Smart safe manufacturers have all designed their own unique features and capabilities but there tends to be three elements that are fundamental to every smart safe - User Interface, Bill Validator, and Controller.
Simple & Durable
Manage common transactions well
Flexible & Powerful
Multiple connection methods, software options that simplify advanced configuration and monitoring tasks
A smart safe user interface should be simple to use and as durable as possible.
An ideal safe interface is one that lets retailers accomplish common tasks quickly and efficiently. Look for special function keys or assignable hot keys that provide one-touch results and shortcuts.
In most retail spaces, spills, scratches, and impacts are very common around user interfaces and they are the last things you want to worry about your safe having issues with. It is important that the user interface is designed to be robust enough to survive these harsh environments.
Membrane switches are among the most durable options available. They are hard to break and inexpensive to replace. This class of interface can also be built with slimmer profiles than the more elaborate alternative, touchscreen displays. Look for displays that are adjustable so they can be used when the safe is mounted under a counter or out in the open floor.
LCD touchscreen displays are another popular option. At the expense of taking up more space and being less durable, these displays offer advanced menu structures that can be setup for onsite configuration. Oftentimes, these displays will be of limited resolution and viewing angles.
On top of a nice user interface built directly into the safe, many smart safes offer communication ports to enable remote configuration of the safe and remote monitoring of cash transactions via remote servers, POS systems, or backroom PCs. These communication ports come in a variety of forms including Serial RS232, Ethernet, and Cellular Modems.
Remote Configuration is oftentimes the most practical way to configure a smart safe that has many users and advanced feature selections because it can use specially designed configuration software running on a PC with a full ASCII keyboard.
Similarly, remote tracking of cash transactions allows for powerful enhancements of capabilities beyond the local interface.
Examples of enhancements include generation of usage statistics, visualizations of cash flows, pick up schedules, and recorded history of event logs.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of remote configuration and tracking is the ability to view your safe operations wherever and whenever you want.
Smartphones and tablets can be used to log into web portals to view safe operations in real time. No matter where you are in the world, you are able to track real time data with remote configuration options.
Networked Safes- No matter where you are in the world
Track real-time cash transaction data and remotely configure safe settings.
If a smart safe were a car, the bill validator would be the engine.
Several key features define the performance of the bill validator. First and most critical is the acceptance rate. The best validators will use optical sensing at several wavelengths to determine the legitimacy of an inserted bill. Validation acceptance rates on the best validators are in excess of 95% over both new and worn legitimate bills.
A second important feature is the validation speed. The fastest validators can accept bills in less than 2 seconds. Many high end validators also offer bunch note feeder attachments that allow for up to 30 notes to be automatically fed into a validator sequentially. As a cautionary note, the use of bunch note feeders typically results in higher jam rates.
Capacity is a 3rd distinguishing feature of validators.
Once bills are validated, motors drive them into a bill cassette. Cassettes are made in many sizes.
For retail applications, 1200 note cassettes are standard with 2200 note extra-large cassettes also available. For stores that do a high volume of cash business, a safe with two 1200 capacity validators is typically more practical than buying a safe with a single 2200 capacity validator.
Why? Having two validator heads enables employees to feed in bills twice as fast, and offers redundancy in the event that a bill jam or other malfunction occurs in one of the two validators.
Bill validator construction varies considerably from one vendor to the next.
The best validators are designed to have very low bill jam rates and have long service lives. A smart safe should be chosen that makes it easy for store employees to clear bill jams without providing access to the cash cassettes. Choosing a smart safe company that has a strong relationship with industry leading validator companies is also critical in ensuring the validators are being used to their fullest potential.
Important: consider that as new enhanced security banknotes are introduced by the government, it may be necessary to update the software on the bill validator. Leading smart safe suppliers provide a means to remotely update the validator software using the safe’s networked link.
The controller is the brains of the smart safe.
It is the electronics responsible for tying together the user interface, bill validators, and any other electronic peripherals together. The key priorities of a well-designed controller are data integrity, data protection, and robustness.
Data stored and managed by the controller consists of all the cash processed by the safe, as well as user names and passwords of those who are authorized to use the safe. Ensuring the data is safe from corruption or wrongful manipulation by both accidental and purposeful hacking attempts is of critical importance.
Controllers that are built on embedded platforms running specialized operating systems, encryption algorithms, and carefully controlled communication protocols to external networks are the most secure. Hacking these types of systems is far more difficult than more common, general purpose operating systems such as Windows and Linux.
Simplicity of design is critical for a controller.
Many smart safes are run 24/7 without ever powering down. Controllers built on common operating system platforms are subject to large amounts of operational overhead unrelated to the safe program. Large operating systems supporting complicated user interfaces and peripherals are most prone to lockups and error generation. These operating systems also require frequent updates and security patches to remain secure against the latest virus threats.