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Should merchants use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to support mobile POS?

 bluetooth wifi

A part of integrating mobile POS systems that support pay-at-the-table capabilities into merchant operations entails selecting one connectivity option over another. For the most part, the choice comes down to choosing Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. 

Each technology has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we’ll outline the factors you should assess when determining which connection option is right for your POS environment. 

Achieving payment integration: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities
To begin, let’s look at Bluetooth and Wi-Fi separately. 

One of the major drawbacks to Bluetooth is that it can only maintain one point of connection. So if you have a Bluetooth-enabled PIN pad, it can only exchange data with one POS station. However, depending on the device’s capabilities, you could configure the base station to communicate with multiple Bluetooth pads. Ingenico’s hardware, for example, supports seven terminals per base station

A big advantage of Bluetooth is that it’s really easy to set up. Merchants don’t have to worry about configuring network settings, so set-up doesn’t require a tech-savvy installer. With respect to security, the National Institute of Standards and Technology recommended using Security Mode 4, Level 4, which secures data with AES 128-bit encryption keys and authenticated pairing. 

  A Point of Sale partner utilizing Ingenico's iCMP Bluetooth-enabled EMV PIN Pad with a Windows tablet for Pay-at-Table
A Point of Sale partner utilizing Ingenico’s iCMP Bluetooth-enabled EMV PIN Pad with a Windows tablet for Pay-at-Table

Wi-Fi supports multiple connections, and while they do require configuration, merchants can use as many mPOS devices as they wish. While the PIN pads themselves consume more power, they can transmit data at a rate of 54 megabits per second, a feature that can be particularly useful in high-volume businesses. 

Merchants can also connect multiple Wi-Fi pads to a single POS terminal without worrying about man-in-the-middle or denial-of-service attacks. In order to access the network managing the mPOS assets, customers need to enter a password for that network. Usually, it’s best practice to have a separate network for consumer use. 

.@Ingenico announced a bluetooth enabled #mPOS dubbed Moby/3000.

— PYMNTS (@pymnts) October 25, 2016

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth use cases
Bluetooth offers great support for pay-at-the-table operations. For example, a restaurant could install one Bluetooth-enabled PIN pad for every table. The merchant could tie a tablet to each PIN pad and leave it at the table, allowing customers to submit orders and use whatever payment method is most convenient for them. 

However, the latter situation isn’t ideal for merchants operating on tight budgets. If equipping customers with tablets isn’t a priority, Wi-Fi is the better option. In general, it requires fewer devices to manage and offers better flexibility. For instance, if a restaurant only wants to purchase additional PIN pads to add moblity, advocate for Wi-Fi as a dedicated tablet won’t be required for connection.

Also, be cognizant of integration solutions that support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth operations. Arm yourself with whatever technology you need to accommodate the needs of each of your merchants individually. 


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