The Perspective 
Friday, 23 April 2010

Digital signage continues to gain momentum as an effective marketing tool in today’s retail environment. Since digital signage is still a relatively new technology, there is not a general understanding of what it takes to run a successful campaign once the hardware has been purchased. Let’s talk about content.

Content is the media that will play on your display. Content can consist of imagery, footage or a combination of both. Think of content as mini-commercials featuring your product or message.

Creating content from scratch is an option, but not the most cost effective. The most cost effective option is repurposing your existing print marketing materials to create a digital campaign.

A major commercial retail chain recently approached my company for guidance regarding their digital signage content creation. They were spending a significant amount of money on national print advertisement campaigns and were now faced with the additional expense of content creation for their digital signage. The additional cost was daunting and not in their budget. We suggested repurposing.

Repurposing was suggested to not only save the retail chain money, but to reinforce their branding. The retailers’ current campaign was reaching their targeted audience every week via mailers. Our suggestion was to reinforce their pre-existing campaign by animating the print materials already in circulation and featuring them on displays in the retail stores. This created yet another touch-point for their marketing campaign and added to its recognition.

Utilizing pre-existing marketing material reinforces your company's branding by maintaining its consistency and integrity. Your brand can easily become less effective each time you recreate your marketing pieces through various design firms and content companies. To maintain and reinforce your company's brand, you must deliver a uniform and consistent experience to the customer, every time. Without consistency you are not reinforcing your brand and the success of your campaign will suffer. The most successful brands consistently reinforce their message over time.

A company interested in digital signage that is currently running a successful print media campaign is a step ahead of the game. We have found that repurposing our clients' print material to a digital format results in an instantly recognizable campaign at a fraction of the cost. We are able to offer quick turnaround times since the content is pre-existing.

I hope you can now breathe a little easier knowing there is an alternative to high priced content creation. Repurposing your companies pre-existing marketing materials is not only cost effective, but beneficial to your branding strategy. Before you start from scratch, consider the benefits of repurposing with the help of an experienced company.

Katy R. Dailey is a communications specialist with CE labs, an association member. 

Posted by: Katy R. Dailey AT 11:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
VIDEO: Janet Webster, president of the Self-Service & Kiosk Association, gives her thoughts on the merger of the SSKA with the Digital Signage Association to form the new Digital Screenmedia Association.

Posted by: Janet Webster AT 09:53 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 12 April 2010

Over the past five years, the evolution of wireless networks to 3G data speeds, alongside increasingly sophisticated yet cost-effective cellular routers and antennas, has allowed many kiosk and digital signage deployers to have either successfully deployed stable networks using cellular technologies or at least seriously consider it as a viable alternative to landline options.

Now that 4G is available via Sprint and Clearwire, what does that mean for kiosk and digital signage deployers interested in deploying a cellular network?

4G is especially compelling for those deployers with bandwidth-intense applications, such as content streaming or video. Consider that with more bandwidth, applications such as a live video call from the kiosk to a customer service agent to enhance the user experience are very possible and can be delivered with great quality.

First, though, let me offer a word of caution: I believe we are experiencing the dawn of a new world for cellular networks, meaning this is just the beginning. For self-service it’s promising, it’s real and it will allow for the support of applications that we could only dream of before. But in order to adopt 4G completely for the purposes of an un-manned, machine-to-machine, mission critical network, many factors need to be considered and vetted out before rolling full force ahead.

Now, let’s first take a look at the technology itself and what is available today in the United States.

What is 4G?

4G refers to the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards and is the successor to 3G and 2G standards. In the same manner that data-transmission speeds increased from 2G to 3G and allowed for the adoption of new applications utilizing cellular networks, the leap from 3G to 4G again promises higher data rates and lower latencies that could realistically support applications such as real-time streaming of multimedia voice, data and video.

The 4G spectrum services available through Clearwire and Sprint are based on a technology known as WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access). WiMAX is an international standard developed expressly for sending high-speed data signals to mobile users that blends the speeds of Wi-Fi with the portability of cellular. It broadcasts on the 2.5-GHz portion of the radio frequency spectrum and has a longer range. In the real world (not the lab), speed depends on variables such as how many subscribers are using the network at the same time, how far you are from a transmitting tower and how much data is being sent across the Internet. However, a realistic expectation can be up to 3 Megs or 5 Megs per second download, which to a user will feel more like a high-speed DSL or cable type of experience.

What markets are available to deployers today?

