Mobile till software, adopted by institutions like Disney and Harvard, is catching on fast in New Zealand.
Many Christchurch retailers are abandoning clunky cash registers in favour of tablet-based tills, which they say are faster, more flexible, and cheaper than what they've left behind.
Business owner and ex-computer programmer Jasper Bryant-Greene decided to design his own till app to run off an iPad when he opened his first bar in 2011.
He believes in the next five years, the traditional till will quickly begin to disappear.
"Talking in the longer term, it's not just the iPad that will replace tills. We'll see a movement towards general purpose, commodity hardware, like the iPad or the tablet, used with specialised software."
Effectively, it means tills can be run by retailers off iPads, tablets, laptops or even phones.
Bryant-Greene said it was the high cost of a traditional till systems that made using iPads an obvious choice.
A traditional till set-up can cost $10,000-$20,000, with ongoing costs for software upgrades, maintenance, or additional workstations.
But Bryant-Greene faced only the $500 cost of an iPad, and no ongoing fees for his software.
"If you're a new business, the idea of paying a few hundred dollars, rather than $20,000 is obviously pretty appealing," he said.
More recently, Bryant-Greene designed the till software for C1 Espresso, who operate their point of sale from an iPad.
Cafe owner Sam Crofskey believes traditional tills are a ‘one size fits all' product, with many businesses paying for unnecessarily complex packages.
Aiming for "speed and simplicity," Crofskey said their own system is "designed just to do exactly what it is that we need it to do. There are certain things I want from my till, that will be different to what anyone else wants from their till."
While mastering a purchased till could take hours of training, C1's "gen Y" staff adopted the iPad app quickly.
"We haven't had to train any of our staff to use it. That was part of our design brief, that it would be completely intuitive.
New Zealand company Vend provides point of sale software that can run from almost any device with an internet connection.
The company's customer base of more than 8000 businesses is increasing by 10 per cent every month, and includes notable clients Disney, Stanford University, Harvard, and Threadless.
Chief executive Vaughan Rowsell believes the face of retail is "changing quickly. It's going to be online because it needs to be."
Rowsell argues that Vend software allows shops to integrate their online and offline stores into the same sales system.
"It's never going to be online versus offline shopping again. We'll see these things come together, and the dividing line between an online shopping experience and an offline shopping experience is going to become very blurry," he said.
Taking things online also meant data was backed up and accessible remotely - protecting businesses from crashing systems or loss of the physical till.
"Take the earthquakes in Christchurch for example: a lot of retailers were literally locked out and all their data was sitting in their stores where they couldn't access it. Whereas retailers using a cloud-based system could be up and running the next day," Rowsell said.
EFTPOS Canterbury owner Steve Batey, who supplies point of sale software and tills, said he was seeing a steady trend toward specialised software used on iPads or laptops.
He said new startups often looked to use iPads or laptops with sales software.
Civil & Naval, C1 Espresso, Shop 8, the darkroom, Ingrid Starnes, Peoples' Coffee, The Last Word, and the tannery have adopted the iPad tills.
- Fairfax Media
Should the Christchurch City Council sell some of its assets?Related story: Council asset sales mooted to help raise $900m