Lab Cats

Testing facility starting up for PCATS tech standards

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

CHICAGO -- The c-store industry's technology-standards group, PCATS, has initiated efforts to create a testing facility that will certify hardware and software applications to its rules. In an interview with CSP Daily News, Pat Raycroft, partner with the Chicago-based W. Capra Group, the firm charged with starting up the testing "laboratory," said the two main goals will be certification and interoperability.

With certification, the testing facility will determine if a product employs the standards determined by PCATS committees. Regarding interoperability, Raycroft said that for the retailer, [image-nocss] it 's the most important piece of the equation. The main reason retailers demand standards is so that devices "talk" to each other.

"Interoperability is when both ends behave," Raycroft said.

The plan is to build a testing site in Naperville, Ill., he said, where the company has leased out a 3,000-square-foot space. Raycroft said the PCATS facility will take up a portion of the area, with the rest set to handle quality-assurance testing for other W. Capra clients. Many of the major oil companies and large-chain retailers outsource the testing component of their technology rollouts, and W. Capra has handled this type of work for the likes of Amoco and BP.

Since 2003, PCATS technical committees have developed standards in a number of different areas, including point-of-sale (POS) and backoffice software, business-to-business invoicing and price signs. The Alexandria, Va.-based PCATS, which stands for the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards, has only been conducting "XML conformance testing" for POS and backoffice suppliers. In a press release, the group said that over the past several years, significant demand has arisen to expand the program to include conformance and interoperability testing.

The establishment of the testing facility would formalize a broader certification process for PCATS standards that would verify and validate a product's adherence to the standards, officials said. "We believe this arrangement [with W. Capra] will greatly benefit the industry and add significantly to the value that PCATS is bringing to the retailer and supplier communities," said John Hervey, executive director for PCATS.
In other PCATS news, the group will be holding its annual conference Jan. 26-29, 2009 at the Florida Hotel& Conference Center in Orlando, Fla. The upcoming conference will focus on compliance to payment card industry (PCI) mandates, building business cases, project management and other technical challenges and solutions. For more information call (703) 836-0919 or visit
Founded in 2003, PCATS sprang from a National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) initiative set to develop technology standards for an increasingly automation-rich, retail environment. The Alexandria, Va.-based NACS formally established PCATS as a separate entity, one that today has a membership of 150, representing more than 22,000 c-stores.

W. Capra has been providing retail technology and payments consulting to the petroleum and c-store industry for eight years. Its founding members have technology backgrounds with the major oil companies.

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