Restaurants are subject to an incredible amount of credit card fraud—over 60-percent of data breaches happen in the hospitality industry, costing consumers billions each year. However, restaurant “skimming”— when servers illegally copy your credit card information—is a very easy scam to pull off. We willingly hand over our credit cards to complete strangers who walk away—oftentimes completely out of sight—before returning the card several minutes later.
In 2010, Viableware, a Kirkland, WA-based startup, conceptualized a solution to this costly problem, a tableside ordering and payment system called Rail. To develop the system—an integration of hardware and software—it turned to Synapse, a Seattle-based engineering firm specializing in product realization.
According to Ziv Magoz, electrical engineer for Synapse, Viableware had several requirements for the device. It had to communicate wirelessly with restaurant POS systems, have RFID and NFC capabilities, and a touchscreen durable enough to accept signatures without scratching the surface.
Another important requirement was that the device had to be waterproof, meaning it could have no plug-ins for charging. To address this, Synapse developed an inductive charging station. Functioning like a transformer, the primary coil is in the transformer and the secondary coil in the Rail. When the Rail is placed into a slot on the charger, the distance is short enough to have roughly 70-percent efficiency between the two inductors, driving 5 watts of power into the Rail. Fully charged, the 4.2 amp/hour battery in the Rail has enough power to last 16 hours.
With security being the paramount concern, Synapse incorporated a card reader with a magnetic stripe that encrypts the credit card number before sending it wirelessly to the server. The decryption then occurs on the credit card company’s side of the transaction, making the information secure throughout the entire transaction process.
Viableware is currently piloting the device in PF Chang’s and has plans to also expand into New Orleans-based Dickie Bennan restaurants. More recently, the company announced that it had integrated its technology with leading restaurant POS systems, MICROS, NCR Aloha and Dinerware, which serve over 60-percent of the 400,000 full-service restaurants in the US.