The Perspective 
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Ron Delnevo, managing director of independent ATM operator Bank Machine Ltd., says new research into contactless cards shows that cash remains a viable and strong payment choice for consumers.
According to APACS, the United Kingdom's payments association, in 2007, six out of 10 payments were made with cash.
"I find it truly risible that Visa is promoting their latest research, which shows that 41 percent of people in a contactless trial felt it was an easier and faster way to pay for small items than cash," Delnevo said. "This of course means that 59 percent of consumers, in fact, think that cash remains the most convenient payment method. They are simply promoting the fact that, after spending tens of millions of pounds on research, development and advertising, they have made a 1 percent difference to consumer habits. I am not sure I would be claiming this as a big success and would consider it, frankly, a waste of corporate cash."
Delnevo says the only solid conclusion from the payWave trial was that users had security concerns about the use of contactless payment methods. That conclusion, Delnevo says, echoes the results of a survey carried out when contactless cards were launched in the United Kingdom, finding that 70 percent of people believed that the introduction of contactless systems would increase fraud. 
"At a time when everyone should be watching what they are spending, and in the midst of a worrying rise in debt, it is all the more cynical for card issuers to continue to promote the use of contactless cards — fully aware that research now proves that consumers spend more on cards than they do when using cash, even if they can’t afford to do so," Delnevo said. "Moreover, when the British taxpayer will now be picking up the bill for the reckless behavior of financial institutions, banks have a responsibility more than ever to the public — and that includes encouraging sensible spending habits."
According to research conducted by New York University and the University of Maryland, people often are prepared to pay significantly more when they know that they can pay by card.
Additionally, increased fees from MasterCard, announced this week, also are expected to take a toll on the card industry, Delnevo says. Retailers in the United Kingdom complained this week that MasterCard doubled the fees it charges, causing financial drains on U.K. shop owners.
"This increase in charges confirms that both retailers and the British public should be extremely wary of relying on plastic cards," Delnevo said. "Cash remains the most popular means of purchase in the U.K., and now we see why. Cash is completely within the control of the consumer in every respect, whereas with cards, it is a case of 'spend too much now and shed tears later.'"
Posted by: Ron Delnevo AT 12:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Thursday, 23 October 2008
We’ve all seen them when entering a retail store: the small displays placed at ceiling level at the store entrance that show security footage, letting all who enter know that they are being watched. But while screens designed for loss prevention can deter theft, unfortunately, they can also be insulting or set an inhospitable tone for patrons.

Through the use of digital signage, displays used for loss prevention can also be used to run content that creates brand loyalty and encourages sales lift through, promotions, digital merchandising and cross-selling.

In essence, one screen is used for multiple purposes. First, running dynamic and relevant content will serve traditional digital signage roles such as welcoming patrons and serving as advertising space. Interspersed with that content is live security footage designed to curb theft.

The technology could be a welcomed one for the retail industry. Total retail losses are approximately $37.4 billion annually, with shoplifting conservatively estimated to account for 30 to 40 percent of total retail shrink/losses, according to University of Florida and Hayes International surveys.

Often times, shoplifting and theft directly by or enabled by staff can be a bigger problem for retailers than shopper theft. Surveyed companies apprehended one in every 27.9 employees for theft, based on 1.85 million employees. On a per-case average, dishonest employees steal approximately 6.6 times the amount stolen by shoplifters ($851.44 vs. $128.71).

Fight crime with content

No good examples of multi-purpose displays for loss prevention yet exist, although several large retailers are investigating possible approaches. The potential that exists to use one system to support the goals of the other, as well as optimize staffing, store layout and merchandising, is yet to be realized.

But even before integration of the technology infrastructure, the content alone can provide an improvement.

Even a one-second message integrated into the loss prevention display could gain attention, (probably more than the security view alone), to welcome customers and enable the transition into shopping and buying mode. The message could be the store logo, brand tag line or short promotional ad. In addition to welcoming the customer and potentially delivering ad revenues, such messages could serve to complicate thieves' attempts to determine camera angles and unviewed areas of the store.

Content on digital signage displays can help achieve loss prevention goals, in particular with the inherent ability to daypart and schedule message presentation. 

Before store opening, staff can be targeted with messages aimed at reducing internal theft. Content could aim to reinforce their awareness that security cameras and recording devices are used at check-out, in aisles and stockroom areas to reduce theft and to remind staff of actions that could follow detection.

