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point-of-sale terminal (POS terminal)

A point-of-sale (POS) terminal is a computerized replacement for a cash register. Much more complex than the cash registers of even just a few years ago, the POS system can include the ability to record and track customer orders, process credit and debit cards, connect to other systems in a network, and manage inventory. Generally, a POS terminal has as its core a personal computer, which is provided with application-specific programs and I/O devices for the particular environment in which it will serve. A POS system for a restaurant, for example, is likely to have all menu items stored in a database that can be queried for information in a number of ways. POS terminals are used in most industries that have a point of sale such as a service desk, including restaurants, lodging, entertainment, and museums.

Increasingly, POS terminals are also Web-enabled, which makes remote training and operation possible, as well as inventory tracking across geographically-dispersed locations.

This was last updated in March 2011

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