Innovative tech: Inside our Cashier’s Check Kiosk
Exploring hardware applications and leveraging software expertise: Our hardware endeavors and key takeaways.
January 19, 2024 8 min read
Using technology to change banking for good
People have been using cashier’s checks since the early 1500’s, and it’s this centuries-old tradition that we set out to transform. Our Cashier’s Check Kiosk (CCK) is an industry-first — it’s a Capital One-authorized hardware application issuing same-day, on-demand cashier’s checks at locations convenient to our customers.
What is a cashier’s check?
A cashier’s check is different from a personal check because Capital One guarantees the amount on the check – it is essentially as good as cash for the payee.Unlike a personal check, funds are immediately withdrawn from your account when completing an order for a cashier’s check.
Same day cashier’s checks enable quick access to certified funds, and are a popular payment method for life milestone events, such as securing a lease, buying a car, or making a house downpayment.
Using tech to address our customer need to access critical financial services regardless of their location
Our focus on building “phygital” apps that blend the physical and digital to create seamless experiences brought us here, and our team is excited to detail the journey into the tech. As part of Capital One's mission to guide customers through their moments that matter, the Cashier's Check Kiosk directly addresses customers' needs to access critical financial services and transactions regardless of their location.
Introducing our mobile-driven, self-service Cashier’s Check Kiosk
Our Cashier’s Check Kiosk (CCK) combines cutting-edge software technologies with the latest hardware engineering and manufacturing techniques to generate and present a cashier's check to a customer in real time — backed by the full credit and faith of Capital One. This happens outside of branch locations in places our customers frequently visit, like Capital One Cafés. Instead of visiting a branch or speaking to an ambassador, the experience is entirely mobile-driven and self-service via a QR code on the kiosk.
To the best of our knowledge, a fully self service Cashier’s Check Kiosk built like ours doesn’t exist elsewhere in the U.S. We hold over a dozen patents for the ways we used existing technologies to create a unique application. How did we do it?
Designing software and hardware in-house
The kiosk is designed in-house using the latest hardware and software engineering and manufacturing techniques with off-the-shelf components for maximum resiliency, availability and durability. It showcases our design and technology expertise, from its hard case to the OS kernel inside. This includes:
External and internal hardware.
The case is designed with robust materials to improve security and support customization. All of the kiosk’s internal components and peripherals are locked within the case to prevent adverse manipulation of the kiosk. There are also exchangeable graphics panels and additional customization options to match specific Café decor.
The kiosk uses a proven, cost-effective, lightweight and enterprise-grade operating system that we customized specifically for our use case.
We developed a desktop application bundle that renders the kiosk status and other transaction-related information to the customer via the kiosk user interface while supporting backend business logic such as transaction state handling, auto-recovery and network connectivity.
Hardware abstraction module.
We integrated a hardware abstraction module between the desktop application and the in-house designed check presenting mechanism inside the kiosk. This enables developers flexible control over how to securely present and retain a customer’s check for easier retrieval and fraud prevention.
We developed the customer website application that guides the customer through the check staging process via simple step-by-step instructions. This uses the latest web development tools for building responsive web pages while authenticating the user’s identity. This website application serves as an interim solution as we build the experience into the award-winning Capital One app.
In Capital One fashion, we implemented leading serverless technologies for computing, data storage and user interfaces. This provides many benefits, including high service availability and scalability since the service scales as performance is required.
A deeper look into the software and hardware components
Our team faced many questions during development, including what backend processes to utilize, how to generate a check that conformed to cashier’s check template standards, what presenting mechanisms to use and how to guide the customer throughout the process. To address these challenges, we used state-of-the-art technologies in the industry to build the hardware and software solutions we needed. While the tech solutions are complex, we adopted a simplistic design composed only of the essential number of required components to reduce failures and increase availability. We adopted industry standard practices of using contract manufacturing to build and deliver the CCK at scale.
A customizable, stable Operating System
At the core of the Cashier’s Check Kiosk — literally — is its OS. We chose open-source software and customized the OS to suit the kiosk’s operating environment and use cases. The OS has many benefits, including:
Easy to customize.