Patrons could be reminded to be cautious with their purses or other valuables to prevent theft by other patrons. Or customers could be encouraged to report suspicious behavior or reminded that shoplifting increases the cost of goods. Digital signage displays in store areas of high shrinkage could remind patrons of what loss prevention staff are looking for, such as merchandise being hidden or not presented at checkout, prices being changed, packaging being damaged, etc.

Lyle Bunn is principal and strategy architect with Bunn Co. and is a regular contributor to Digital Signage Today.

Posted by: Lyle Bunn AT 11:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
In the self-service supply chain, whether you are a manufacturer of kiosks, a software developer for self-service applications or a kiosk deployer, the question of how to deploy kiosks in third-party retail locations rapidly and cost-effectively becomes a concern. More specifically, during deployment, what is your connectivity strategy? How do you plan or help your customers prepare for supporting a multitude of applications without a time-consuming and costly network implementation?
The network itself is leveraged to support kiosk applications that range from the most basic and low-bandwidth applications such as monitoring uptime and remote desktop access to rich, multi-media applications that require enormous bursts of data — and, of course, the all-important transactional application of credit card processing that is low bandwidth but critically important both from a revenue and security perspective.
As connectivity is essential, previous choices for kiosk networks entailed either 1) leveraging the retailer’s own store network, or 2) bringing in your own hardline solutions such as DSL. DSL can be purchased via national aggregators for coast-to-coast deployments and are single carrier billed. But lower-cost DSL networks via the LECs (local exchange carriers) or Regional Bells have to be procured, billed and supported region-to-region across many carriers.
It is important to identify the right partner to support these types of labor-intensive hard-line deployments, which require the dedication of telecom-savvy project management resources through all the stages, but especially during the implementation at a third-party retail location where inside wiring is required to run the connectivity up to the kiosk.
Leveraging the in-store network, although alluring as it’s "free," is filled with potential "gotchas." For the kiosk deployer, relying on the customer’s network is difficult to support or manage as they have no control. For example, if the customer's IT department changed a port or altered a few firewall rules, the kiosks may not be able to connect anymore. This change may not have been communicated to the kiosk deployer. The result is that the kiosk is offline and not delivering services.
Many retailers do not want more circuits being dropped or wiring to be done for a kiosk solution. Many enterprise retailers demand that a kiosk deployer stay off of their store network because of security.
Self-service needs a connectivity model that does not rely on coordination with store managers and personnel.
Increasingly sophisticated cellular routing technology (3G routers) and the ability to leverage robust and somewhat ubiquitous networks via the predominant CDMA-based carriers such as Sprint and Verizon Wireless — building "kiosk wide area networks" leveraging wireless connectivity as the backbone — has now become a viable option. For example, with Sprint's REV A technology, peak download speeds are at 3 megs (equivalent to two T1's) and upload speeds of 1.8 megs are attainable. However it is better to plan the kiosk network and the ability to support your applications based on a more conservative approach of an average of 800kbps download and 400kbps upload.
Atlanta-based SoloHealth chose a wireless solution for its self-service eye-exam kiosks, currently piloted in some of the nation's largest retailers. Stephen Kendig, head of operations and development for SoloHealth, offered his thoughts about wireless connectivity.
COONS: What are the top three concerns you have as a kiosk deployer?
KENDIG: Our initial concerns deploying our kiosks were around consumer acceptance of the innovative technology and application that we were bringing to the market. After a few months and several thousand of users, it appears that we are really on to something. Once the consumer's need has been identified and met, ensuring that you have a stable platform is paramount. Without a stable platform, your solution may work, but it's not scalable.
COONS: How will or has wireless connectivity helped in reducing any of those concerns?
KENDIG: The cellular wireless connectivity solution that our wireless solutions provider advised us on has really helped to ensure that we have a stable platform. As with any new technology, remote diagnostics and continuous monitoring are critical to identifying and eliminating issues before they become rampant. Wireless connectivity allows us to test our kiosks in multiple locations in any store, and in almost any environment, without the limitations of a hard wire or limited range of small wireless networks.
COONS: Why did you consider using wireless connectivity to deploy the network in the first place?
KENDIG: We made the decision based on three key factors. We didn't want to be reliant on our customers' infrastructure and potential IT concerns, we wanted maximum flexibility of where we could locate our kiosk within our different end environments, and we needed connectivity that was reliable and under our control.
COONS: How have you handled PCI and security concerns?
KENDIG: Our security concerns are managed through our leading kiosk software platform, the Netkey Runtime application. They have done a brilliant job of staying ahead of the potential hackers and bringing industry-leading technology to the kiosk space.
For Tom Weaver, chief marketing officer of Denver-based KIOSK Information Systems, having a wireless solution available for clients has removed barriers to sales and driven additional turnkey values.
Jamie Cuthbert, president of Toronto-based Saitech International, and Roger Van Maris, Saitech's vice president, say it was important for their informational kiosks to provide consistent and top-quality experiences to the consumer and the sales associate who uses the kiosk to look up information in the tire center. In order to achieve this, the content needed to be timely and up-to-date, which required reliable and relatively unrestricted access to the kiosks.
