By Ian Wyatt

NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) -- It's not easy for large institutions to reinvent themselves. Look at Blockbuster. The video rental outlet was asleep at the wheel while Netflix ( NFLX) and Coinstar ( CSTR) zipped right past it to grab market share. Blockbuster soon crumbled into bankruptcy.

Even mega-cap multinationals like International Business Machines ( IBM) have faced similar challenges. The need to innovate in a complex and rapidly developing competitive landscape means nothing is assured.

Nowhere is the speed of innovation more apparent than in world of transactions. Twenty years ago, most of us carried cash -- no more. Now we purchase items with a quick swipe of a credit card, debit-card, or just by punching a few keys on a mobile phone.

Small-cap investors have a few ways to play this trend, and NCR Corporation ( NCR) is worth a hard look. In the era where cash registers have morphed into point-of-sale terminals, NCR is one of many companies producing the devices that take our money or plastic at the checkout counter.

The company has global name recognition as the king of the cash register. Since the National Cash Register Company was founded in 1884, the company has become a technology pioneer. One of its scientists discovered liquid crystal displays, it developed the first transistorized business computer; and it was the first to commercialize bar code scanners.

Now it's emerged as a player in ATMs, self-service kiosks, point-of-sale devices and document-imaging devices. It's also in an entertainment-distribution venture with Blockbuster as that company tries to reinvent itself.

The fallen angel will soon roll out 10,000 DVD kiosks, a move that has garnered key exclusivity deals with Warner Brothers, Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox.

NCR's stock has moved higher along with the rest of the market since September of 2010.

NCR had a rough time in the 1990s as a subsidiary of AT&T ( T), before being spun off in 1997. Just over a decade later, in 2009, the company pulled its Rust Belt roots from Dayton, Ohio and moved headquarters to Duluth, Georgia.

On the competitive front, NCR faces-off against Diebold ( DBD) and Germany's Wincor Nixdorf GmbH & Co.) in the ATM business, especially as it targets increased overseas expansion. It goes head-to-head with IBM and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) for retail sales terminals.

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