Event Tech Knowledgebase
Our guide for event organisers and production managers to simplify terminology, detail the pros and cons of different services and provide some example setups for different types of events. Click on the headings for a list of questions and answers or use the search box below.
Payment Systems/PDQs (4)
Every piece of network equipment has a MAC address (Media Access Control address) which is used to uniquely identify it and this includes PDQs. On event sites knowing the MAC address of PDQs is important so that they can be identified on the network for purposes such as ‘whitelisting’ which enables the device to work on a secure network without having to enter login information for example.
The MAC address can usually be found on the back of the base unit/docking station and begins with “MAC No. XXXXXXXXXXXXX”
Please see an example below which can help identify the MAC address.
If you can’t see a MAC address it might be that your PDQ is not network compatible and may require a phone line. The best thing to do is call your merchant provider and ask them.
Mobile PDQs need internet connectivity of some form to operate – some are designed to use Wi-Fi, some use a wired network connection but most use the mobile phone network to connect. The connection to the mobile phone network in most PDQ terminals is GPRS rather than 3G or 4G. On a busy event site the mobile PDQ has to contend with all the other devices trying to connect to the mobile network which often struggles with demand so PDQ transactions fail. GPRS terminals are particularly prone to problems as it is an old and slow technology which does not perform well when under heavy load.
The best approach at events is to use a Wi-Fi or wired IP terminal as these avoid the mobile networks, connecting to a dedicated network for payments instead. Many events offer a rental service or suggest a recommended supplier.
There are four primary types of PDQ (Process Data Quickly) machine or ‘chip and pin’ terminals
- Telephone Line (PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network) – This is the oldest and, until a few years ago, the most common type of device, it requires a physical telephone line between the PDQ modem and the bank. It’s slow, difficult and very costly to use at event sites because of the need for a dedicated physical phone line, however, once it is working it is reliable.
- Mobile PDQ (GPRS/GSM) – Currently the most common form of PDQ, it uses a SIM card to connect to a mobile network to use GSM or GPRS to connect back to the bank. Originally seen as the go anywhere device, in the right situation they are excellent, however, they have limitations, the most obvious being they require a working mobile network to operate. At busy event sites the mobile networks rapidly become saturated and this means the devices cannot connect reliably. As they use older GPRS/GSM technology they are also very slow – it doesn’t make any difference if you try and use the device in a 4G area – it can only work using GPRS/GSM. As they use the mobile operator networks they may also incur data charges.
- Wi-Fi PDQ – Increasingly common, this version connects to a Wi-Fi network to get its connectivity to the bank. On the surface this sounds like a great solution but there some challenges, firstly it needs a good, reliable Wi-Fi network. The second issue is that many Wi-Fi PDQs still operate on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi spectrum which on event sites is heavily congested and suffers lots of interference making the devices unreliable. This is not helped by the relative weak Wi-Fi components in a PDQ compared to a laptop for example. It is essential to check that any Wi-Fi PDQ is capable of operating in the less congested 5GHz spectrum.
- Wired IP PDQ – Often maligned because people think it doesn’t have a ‘wireless’ handset, but they are actually the same as all the others and have a wireless handset but it uses a physical wire (cat5) from the base station to connect to a network. In this case the network is a computer network using TCPIP and the transactions are routed in encrypted form across the internet. If a suitable network is available on an event site then this type of device is the most reliable and fastest, and there are no call charges.
All of these units look very similar and in fact can be built to operate in any of the four modes, however, because banks ‘certify’ units they generally only approve one type of connectivity in a particular device. This is slowly starting to change but the vast majority of PDQs in the market today can only operate on one type of connectivity and this is not user configurable.
On top of these aspects there is also the difference between ‘chip & pin’ and ‘contactless’. Older PDQs typically can only take ‘chip & pin’ cards whereas newer devices should also be enabled for contactless transactions.
Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) systems are now commonplace at events and often require access to a network for communications between units, configuration management and sometimes stock control integration. Some EPOS systems have integrated credit card payment terminals whereas others use external PDQs. Generally EPOS systems require a wired cat5 connection to the network and this needs to be factored into requirements.