The 2016 Conexxus Annual Conference kicked off this week at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz. The conference runs from May 1-5.
Monday’s opening session began with an address from Gray Taylor, executive director, Conexxus, who spoke on the industry’s progress and the landscape ahead.
Credit card fees, he noted, went down first time in 13 years, with convenience store chains —for first time in 13 years—showing a profit above credit card expenses in 2015. But even as card fees were down 11.5%, wages and benefits costs were up 7.3% from 2014 to 2015, and facilities expenses were up 7.6%.
With 18 months to go to reach the October 2017 EMV compliance deadline, c-stores have their work cut out for them. Taylor estimated that it will cost $3.9 billion in 2015 dollars to upgrade our industry to EMV ( + or – 10%). Numerous issues abound. There are not enough techs (3,000 full-time equivalent employees to perform 4.5 million man hours); there’s a certification bottleneck with over 300 certifications needed; supply chain stress is expected; chains could discover an EPA risk as replacing forecourt cables will mean EPA tests. The financial implications are also huge. In 2014 less than two-thirds of stations could afford to pay for EMV upgrades, explained Taylor, who said it will like be 2022-2023 before we see 90% upgrade rate in the industry.
As more chains become EMV compliant, those that are not are likely to be the ones targeted. Taylor noted that after the majority of chains move toward compliance, it could cost those who can’t afford to put in EMV compliant equipment half that amount each year in liability alone.
Skimming continues to present a data security risk. “It is one of those things we have to fix,” noted Taylor, who said skimming tends to happen more at more rundown locations as opposed to newer or upgraded sites. “Our biggest challenge is how do we get to that last store or stores that don’t understand… It impacts every one of our stores.”
But skimming is only one security area of concern. In the age of hacks on corporations, leaked information from sensitive emails to employee records are the next concern on the horizon.
Michael Rogers, the practical futurist, gave a keynote speech about the future of technology and how it will change our daily lives and how we do business. Among potential changes coming in the future, he predicted that by the early 2020s, we will be connected through the Internet 24 hours a day, with devices becoming more personal, such as smart glasses, smart bracelets and smart objects that are powered using our body heat.
Also by the 20s, active screens will be able to use cameras and microphones to see and listen and identify who is standing in front of them and craft targeted messages. Rogers noted, this brings with it enormous power and privacy issues.
“By 2022, we’ll have to teach kids what offline means. Everywhere you go you will expect to have broadband and losing it will be more severe than losing electricity,” Rogers said.
Robotic technology will also impact how businesses operate. “Robotic technology is said to start making sense when the minimum wage is at $15 an hour. So we’re likely to see more of that,” Rogers said. He spoke of restaurant booths where avatars with artificial intelligence interact with customers and take orders. As robotic technology evolves, “we will begin to look at employees in a new way and see what is uniquely human—like communication, naming a problem and defining it, collaboration—all of which may be more important to teach in schools than information that can be pulled off the Internet.”
In a session on cloud computing, Patrick Ohler, enterprise sales manager, DataPipe and Paul Truitt, vice president, cybersecurity services, SageNet, took attendees through a deep dive into cloud security and building a security framework that integrates existing controls. The session talked about how some of the same concepts for physical infrastructure apply but work differently in the cloud and managing cloud in conjunction with your overall security framework.
When getting started using the cloud, Truitt advised retailers to build a strategy. “You have the cloud. We have data out there. Plan security controls, build frameworks around it and embrace it. Don’t let your vendors drive your cloud strategy—it’s your strategy, your own automation tools—and it should be one you can support and mange yourselves.”
“Cloud has low barrier to entry. It allows you to, in some ways, move faster and make smaller investments (compared to on premise) to find out what works and adjust…educate yourself on some of the capabilities you wouldn’t be able to do on premise…are there ways you can improve your business by having more realtime access to information that is actionable,” Ohler said.