Beyond Standards

PCATS meeting rises as pulpit for data security, B2B challenges

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Eric Gentry

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Painted-desert mountain ranges and 200-year-old cactus set a backdrop of stability for convenience store information technology (IT) and financial personnel to discuss the ever-changing technologies behind in-store payment, business-to-business (B2B) transactions and data security.

The focus of the annual Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS) conference is to develop technical standards and guidance documents specific to c-stores, but what also emerges are concerns over evolving business processes and mandates from credit-card companies over data-security.

In a committee meeting on PCI (payment card industry) compliance, speaker Eric Gentry said that those authorized to conduct PFIs (PCI forensic investigations) often have to provide information to the credit card companies--something that retailers apparently find intrusive.

"It's part of what's required contractually when we go in as a PFI [official]," said Gentry, a principal consultant with investigative response for Verizon Business, Salt Lake City. "Unfortunately, we become the face of [PCI compliance] for many retailers."

The issue came up during a Q&A session where many retailers who provided questions for the PCATS conference expressed frustration. Many of these issues pertained to the disclosure of PFI findings to credit-card companies, and the financial hit retailers have taken from both fines and the cost to upgrade equipment.

PFI is a relatively new designation, having developed into a certified service that acquiring banks and credit-card companies are starting to require, according to several sources present at the conference.

During the four-day gathering, which ended Thursday, about 100 information technology specialists from dozens of c-store chains, as well as software and hardware vendors and advisors met to further the work of a half-dozen committees.

Several of the committees provided the larger group an update in its general session:

  • Bill of lading. Work included revising the current standard, developing an implementation guide and conducting a needs analysis.
  • Lottery. Developing specifications for point-of-sale (POS) integration.
  • C-store Exchange. Creating a standard form to collect data for the NACS data engine called CSX.
  • Device integration. Work on interfacing POS and forecourt-device controllers to create business requirements and specifications; enhancing an existing interface for safes; and exploring the potential of a new car-wash interface standard.
  • POS-backoffice. Examining formats for pricebooks, the set-up of fuel products, price-change strategies and data analytics.

PCATS is a standards-focused entity formed by members of the c-store industry in the 1990's. Initially stemming from a National Association of Convenience Stores effort, PCATS broke off as a separate entity. About two years ago, the Alexandria, Va.-based c-store association and PCATS decided to once again merge operations.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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