The Clearwire and Sprint 4G footprint currently serves 28 markets.*

For self-service deployers who are planning a nationwide reach, a more likely scenario is that 4G won’t be a realistic option until 2011 and beyond. If ubiquitous coverage is required, the best plan is still to deploy 3G equipment but to ensure the 3G equipment is future proofed as much as possible for a 4G upgrade when available.

What cellular equipment is required to properly support a kiosk or digital signage network?

Carrier Modem: Sprint’s 57 percent ownership stake in Clearwire allowed the two companies to launch a cellular USB device that is backward- and forward-compatible with both networks. It utilizes the Sprint 3G network wherever necessary and will automatically jump to a 4G network when available.

Cellular Router: TeraNova takes a more conservative approach to designing and building robust and reliable kiosk or digital signage wide area networks, and we recommend the use of a router with the carrier modem. We leverage 3G cellular routers to provide a consistent connection with the cell tower and to provide over-the-air (OTA) functionality to the equipment in the field. This is especially important in the self-service sector where the systems are unmanned, and every truck roll is a cost consideration. We want to see high network uptime and the ability to remotely manage the network as much as possible.

Don Bush, director of marketing at CradlePoint Technologies, a leading manufacturer of 3G/4G equipment, shared CradlePoint’s vision to allow the customer to "future-proof" their solutions:

"We believe it is in the customer’s best interest to provide them a product that allows them to take advantage of the best current technology without replacing hardware with every technological leapfrog."

CradlePoint’s cellular routers have firmware that has been successfully tested with 4G equipment. As well, CradlePoint offers the ability to "push out" new firmware as required OTA to the routers one by one or all at once so that it can accept new carrier modems (aircards) and limit the amount of truck rolls required to maintain and service the network. Routers start at $250 and virtually pay for themselves after the first dispatch.

Client Case Study:

Five hundred kiosks are rolled out in Q1 2010 on a Sprint network so that 3G can be utilized today with a clear roadmap to 4G. Note: ATT and VZW are pursuing LTE, which is their 4G strategy and technology of choice and is also very promising but has not rolled out yet in any markets.**

3G/4G Routers are deployed in the kiosks that are compatible with the carrier equipment. Once the 4G network is ubiquitously available and the 4G equipment is tested and proven, the deployer can then choose to exercise specific terms and conditions we negotiated in their carrier contract that allows them to switch out to 4G without incurring additional cost.

The next step is to utilize the remote management software to command the routers that are forward-compatible with 4G to accept the new firmware OTA. This deployer enjoys the best of both worlds: a current deployment utilizing proven technology and equipment, with a clear roadmap for the future that does not put the burden of technology obsolescence back on the deployer.

As a conclusion, despite an evolving arms race between WiMAX and LTE 4G technologies in the carrier world and trying to stay informed of the many acronyms that form the alphabet soup of our cellular space — our advice is to not get overwhelmed or overly optimistic about bleeding-edge technologies. The idea is to build a kiosk or digital signage network using proven technologies today yet future-proofed without significant re-investment required to capitalize on the brave new world.

* Currently the 28 markets are Atlanta and Milledgeville, Ga.; Baltimore; Boise; Chicago; Las Vegas; Philadelphia; Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro, N.C.; Honolulu and Maui, Hawaii; Seattle and Bellingham, Wash.; Portland and Salem Ore.; and Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Houston, Killeen/Temple, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Waco and Wichita Falls, Texas.

This year Clearwire and Sprint plan to expand into at least the following markets: Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City; New York City, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis and the San Francisco Bay Area.

** LTE, short for Long Term Evolution, is considered by many to be the obvious successor to the current generation of UMTS 3G technology, which is based upon WCDMA, HSDPA, HSUPA, and HSPA. It will enable significantly faster data rates for both uploading and downloading. Verizon Wireless, partly owned by Vodafone, has announced it will support LTE as its 4G technology of choice, abandoning its current CDMA based network. AT&T also previously announced plans to boost its mobile broadband capabilities by investing in next-generation broadband technology (LTE).

Natasha Royer Coons is the managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group Inc., the creators of the Kiosk Wide Area Network (K-WAN) kit. The kiosk connectivity specialists will be at KioskCom 2010 in Las Vegas at Booth #335.

