The Perspective 
Tuesday, 19 December 2006
I just did something that never fails to make shopkeepers happy: I bought something.
This particular purchase was a video game console. But the fact of what it is and who bought it is only tangential to the real story here. The real story is about the point-of-decision being the only place a company can effectively reach today’s younger buyers who, despite their affinity for online buying, nonetheless are part of the more than 90 percent of customers who buy in the store.
The protagonist (yeah, me) is a representative of a demographic increasingly distanced from traditional media. In my case, I watch TV shows only on DVD and don’t have cable, except cable Internet. I get all my daily news from the Web. I don’t look at any kind of flyer that comes wrapped in a rubber band and, in fact, rarely check my mail because all my important correspondence comes to my inbox.
I’ve also learned the hard way, many times, never to trust a kid in a golf shirt when it comes to buying anything worthwhile. Ever.
On the Internet is where most of this story unfolds — all but the crucial finale. I spent evenings and weekends Googling tech specs and product reviews for months. Then I set about playing with kiosks as I visited retailers.
I walked right by the computer aisle. Though I originally wanted a new computer, a ton of online research changed my mind. To get what I wanted in a gaming PC, I would have to spend disproportionately more money than I would on a game console. What’s more, there was no kiosk or similar in-store demonstration method to help a gaming PC make its case for value.
The Wii demo kiosk actually turned me against buying a Wii. I was leaning heavily toward a Wii because its motion-sensing controller involves a modicum of moving around instead of sitting still while I play. But I couldn’t try the controller for myself. The kiosk just ran a static video of a school marm, hands in front of her, calmly explaining the benefits of a Wii while it cut back and forth to faceless graphical bubble men playing tennis.
I’m not paying $250 for mom-friendly Pong with pixel shading. So that narrowed it down to an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3.
The PS3 was soon ruled out by the New York Times, which ran a scathing review (I read it online) addressing exactly how un-fun the PS3 is for a variety of reasons that should’ve been simple for Sony to prevent.
At this point, with two consoles out of the running, I was beginning to think again about gaming PCs—until I came to the Xbox 360 kiosk at a Best Buy.
In case you ever wonder, having a screen high atop a kiosk really does work. At first I didn’t even play the demo. I watched the screen while a teenage girl and her little brother played “Madden ’07.” When they stepped off, I started thumbing through the menus and played a few demos while a middle-aged woman stood behind me and watched the screen just as I had.
And that did it. The look and feel of the controller, the console, the kiosk and the graphical user interface created an experience which met or exceeded all my expectations. Also, the environment was right. The kiosk caught me in a happy mood at Christmastime. And it caught me in an emotive atmosphere, surrounded by tons of others who also like spending money at Christmas. Even better, nobody was standing there trying to sell me something.
In all, it was a textbook example of a retail store utilizing self-service in an energized environment to impact a hard-to-reach consumer at the point-of-decision. But it leaves one crucial question unanswered: Which first-person shooter should I buy?
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 02:42 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
It’s December. It’s cold in most of the United States, but not in sunny Southern California, where you wouldn’t know Christmas was around the corner if not for the holiday decorations and retailer promotions. Los Angeles has a reputation for being a hotbed of activity and innovation — and the self-service technology companies I visited proved to be no different.
Heisei USA, Azuza, Calif. — My first meeting was with Martin Yen, who heads up business development in the United States for Heisei (pronounced HAY-SAY), a Taiwanese company with operations in Europe and Asia. Heisei opened its U.S. office three years ago. The company makes POS systems, industrial panel PCs and kiosks, including a photo kiosk that it markets in Latin America.
Olea, Artesia, Calif. — Olea opened over 30 years ago in an RV garage by Frank Olea’s father and uncle, who built kitchen cabinets, potty-training chairs and skateboard decks. Frank’s grandfather soon joined the company and the family affair continues today with Frank’s mother and sister also participating in the business. The company shifted to building trade show exhibits and then shifted again with 85 percent of Olea’s business now from kiosks. Olea built 625 kiosks for Henry Company’s Home Depot deployment. Olea’s e-giving kiosk for churches and non-profits like the Oregon Ballet recently garnered international press attention.
Rows of Olea kiosks at their facility in Irvine, Calif.
CeroView, Irvine, Calif. — CeroView, founded by president Derek Fretheim seven years ago, designs and integrates custom and standard kiosks. The company makes both indoor and outdoor kiosk enclosures and currently has four models of photo kiosks (two of which have won awards from KioskCom). Derek’s wife Tracy is a CeroView vice president. Derek said CeroView prides itself on being innovative and he named several firsts for the industry, such as offering a standard three-year warranty. The company recently formed a marketing partnership with European kiosk maker UltiMedia, giving CeroView access to that expanding market.
GA Services, Irvine, Calif. — GA Services was born six years ago out of a company called General Automation. The firm started out selling hardware and providing technical support, but in the last two years switched its focus to selling services. GA president & CEO George Harris said they are placing their future in the self-service and digital signage market. Services offered include installation, maintenance, monitoring and maintenance. GA counts digital signage firms ADFLOW Networks and SignStorey and kiosk software company Netkey among its clients.
The interior of GA Services' facility. The firm specializes in kiosk maintenance. 
Mitsubishi, Irvine, Calif. — I was impressed by the company’s crystal clear high-definition digital monitors in the lobby of their headquarters. I immediately spotted the photo kiosk, which was the part of the business I came to discuss with Darla Achey, marketing programs specialist. Mitsubishi makes photo kiosks for instant prints using dye sublimation and a micro-lab interface for chemical photo labs. While speed is the main benefit to printing on the spot, using the lab offers more photo manipulation options and a higher quality. When asked how Mitsubishi tries to compete with the big players in the photo kiosk space (Kodak, Fuji, Sony), Achey responded, “We don’t. We’re perfectly willing to sell one or two units at a time to independent retailers.”