"Wireless gave us the control over our kiosks without concern over infrastructure or security issues within a retailer's home network," Cuthbert said. 
For Tim Walsh, chief executive of Ready Credit Corp., based in Eden Prairie, Minn., leveraging a wireless solution allowed for a rapid, non-intrusive and simultaneous deployment of multiple pilots with national retailers at an increased rate of 135 percent over hard-wired solutions for their financial services kiosks.
At the end of the day, no matter where the deployer sits in the self service ecosystem of suppliers, vendors and deployers, connectivity must come into play. Better to plan for it up front with telecom professionals and leverage the simplest and most cost-effective plan so that either the deployer’s or the customer's kiosks aren't stuck in a corner gathering dust. Instead, they are mobile and can be easily positioned to leverage the sweet spot for the best foot traffic and the highest number of transactions. 
Natasha Royer Coons is the managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group, which provides fully managed telecom solutions to the self-service and retail verticals.
Posted by: Natasha Royer Coons AT 12:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 13 October 2008
Our company often has prospects looking for kiosk hardware or software who have not thought through the entire experience. This includes not considering the amount of information on screen that a person is willing to read while standing at a kiosk, or considering how the person interacts with the software.
A common example is the keyboard. The basic question, "Should I have a keyboard on my kiosk?" doesn't seem to go through their minds, so it's our job to help them think through this when we consult for them.
Think about it. You have a touchscreen kiosk with a killer app that is going to make your company money, reward your customers, streamline operations, etc. Why do you need a keyboard when you can just have an onscreen keyboard?
In our experience, there are some pros and cons to having only a touchscreen keyboard. By relying on the touch keyboard, you will need to consider the interface and how much real estate it will consume onscreen. This means you have less space for your content or the form fields where the user will enter data. It also increases your software development budget, as the keyboard needs to be integrated, customized to your branding, etc.
But one of the biggest reasons not to use an onscreen keyboard for your kiosk is your customer. As long as you only are asking for small amounts of data, an onscreen keyboard is great. But if you are asking for much typing from the customer, we have found that the adoption rate or completion rate drops considerably. Nobody wants to enter as much data as they would on a Web page, when using a touch keyboard. The user is not accustomed to the flat surface that is perpendicular to the ground, and they will type much slower. A traditional keyboard sits flat and with proper ergonomics, a person can type very fast.
So if you are asking for a good deal of typing from your customers, consider a tradtional tactile qwerty keyboard. While users will still type slower than what they are used to when they are in their comfy chair in front of their desk, it will be more natural for them and you will get better participation in your programs. There are many different styles to chose from, and each kiosk vendor has their own preferences based upon testing, availability, durability, etc.
At Electronic Art, we integrated a smaller keyboard with a built-in trackpad, which requires less cleaning than a trackball and has no moving parts. We believe more people are comfortable with a trackpad that is similar to laptops, than an ball system. The keyboard is not hardened or vandal resistant, but it is also about one-sixth of the cost of a hardened keyboard. We rarely have problems with them, and when we do, it is easy to replace.
Hardened keyboards or vandal-resistant keyboards are very cool. They are well engineered to resist spills, prying off of keys, breakage, and they are made to take many more cycles of up/down on the keys. There are many reasons to consider using them, such as when you have a kiosk in an unattended environment like a shopping mall. But if you are using it in a monitored area, such as a retail shop, you may find them to be overkill. They also are often harder to depress (slightly) and flat without finger curves on top, which can lead some users to type slower, or it can leave them with a negative experience that makes them feel uncomfortable. Some models are also not in a typical configuration, so the space bar or control keys are in places you would not expect. They add $200-$450 to the cost of a kiosk on average. There are both ruggedized plastic or metal versions depending on your risk tolerance.
Another cool keyboard concept is the software/hardware from Staco Switch that allows onscreen keyboards to feel as if you are really touching a button. It sounds impossible, but when touching the screen it gives the right vibrations to your brain, making you feel like you just depressed a physical button. I'm so hoping to get a customer that will want to integrate this great attention getter into their applications. It would be great on kiosks or touchscreen digital signage.
Recently, our technical director passed on a link to me about a brand new methodology of using onscreen keyboards called Swype. While in it's infancy, it seems really cool. Instead of touching each letter individually, you draw a path between letters and a word matching search engine provides predictive text to speed up your typing. CNet did a quick video on their site about it from the TechCrunch50 show. It would not work for every project, and introducing a new mindset on input may confuse your customers, so you should only use it when appropriate to your audience. And expect to have to give assistance while people learn it, but it can provide an impactful wow factor to your edgy project!
So no matter if you plan to use a physical keyboard or an onscreen keyboard, consider your customer. What will they prefer, and what will be most intuitive and easy for them. Test with A/B testing if you have a budget. But don't let the input method get in the way of your killer app and kiosk's success.
Tim Burke is the owner of Electronic Art.
Posted by: Tim Burke AT 12:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Thursday, 09 October 2008
The word concomitance means "co-existing" or "affecting while simultaneously effected by." As such, the word is an apt descriptor for the expanding relationship between digital signage and cellular technology.