Posted by: Natasha Royer Coons AT 11:28 am   |  Permalink   |  
Monday, 12 April 2010
Creating design guidelines for the network and the content is an import step in the process of setting up a digital out-of-home network. This process starts with discussions with key stakeholders, and it ends with a formal design guideline document for everyone in the process to follow.
The guidelines will include specifications on logotype and colors, logotype usage, fonts, ID design and usage, network design elements and identity system and creative briefs. This document is vital even for a small-scale network; consistency is mandatory to maintain the effectiveness of the network’s identity and messages, and much time will be lost establishing this consistency at the end of the process rather than in the beginning.
For example, some key design elements for the network may include photography, bright colors, endorsements and quotations. The content designs may include directions, like having a main photograph; clear headline; short copy; short, large, and legible words; bold colors; and high contrast to name a few.
Taking the time to create a network guideline will save on time and money in the future. These are the minimum basic areas one can consider while creating the network design guideline for one’s network:
1. Color usage
  • Identify the brand colors of the company, product, etc.
  • Colors are usually designed to work well together and live in harmony within compositions.
  • Use color bracketing, which is using the colors’ opacity to deliver gradient shades of each color.
  • Use gradients, which is using gradient backgrounds to create a sense of space around products.

2. Font usage

  • Utilize the brand’s font guidelines to ensure continuity among other marketing materials. There will typically be only one or two fonts used on the network.
  • Vary the usage of the font to create visual texture in contrasting ways that are appealing and balanced. Combining bold and light weights will help keep the viewers’ attention on the right words.
  • Select three or four font weights, such as light, regular, semi-bold, and bold.
3. Showcasing products
  • Ensure that one is consistent in how products are photographed or videotaped, so the look has continuity from one product to the next.
  • Maintain high quality and resolution of product shots to ensure high quality of all content on the network.
4. Icons
  • Create a shorthand language for the network with icons to help guide the viewer around specific themes. Depending on the network, these can fall into a number of categories. They can be seasonal, departmental, contextual or emotional.
  • Animate icons in specific ways to enhance network continuity.
  • Icons need to be consistent. For example, all icons may relate to a specific look and feel. They may be bold or soft, or bright or pastel, in nature.
5. Transitions
  • Transitions add movement to the screen and can direct the viewer’s attention to one place or another on the screen.
  • Transitions need to be seamless within a piece of content and among other pieces of content.
6. Screens
  • Determine which screens within an environment are designed to serve a specific purpose. For example, one may have screens on an aisle end (endcap) or at the cash register. Each type of screen may be treated differently to accomplish one’s goals.
  • Determine what onscreen zone layout may be appropriate for each type of screen to help serve the intended purpose.
7. Zones
  • Structure the zones on the screen. In some networks one may want to have an onscreen zone with main content, another zone with secondary content and potentially a third zone with informational content.
  • The main zone is usually the product or the main advertisement.
  • The secondary zone typically relates to the main zone in context and tells the viewer what to do next.
  • The informational zone could provide weather, news, the date, or the time.
8. Themed messages
  • Themed messaging can be useful according to the type of network. For example, in a corporate communications network one may want to have themes based on the department so viewers understand the type of message being presented.
9. Content specifications
  • Determine the content specifications. Setting the standards for acceptable deliverables will save a lot of headaches. Determine what formats, codecs and sizes are acceptable and whether the deliverables will be high definition, standard definition, or both.
Creating content is best achieved by following a process that begins at the highest level of your network’s identity and works down. Networks that are successful have a consistent set of guidelines that dictate the styles, tone and other characteristics that will make it instantly identifiable to viewers.
Keith Kelsen is the author of "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen." More information about the book and the book's companion Web site can be found at
Posted by: Keith Kelsen AT 11:26 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Thursday, 08 April 2010
NEC Display Solutions of America has been busy in the week leading up to this year’s KioskCom and The Digital Signage Show in Las Vegas.

Over the last several days NEC has made three announcements about new additions to its lineup of commercial LCD display and projector solutions.

On Monday, April 5, the company announced the latest addition to its top line of digital signage LCD displays, the P Series, with the new 52-inch P521 joining the 40-inch P401, 46-inch P461 and 70-inch P701. The new industrial-strength display is ideal in rigorous 24/7 environments like airports, public information, rental and staging and healthcare, according to a release from the company.

Tuesday NEC unveiled its new S Series, featuring the addition of the 40-inch S401 and 46-inch S461 LCD display, which will replace its well-regarded M Series. NEC says the S Series is ideal for customers with digital signage and entertainment applications running for extended operation times, like deployments in airports and public areas.