Epson America, Long Beach, Calif. — Mike Pruitt, mobile and OEM product manager for Epson, explained that the company has two divisions: consumer and business. In the business division, Epson has become the largest supplier of thermal printers for POS systems in America and focuses most of its business through OEMs. When discussing one of my recent columns on electronic voting, Pruitt impressed me with his knowledge of the subject and laid out a logical strategy suggesting the use of barcodes on printed receipts for the voter to verify before dropping into the ballot box to be counted.
APS America, Carson, Calif. — At APS America, I met with Felisa Matteucci and Lisa Tanaka. APS (Advanced Printing Systems) is a global company with headquarters in Biansco, Italy, software and engineering operations in France and manufacturing in Taiwan. APS makes direct thermal printer mechanisms, controller boards and OEM finished printers. Their products are available through distributors like Telpar and manufacturers’ representatives. They offer a high-speed printer especially for kiosks. 
ID TECH, Cypress, Calif. — ID TECH is a manufacturer of magnetic stripe, smart card, and barcode readers for kiosks, POS systems, ATMs and vending machines. George Steele, director of product development, said the company is expanding its offerings in 2007 to include a contactless reader. ID TECH received the 2006 Frost & Sullivan Award for Emerging Company of the Year for the smart cards market. The research company recognized ID TECH for offering a hybrid reader that accepts both magnetic stripe and smart cards.
SeePoint Technology, Redondo Beach, Calif. — SeePoint designs and constructs small footprint kiosks. At SeePoint, I sat down with Sydney Arfin, vice president, and Michael Sass, vice president of business development. Arfin explained how her husband Jonathan started SeePoint in 1999 after experiencing frustration schlepping a large, box-like kiosk up a set of narrow stairs to the second floor of a building during a deployment. Arfin said self-service needs portability just like much of the technology in consumers’ lives today. In recent years, the company has focused on healthcare, retail and entertainment/gaming markets (museums are included in the latter).
Next stop: New York City and the NRF show.
Posted by: David Drain AT 02:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 05 December 2006
Recently, Bryan Harris wrote a column describing self-service human resource applications and the slow progress in kiosk deployments. Many valid points were made comparing financial motivation between HR and transactional self-service projects. I have some further observations about the self-service HR kiosk market.
Since almost all self-service HR applications are browser-based, and as a producer of browser-based kiosk system software, I have long thought that HR would be an enormous market for us. Instead, while HR has always been strong for us, it has yet to live up to its potential, and I believe the problem is primarily one of education. While it is true that ROI is slightly less cut-and-dried than transactional kiosks because no direct revenue is produced, an HR kiosk provides cost savings and efficiencies and, hence, ROI.
First of all, why is there a market at all in self-service HR? The HR landscape is fraught with issues relating to hiring and firing, payroll processing, benefit management and regulatory compliance that dozens of third-party HR solution vendors address. And they’ve addressed these issues successfully. Not many years ago, HR software was only for very large companies with many locations, but now has value for companies with only dozens of employees working at one location.
One of the primary reasons HR software is valuable to smaller companies is because HR vendors made the logical next step from merely computerizing the HR function to automating its application and enabling employees to manage their own accounts. When making a 401k investment change, rather than walking down to the HR department, talking to a clerk, filling out a form and hoping the clerk correctly entered the changes, that employee now can sit at a desk, log onto the intranet and instantly make those same changes.
But what happens when an employee doesn’t have a desk or a computer connection to the intranet? After all, to maximize the ROI of implementing self-service HR, all employees need to be included. Factory floor, transportation and healthcare workers don’t have access to a desk or a computer. Here is where a disconnect occurs. What is the best method of providing their access to self-service HR?
Some take the position that employees should use their home computers. This, of course, assumes they have a home computer, but also it requires providing widespread external access to what is essentially a highly secure internal application. Also, an employee forced to use the application outside of normal work hours is likely to find the HR department closed when questions arise. One of the benefits of an HR kiosk is that they can feature handsets connecting users to live people who answer questions.
Others take the position that a standard PC and printer can be installed as an HR portal in a common area. This position has many serious issues. The foremost is privacy. Employee won’t use, or continue to use, the portal if they believe their privacy is not ensured, and this can be both actual and perceived. The environment may indeed be private, but if the perception is different, then the portal won’t be used. Privacy is ensured both by physically limiting the view of the application from others by using screen filters and shields, and also by using kiosk software that will reset the application, clear cookies and cache, and retract untaken printouts. Additionally, a standard PC is not up to the task of enduring the physical abuse of a population of users, whereas a kiosk is designed for this.
Educating clients about these issues is an important part of our sales effort, and one that I enjoy; however, I am dismayed at how many HR software vendors don’t understand how important kiosks are to an unattended self-service rollout. Too often, I hear their official position is to recommend that clients just put a PC in the cafeteria. Or, they say it is the client’s responsibility and refuse to get involved. There are few HR vendors that take a proactive role and partner with kiosk hardware and software vendors to provide a comprehensive HR self-service solution to their customers. Too often, we are brought in after a deployment and asked to clean up a mess that never should have happened.
While the future is bright for HR self-service kiosks, the full potential won’t be reached until we are successful at educating the HR software industry.
Posted by: James Kruper AT 02:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Add to favorites

Our members are among the most prominent and respected suppliers of digital signage, kiosk, self-service and mobile technology solutions.

Request project help from DSA members

 The Perspective 
Latest Posts

Tweets by @iDigScreenmedia

Digital Screenmedia Association | 13100 Eastpoint Park Blvd. Louisville, KY 40223 | Phone: 502-489-3915 | Fax: 502-241-2795



Website managed by Networld Media Group