Anyone can view, modify, contribute to, distribute and use the code and configurations without most restrictions. This makes the OS easy to customize and tailor to our specific needs, whether it’s with the networking layer, the kernel or other configurations we need for our purposes.
Stable and secure.
The baseline OS setup and package dependencies are minimalistic, heavily reviewed and frequently updated to reduce file disk consumption while maintaining optimal compute and network performance at scale.
Our team leverages the OS in each unit to simplify the technological architecture and footprint. This in turn enables our developers to quickly iterate on prototypes, streamline software development, minimize maintenance complexities and reduce cost as we add more units to the fleet.
Bringing easy-to-use tech to customers
With the OS operating securely in the backend and away from the customer, we chose technologies that customers are already familiar with to improve usability and accessibility. The kiosk process begins with tech that most customers already have access to: Their mobile device. The customer first scans the QR code on the kiosk with their mobile device camera application that deep links their session to the kiosk. Account selection is built into our web standards and the check creation is a simple form, complete with live feedback to warn the customer if they request more than their balance.
Once the viable check has been requested, another QR code is generated on the customer's device that they scan into the kiosk’s QR code scanner. When the customer holds their device to the kiosk to scan this QR code, a confirmation transaction contained within the QR code prompts the kiosk to pull the check data from the orchestration layer. Money is moved after the confirmation code is scanned but before the check is printed, and it can be deposited immediately after printing.
The use of QR codes limits the exchange of sensitive data between screens while working with the backend to ensure that we only transmit, process and store the minimum customer data needed to complete a transaction.
Presenting the cashier’s check to the customer
After scanning the mobile app-generated QR code into the kiosk, the customer witnesses the synchronization between the application and kiosk as their cashier’s check is printed. What looks like a simple process to the customer is actually a complex system of internal components, including a presenter mechanism and software technologies working together. A purpose-designed mechanism manages the path of the check, moving the check from the printer through the exit slot to present it to the customer. When the customer receives the cashier’s check, it looks and feels like a real cashier’s check — that’s because it is.
We adopted page templating technologies to generate cashier’s checks with the appropriate check dimensions, formatting and attributes such as amount, memo, payee, receipt and MICR lines. This ensures that checks issued to customers comply with the ANSI standards such that the check has the maximum scanning success by tellers, automated teller machines, and remote deposit capture applications from most financial institutions.
The check and receipt are printed on the same stock used in branches. Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) compliant toner and serial number data are added during the printing process. Then an internal scan ensures the check is error-free before dispensing it. There are sensors to detect the check’s presence and methods in place to protect the check over a period of time, such as alerting the customer or retracting it into the kiosk to prevent unauthorized seizure. Colored LED lighting serves as an intuitive visual customer guide.
Building for the future
Building a kiosk with this many components forced us to rethink the hardware to integrate with the programming resources we’d have available moving forward. To support teams and the different types of interactions and communication that needed to happen, we created a way for developers to generically interact with the software. This method uses an off-the-shelf hardware and operating system to make developing for the kiosk more accessible. This means that any Capital One developer with knowledge of popular programming languages can work with it. The approach helped us reduce the amount of work teams needed to do to be productive. By reimagining the hardware we’re using, we made it possible for more team members to be successful.
Cashier’s Check Kiosk and the impact of innovation
This project pushed our team to debunk the phrase: 'Hardware is hard.’ We applied the lessons learned from our experience in software development to hardware and discovered new ways of working together to create innovative experiences for our customers. We’re proud to have created a mobile-driven and self-service experience that is entirely new. Our Cashier’s Check Kiosk is bringing same-day cashier's check servicing to Capital One Cafés, and we’re excited to add more units to the fleet and expand the service to these Cafés nationwide.
The CCK pilot program launched in February 2023 and has since expanded to 5 Capital One Cafés. Our approach allows us to test and learn this new piece of technology with customers. We're monitoring kiosk performance, identifying new requirements for scale and believe we're in the place to position the Cashier's Check Kiosk's new and convenient capabilities for immediate cashier's check access to many more customers in the future.