moving parts, it is moderately durable but has limited resolution, is prone to false signals from parasitic capacitive coupling, and needs calibration during manufacture. It is therefore most often used in simple applications such as industrial controls and kiosks.

  • Resistive

    - A resistive touch screen panel comprises several thin layers, the most important of which are two transparent electrically resistive layers facing each other with a thin gap between. The top layer (that which is touched) has a coating on the underside surface; just beneath it is a similar resistive layer on top of its substrate. One layer has conductive connections along its sides, the other along top and bottom. A voltage is applied to one layer, and sensed by the other. When an object, such as a fingertip or stylus tip, presses down onto the outer surface, the two layers touch to become connected at that point. The panel then behaves as a pair of voltage dividers, one axis at a time. By rapidly switching between each layer, the position of pressure on the screen can be determined. Resistive touch is commonly used in restaurants, factories and hospitals due to its high tolerance for liquids and contaminants. A major benefit of resistive-touch technology is its low cost. Additionally, as only sufficient pressure is necessary for the touch to be sensed, they may be used with gloves on, or by using anything rigid as a finger substitute. Disadvantages include the need to press down and a risk of damage by sharp objects. Resistive touch screens also suffer from poorer contrast, due to having additional reflections (i.e.: glare) from the layers of material placed over the screen.
  • Surface acoustic wave (SAW)

    - Uses ultrasonic waves that pass over the touch screen panel. When the panel is touched, a portion of the wave is absorbed. The change in ultrasonic waves is processed by the controller to determine the position of the touch event. Surface acoustic wave touch screen panels can be damaged by outside elements. Contaminants on the surface can also interfere with the functionality of the touch screen.
  • Infrared Touch Screen

    - Uses an array of X-Y infrared LED and photo detector pairs around the edges of the screen to detect a disruption in the pattern of LED beams. These LED beams cross each other in vertical and horizontal patterns. This helps the sensors pick up the exact location of the touch. A major benefit of such a system is that it can detect essentially any opaque object including a finger, gloved finger, stylus or pen. It is generally used in outdoor applications and POS systems which cannot rely on a conductor (such as a bare finger) to activate the touch screen. Unlike capacitive touch screens, infrared touch screens do not require any patterning on the glass which increases durability and optical clarity of the overall system. Infrared touch screens are sensitive to dirt and dust that can interfere with the infrared beams, and suffer from parallax in curved surfaces and accidental press when the user hovers a finger over the screen while searching for the item to be selected.
Now you know the basic terms of a POS terminal. If you are going to pick up a POS for your own, you may start from “How to Choose a POS system”.

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