The positioning of out-of-home digital signage has this concomitance generating keen interest, indicated by the planning and spending of ad agencies, brand managers, network operators and wireless carriers.
With one billion mobile devices being shipped annually, they constitute the largest segment of the consumer electronics device market, according to Stuart Carlaw, vice president and research director of ABI Research. That means cellular and other wireless merits consideration by the digital signage industry.
The benefits of triggering a download or mobile transaction provide brands with the high levels of engagement that accelerate brand-building. Communicators are catching onto this fast.

Mobile: the future of advertising
Jupiter Research reported the North American mobile commerce revenue in 2007 to be $505 million and forecasts it to grow to $1.9 billion in 2010. This is fueled by increased adoption of mobile Internet.
Comscore TKG projects growth to 92 million users in 2012 from 32 million in 2007, with highest usage, at 45 percent, being the Millenials demographic of hard-to-reach 18-24-year-olds. The next group, 27-40-year-old Gen X-ers, represents 27 percent of users, and 41-50-year-old “Baby Boomers” represent 17 percent. 
The IBM Institute for Business Value Analysis reported that the highest compound annual growth rates (CAGR) for global advertising spending are being realized in mobile advertising at 41 percent, followed by 20 percent for Internet and 19 percent for each of interactive TV and in-game advertising.   
Wireless carriers are taking note of the high value that they can bring to digital signage while it simultaneously returns the favor. Concomitance of the two media means a co-existing "win" for every part of the supply chain, from network suppliers to operators to advertisers to viewers.
"Cellular and mobile broadband use for media networks leverages the network reach, reliability and security built into networks, like the Nationwide Sprint network, that successfully carry millions of digital transmissions daily," said Steve Rowley, director of indirect distribution for Sprint. "Digital signage will increasingly take advantage of what cellular offers."
Walsh Wireless, a Sprint reseller, is one provider that is looking specifically at optimizing and using cellular technology to enhance digital signage.
"End users of digital signage want to focus on their core business of retail, hospitality or services, and benefit from the ease and confidence that gaining a complete, turnkey display network can provide," said Chick Walsh, chief strategy officer of Walsh Wireless.
Three benefits of cellular/digital signage concomitance
There are three benefits for carriers seeking more average revenue per user (ARPR) from digital signage-cellular integration.
1. Taking advantage of cellular networks. The first key benefit is using cellular networks to connect digital signs. Using cellular connectivity offers speed and ease to deploy, location flexibility and a lower cost of operating a network.
Companies such as MediaTile, Adshift and NEC are providing cellular-enabled "digital-signage-in-a-box" products, and system integrators such as Walsh Wireless are bringing the two technologies together. 
"The use of cellular connectivity for digital signage underpins the rapid path toward more flexible deployment and lower costs of operations," said Keith Kelsen, chief executive of MediaTile.
2. Using screens for a mobile call to action. A second benefit is found in mobile phone downloads that can be triggered by digital signage content. The words "text to download" provide viewer engagement and dramatically extend the value of digital signage.
The download could be a schedule, procedure, information, coupon, wallpaper or ringtone. Reference has been made to digital signage being a "middle media" that explains this communications supply-chain positioning of digital signage. 
3. Digital signage as a mobile merchandising tool. The third benefit is in the mobile Internet browsing sessions and mobile transactions that can be triggered by digital signage. 
Optinion Research Corp. said that one out of three U.S. mobile users are currently accessing the Web with their mobiles, and 50 percent of those people are doing so three or more times per week. 
Hossein Mousavi, EVP & co-founder of mporia, an m-commerce provider, reports that merchants of all sizes are moving to mobile Web to enable mobile commerce, with a 300-percent adoption rate of merchant subscriptions per quarter.
Communications supply chains are a continuously growing and optimizing entity. As digital signage is increasingly geared toward information provisioning, cellular and other forms of wireless, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, WiMax and satellite, will optimize the application while reducing deployment and operating complexity and cost. Cellular will both offer and enjoy benefits – "concomitance."