And on Wednesday the company launched its new V Series with the debut of the 32-inch V321, which it calls “a value-driven LCD display ideal for those new to the digital signage market.” The V321 succeeds the MultiSync LCD3215 and offers new features to benefit deployments with robust runtimes, like in restaurants and corporate lobbies.

The P521 is set to replace the company’s MultiSync LCD5220 and offers new features and connectivity to NEC’s previous 52-inch customers. Additions to the new model include DisplayPort for maximum connectivity, Ethernet connection for ease in remote monitoring and more than 30 built-in features as part of its Enhanced Digital Signage Technology Suite. The Quick input change feature provides fast and easy switching between inputs for customers that require content to continuously run with near-uninterruptible flow.

“NEC’s new P521 display brings digital signage customers beneficial features that make deployments more effective and long-lasting,” said Luke Bruschuk, product manager for NEC Display Solutions. “The P Series battles harsh conditions with a premium-grade panel, including internal temperature sensors, a sturdy mechanical design and a sealed panel design to protect against damaging elements in less than optimal settings. The combination of these advanced features secures the P521 during use and aids in maximizing the display’s lifecycle.”

The new S Series of full high-definition displays offer a variety of new features compared to previous generation models, including DisplayPort and Ethernet connections for added flexibility, an ambient light sensor for optimum brightness based on existing lighting conditions and more than 30 built-in advanced features in its Enhanced Digital Signage Technology Suite. The displays boast a contrast ratio of 4000:1, an increase from its predecessors, while maintaining the same level of power consumption.

The S401 and S461 have the ability to be tiled in a video wall matrix up to 10x10 (100 displays), which is an improvement from the previous 5x5 capability of the M Series. Their NaViSetT technology offers an intuitive graphical interface to adjust the displays’ settings, and remote access is enabled for IT professionals with the Administrator version.

“Our new S Series displays offer a feature-rich solution to those customers looking for a strong presence with sufficient connectivity options that allow similar performance as our award-winning P Series products,” Bruschuk said. “The S401 and S461 bring incredible new benefits to projects involving extended use and satisfy a market that didn’t fit with the product offering in the past. Their standard bezel and business-grade panel benefit flagship stores and designer shops that require a sleek, sophisticated look without straining budgets.”

And finally, NEC says its new V Series was designed with small businesses in mind, for those applications that require commercial-grade technology on a limited budget. The high-definition V321 presents new, convenient features that simplify the customer experience, such as the built-in text ticker feature. This enhancement enables end-users to dedicate a portion of the screen to emergency warnings or breaking news. While the primary, scheduled content is displayed and fills the majority of the screen, the secondary ticker information can be displayed on the lower, remaining portion of the screen through a separate input.

Other improved features include quick input change for faster switching between sources, advanced terminal settings and monitoring and control over Ethernet, including e-mail notifications in the event the display encounters an error. Additionally, its SPVA panel contributes to the increase in contrast ratio from 800:1 to 3000:1 and to the reduced number of CCFLs, relating directly to the decrease in mercury content.

The V321 supports video walls of up to 25 displays in a 5x5 configuration using TileMatrixT, an improvement from the 4x4 capability in the MultiSync LCD3215. The display also allows individual or group identities with only one command, where users can address monitors individually, as an entire group or defined sub-groups. Certain settings can be customized within each group, providing further flexibility.

“NEC’s V Series allows any and all customers the ability to outfit their facility with advanced digital signage without straining their budget,” Bruschuk said. “The V321 supplies entry-level users with extended connectivity options, including Ethernet control for remote monitoring, RS-232 loopback and HDMI high-definition image quality. Pairing this invaluable control capability with a multitude of advanced features creates an incredible value-driven digital signage solution.”
Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 08:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 07 April 2010
A little more than a year ago, the Digital Signage Experts Group (DSEG) premiered its Digital Signage Certified Experts course as a broad overview of the digital signage industry — and since then "somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500" people have taken the course either online or in person, according to DSEG board member Jonathan Brawn, a principal at Brawn Consulting.

DSEG, which describes itself as an impartial and brand-agnostic organization that works hand-in-hand with the manufacturers, distributors, content creators and resellers in the digital signage industry, has announced the addition of three new certification programs to complement the group’s original certification offering.

The DSEG now will offer certification courses for Digital Signage Display Experts (DSDE), Digital Signage Network Experts (DSNE) and Digital Signage Sales Professional (DSSP) to its curriculum. Just like with the DSCE, the new courses will be offered at live events around the country and via live webinars and virtual online versions.

