OLE for Retail POS Controls adhere to the ActiveX Control specifications. They expose properties, methods, and events to a containing Application. The controls are invisible at run time.

OPOS was the first widely-adopted POS device standard. It was initiated by Microsoft, NCR, Epson, and Toshiba to help integrate POS hardware into applications for the Windows family of operating systems. OPOS uses COM technology, and is therefore language independent.

The first OPOS technical meeting was convened in January, 1995. The first production release, 1.01, was made in March, 1996. Its seventh release, 1.6, was in July, 2001. Beginning with release 1.7, the OPOS committee no longer releases an implementation-specific document. The UnifiedPOS document has added implementation information into an appendix.

The core membership was established with a minimal number of major players in the Retail industry, so that initial work could proceed quickly. The core committee consists of Microsoft Corporation, NCR Corporation, Seiko Epson Corporation, and Fujitsu/ICL. Following the initial release in December 1995, one representative each from Europe and Japan was added to the core group, bringing its membership to the current six. The core committee is tasked with general oversight of the initiative, while all interested parties are welcomed to attend general sessions and provide input.

How would you like to select any make of PoS hardware, any software, or any peripheral – whatever offers the best functionality and value – and plug-and-play?

How would you like to slash software maintenance and upgrade costs? These are just some of the benefits of OLE for PoS (OPoS).

Here, we describe briefly why this is the case. One of the major challenges to developers of PoS applications has been the lack of standards. Developers must write code to target specific, proprietary hardware platforms as well as to proprietary peripheral devices. As new customers demand different platforms and different sets of peripherals, the application developer must devote time and resources to rewriting the application to conform to a wide range of proprietary equipment specifications. This has been a traditional problem in the industry, as there has been no standard way of supporting multiple PoS platforms and multiple peripheral devices.

The inefficiencies this has caused has had a ripple effect throughout the industry, increasing costs for developers and retailers, and ultimately inhibiting most developers’ ability to sell PoS software to a wide market. However, two years ago, four companies (Microsoft, Epson, AT&T GIS (now NCR) and PSI) came together to overcome this lack of standards – generally recognised as one of the main impediments to doing business in the PoS world. These companies represent major shares of the retail market in their respective sectors: operating systems; printers and peripherals; PoS devices; software development and integration. After nearly a year of effort, these four companies made available the first release of OLE for Retail PoS. This standard, released to the public domain in November 1995, is available to any developer free of charge.

As is well known, OPoS is not the only PoS software standard currently in use. There is also JavaPoS, intended to aid application development in the Java environment. The concern has been that the existence of two separate standards causes duplicate effort in the industry, and confusion for the retailers.

Now, though, this is about to change. Because ARTS (the Association for Retail Technology Standards) has announced that it is to sponsor and administer, in conjunction with the National Retail Federation (NRF), a new standard which combines both OPoS and JavaPoS. Called Unified-PoS, the new standard is defined as an initiative to produce an architectural specification which is both operating system independent and language neutral. This means several things to participants, principally that companies can write applications to the standard using Java, Visual Basic, or other languages, and implement these applications on Microsoft, Sun, IBM etc., at their discretion. Unified-PoS has received widespread support, and interim guidelines are available now. We will keep you informed through the pages of Retail Update.

OLE For Retail POS (OPOS) was initiated in 1995 by four companies (NCR, Microsoft, Epson, and PSI/ICL) to define an industry standard method of interfacing to POS peripherals. OPOS uses COM/ActiveX (formerly OLE) technology, and is therefore language independent.

The OPOS model requires a device-independent Control Object for each device class (POS Printer, Cash drawer, Line display, etc), which is generally shipped with the application. The Control Object is implemented as an ActiveX Control (OCX) which is invisible at runtime and exposes the device functionality to the application via properties, methods and events.

Hardware vendors must provide a device-dependent Service Object for their peripherals. The Service Object is called by the Control Object and implements the device-specific functionality.

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