Lyle Bunn is the principal and strategy architect of Bunn Co. and a noted authority in the digital signage industry.

Posted by: Lyle Bunn AT 11:16 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 07 October 2008
It has been an active discussion topic and frequently asked question within screen media network communities for some time now. A decade after I saw the first digital signage screen by Captivate Network in an elevator at ACNiesen's headquarters, the rate for digital signage advertising is still a puzzle that no one — not even a savvy ad agency executive — can provide a clear formula for calculating.
Why can't we just adopt the traditional cost per thousand impressions (CPM) rate for the established medium as a baseline? Not so simple.
Pricing ad placement is not a clear-cut science to begin with. While the ad rates for established media, posters, newspapers, magazines and TV have many considerations (viewership, demographics, ad size, running length, etc.), the ad pricing on digital signage screens inherits almost all attributes from the traditional mediums, but also involves many new dimensions.  
Through the use of targeted and on-demand content distribution technologies over the broadband infrastructure, the narrowcasting nature of digital signage networks provides an effective way of reaching and engaging audiences with relevant content catered screen-by-screen to specific locations and viewers’ interests. Some well-implemented networks even allow direct interaction with viewers through interactive screens or cell phones for in-depth one-on-one communication and tracking.
No one will argue that the screens with targeted audience and viewer engaging technologies have better value and effectiveness in direct comparison to the traditional media such as posters, billboards and broadcast TV. But that does not mean you can demand two or three times the cost of the equivalent billboard or TV ads with similar viewer counts.
The price of any successful product is based on the following three stages — conditions, if you will. The ad product on digital signage screens is no exception.
1.      Market acceptance: While we are seeing evidence that sponsors are very interested in digital signage screens, the advertising companies are not fully jumping onboard simply due to the lack of historical statistical records and immature tracking methods. It is easier to justify the cost of a $2.5 million 30-second spot during the Super Bowl than a $1,000 monthly cost on a well-located digital signage screen. However, the recent activities of digital signage network deployments by large international ad agencies indicate that advertising on digital signage screens is entering the mainstream market.
2.      Return on investment: Since return is directly related to the pricing, more case studies must be done by major research firms on successful deployments. The interactive viewer engaging and tracking technologies deployed on the screens will further add value in both effectiveness and precise tracking of sponsor dollars.
3.      Demand: Better managed and well-covered high-value networks with focused demographics and geographic coverage will translate to higher demand, therefore higher price on ads.
As the industry moves along, the market will set the pricing structure in the near future.
In practical matters for deciding the pricing at the current stage, the equivalent size print billboards at a similar location should be a good measure in pricing the ads on digital signage screens. Based on the experience of our clients, not counting the large LED billboards, the acceptable monthly rates on LCD or plasma screens are ranging from $100 for a typical community or retail location to $5,000 for a focused high-value demographic venue with limited ads per screen.
It is critical for any digital signage network startups, large or small, to have a long term financial plan along with a deployment strategy that focuses on maximizing the network value on the deployment investments. Here's some advice for building the value of the screen time:
  • Stay focused on vertical markets and geographic coverage. Leverage committed financial resources to maximize the screen count and audience reach.
  • Ensure content quality and relevance.
  • Choose technology partners carefully. The cheap solution may not necessary be a good choice.
  • Partner with peer networks and established media companies in sharing the resources including viewer coverage, contents and sponsors.
Jimmy Dun is the vice president of business development for Dynasign Corporation.
Read also: The top 10 digital signage deployment mistakes.
Posted by: Jimmy Dun AT 12:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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