"We had additional courses in mind from the start…because you really can’t fit all of the bits and pieces people really need to know into one course," Brawn said.

The original DSCE (Digital Signage Certified Expert) course is an "immersion into the digital signage market for those wanting an impartial and agnostic approach to understanding the complexities of the industry. It covers the scale and scope of the industry and examines the disparate parts of complex digital signage solutions culminating in the 7 Key Elements of Digital Signage," according to a press release from the DSEG.

The new DSDE (Digital Signage Display Expert) course goes over the science of sight and how it relates to display specifications, selecting the appropriate type of display for deployments and display calibrations, among other topics.

The DSEG says the DSNE (Digital Signage Network Experts) course "is a fundamental approach to understanding network structure and operating principals, as well as security." The course has an introduction to networks, network design and topology, and gets into networking hardware and network protocols.

The DSSP (Digital Signage Sales Professional) course looks at the obstacles faced by digital signage salespeople in "conveying to the customers and end-users what digital signage entails as well as what it can really do for them," according to the press release. "The DSSP focuses on the information and skills necessary to translate value into the reality for the digital signage customer."

Brawn says the DSSP course is essentially "the Certified Expert-Lite" for people who don’t need some of the more technical aspects of the more intensive course.

"All the material that’s in Sales Professional is also contained within the Certified Expert program, but the Sales Prof program is aimed at people who want to take a half-day, real focused seminar purely on the sales elements of digital signage who don’t need or want any of the technical elements at all."

All of the courses culminate in an online test for participants, after which they’re awarded certification in the program.

Several players in the digital signage industry have started incorporating the original certification program into their training, and some are starting to explore adding one of the new courses, Brawn says.

Earlier this year, Ingram Micro Inc. started offering the DSCE course to its channel partners, and Kevin Schroll, Samsung Electronics America’s senior product marketing manager – large format displays, says that Samsung sales reps are encouraged to take the courses offered by Brawn’s company.

"The training courses provide pertinent information to better enable the Samsung sales representatives to properly assess the customer’s digital signage needs and match it to the solution Samsung can provide," Schroll said.

And late last year, Almo Professional A/V announced that it was the first distributor in the industry to have its entire sales force successfully complete the DSCE program.

"Digital signage is clearly one of the fastest-growing segments of the commercial audiovisual industry," Sam Taylor, executive vice president and COO of Almo Professional A/V, said in a release at the time. "The challenge is that most professionals don’t have a full understanding of how to take all the complex parts of a digital signage system to produce an effective image and create value in the network…This designation gives our partners an edge because not only can they get all the digital signage hardware and software from Almo Professional A/V, they also have an expert resource to guide them through the process and help them create a system that is the best solution for their customers."

The new courses augment the broad understanding of the industry the earlier course provided, Brawn says.

"They are really focused on a single element," he said. "We break everything down in the Cert Experts program into seven key elements of digital signage, and so now we’ve created technical courses that are just really in-depth in certain areas."

DSEG will continue offering the original course along with the new programs in-person at seminars and tradeshows, Brawn says, but the group has found that most professionals are opting to take the courses online.

"It’s more of an issue that people don’t want to make the time commitment of spending the entire day out of the office," he said. "So the self-guided, which is exactly the same course material…we’re finding that is really in demand."
Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 02:07 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 05 April 2010

By Judy Mottl, contributing writer

While some deployments haven’t been the most customer friendly, and not everyone loves self-checkout, industry watchers expect deeper adoption and expanded technology use as businesses move forward on projects this year — all while concerns about job displacement fail to take root.

When it comes to using self-service kiosks, whether it’s self-checkout at the supermarket or choosing a movie from a DVD station, there is still diverse and passionate public opinion about their value.

Just take a quick gander at feedback at to get an idea on how varied public response is regarding self-service technology despite the fact it’s hardly new stuff.

Consumers who like full-service claim that it's more trouble free, offers up better quality of service and is more reliable. Many users say they embrace it for quick purchases, love the speedier transaction capability and some even enjoy the lack of human interaction.

While psychologists may have a field day with that latter feedback, greater efficiency, having control and the ability to verify item pricing are top benefits cited in the Consumerist’s informal poll about self-service.

Speed, convenience and fun were the top three benefits cited by consumers in the 2009 Self-Service Consumer Survey, published by, and the survey indicates satisfaction levels are increasing as the technology continues to improve.

