Mobile phones a turn-off

'Please turn off your mobile phones as they can cause errors with our computers'.

According to Valda Berzins, CIO, Australia Post the sign displayed in some Australia Post outlets is a precautionary measure, although the electromagnetic radiation emanating from a mobile phone can and does interfere with peripherals using similar EM signals to register and transmit readings.

"Within its postal outlets, Australia Post uses Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) systems to process payments and transactions. The most sensitive EPOS peripherals are the pinpads and the scales," Berzins said.

Some three years ago when the switch to digital phones accelerated, a small number of post offices reported interference to the operation of pinpads -- the symptoms were that the pinpads would freeze up, she said.

To solve the problem, according to Berzins, staff had to cancel the associated transaction and turn the pinpad off and back on.

To minimise the problem, signs were put up warning customers and a software modification was applied.

"In essence, this forced an automatic double scan to take place to confirm the data input. In practice, this now means the interference is reduced to a vicinity of about 60cm rather than two to three metres, which could cause a problem previously," Berzins said.

Berzins said the problems rarely arise, but as a precautionary measure some states elected to leave the signs in place.

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