September 2, 2014

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Forging Connections


By Tom Haraldsen

September 2, 2014

Although the world has become increasingly technology-connected over the past decade, gaps remain within that coverage, leaving areas where connectivity has been missing. The evolution of ATMs, from banks to businesses, brought with it a new challenge for many retailers—the ability to connect to a financial institution in a portable, flexible way.

Enter OptConnect, part of the Grant Victor family of companies, which has grown over the past five years into the nation’s leading provider of wireless connectivity solutions for ATMs. OptConnect was created because of a need of many convenience store owners—a business segment that Grant Victor was involved with at the time.

“As we were operating as a vendor, we realized there was a huge miss in connectivity and a chance to provide that service,” says Chris Baird, executive vice president of the Kaysville-based business. “There are an estimated 500,000 ATMs in the United States, with about 60 percent of those in the retail sector. The traditional communication method for those retailers was to purchase a phone line and have it hardwired into an ATM location. That made it a very rigid connection, without any portability or flexibility.”

OptConnect changed that by providing hardware that allows ATM cellular connectivity through the use of modems. “I explain it this way—we basically make cell phones for ATMs,” Baird says. “OptConnect works with three large cellular providers—Verizon, AT&T and Sprint—to connect customers to their banks. We have customers throughout the country. We’ve also expanded into Canada and parts of the Caribbean.”

So why did it take so long for someone to solve this problem of connectivity, given the history of the internet? “Wireless coverage wasn’t that great until about five years ago,” Baird says. “Everybody was talking on 1X technology, and then as 2G development started moving forward to today (4G), the ability to connect improved, data became cheaper and the opportunity grew. It was a matter of being in the right place with the right product at the right time.”

That growth looks like it will continue indefinitely for OptConnect. Through the so-called Internet of Things (IOT), companies are working to connect almost every electronic thing we own.

“We’re in the business of connecting things,” Baird says. “Analysts are predicting that by 2040, there will be 40 billion connection devices on the planet—from appliances to vehicles to who knows. We’ll all have them, both as individuals and as professionals in business. We are focused on providing a simple, low-cost plan, giving the hardware away for free, and offering customers a dependable, affordable product.”

The company’s growth isn’t all based on the services it provides—Baird says the company’s secret sauce is its people. “They are empowered to make us very unique. Every week, we talk about new things we can do and new technologies we can develop. And our customers are taking us into these other verticals as well, as they define their needs and challenges. They want to be their own bosses. We’re helping them do that.”

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