Yet not everyone’s enthralled about being put to work in the shopping environment. Many like the idea of a cashier to help with coupon issues and the tedious bagging process, and some worry the technology could put the retail cashier occupation out to pasture.

As Consumer Reports blogger Anthony Giorgianni wrote in a recent post, "self-checkout scanners at supermarkets, home improvement stores and elsewhere have just made paying for your merchandise more frustrating."

While admitting he may be reviled as a Luddite, he predicts stores soon will eliminate cashiers "and we’ll have row after row of miffed shoppers in constant battle with machines, mechanical versions of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, proclaiming, ‘No produce for you!’"

But industry watchers believe the scale will continue to dip in favor of self-service adoration as companies get smarter about making kiosks more customer-friendly, more accessible and more valuable to users.

"Customers like them provided that they work," said Francie Mendelsohn, president of Summit Research Associates, a Maryland-based industry research firm. "They’ll even stand in line to use them when there is no line at the cashier’s checkout station." 

While adoption is nowhere near 100 percent, and it will never become a de facto customer service tool for all businesses, the love for self-service is growing as reliability improves and businesses overcome customer-facing issues.

"The technology fits depending on the nature of the business," Mendelsohn said.

And if it’s not a neat initial fit, then businesses must provide workarounds and remove hurdles, she adds.

One example is within the financial user base where ATMs are now a very popular self-service activity. Yet recent advanced options, such as video conferencing teller stations in banks, have gained little traction due to the lack of privacy afforded to customers. People don’t want others to eavesdrop on banking issues, and so they still head to the cashier, explains Mendelsohn.

But those types of hurdles will be cleared, and new self-service kiosk strategies are in the planning stages.

"As the economy recovers, a lot of companies are taking self-service projects off the back burner and planning to move forward as there’s a lot of renewed interest in making self-service a viable customer service tool," Mendelsohn said.

As Janet Webster, president of Creative Solutions Consulting, points out, self service technology is here and here to stay.

"There are more and more ways to do self-service coming into play every day, and we’re starting to see it really blossom around the healthcare industry," said Webster, who serves as president of the Self-Service & Kiosk Association, an industry group focused on supporting technology advancement through advocacy, education and networking initiatives.

"There is still a lot of room for growth and for acceptance. The focus for business is making sure the technology provides value from the customer perspective and explaining the value to customers so they embrace it."

Taking jobs

One would think given record unemployment, a continuing dearth in job opportunities and a slower-than-expected recovery from the worst recession since WWII that consumers would be eyeing self-service kiosks as evil workplace technology that are snatching jobs from cashiers and customer service ranks.

Yet a recent survey on consumer opinion on self-service applications indicates that nearly no one seems very concerned.

In fact, feedback on ShopSmart’s recent informal survey on whether consumers like or loathe self-service kiosks only had one direct comment regarding the job replacement issue.

Alex Cole wrote that he refuses to use the "hateful automated systems" in an economy where people need jobs. Cole dismisses any cost savings being passed onto consumers and says cashiers provide needed service.

But fellow survey respondent Andrew is quick to rebut Cole’s claim, noting that while one type of job may be lost when a kiosk gets plugged in, the technology is creating other career opportunities. (He openly admits to working for a self-service vendor).

"Let's be realistic. The grocery business has a razor-thin margin. ... When managers need to cut back on something to make their budget, the first place they cut is labor. So, would you rather wait in line for one of two cashiers?" he wrote in his post.

"Keep in mind, this device does bring jobs: mine. The self checkout has many moving parts, and they eventually fail. Someone has to fix them. The common argument is that they fire cashiers when they put this in. This is false. It does however add additional jobs in the form of people who fix them," he wrote.

At least one industry expert agrees with Andrew and his contention that self-service kiosks are neither a job opportunity killer nor pose a legitimate threat to retail career occupations.

Not only hasn’t Francie Mendelsohn seen any backlash against the technology during the recession period, she believes the technology is helping foster better workplace opportunities.

"They have been around a long time and maybe early on were seen as replacing jobs, but smart companies deploy this technology and shift human resources to other roles in the company, and it allows them better use of staff resources," Mendolsohn said.

She provided an anecdote of a national gas service filling station chain that deployed kiosks for customer food orders. The company didn’t fire the staff that had been taking orders but retrained them for the back-end fulfillment area of food preparation.

"I wish we were seeing more of that, and we will as companies see how this technology can put their workforce on more critical tasks and efforts," she said.

Mendelsohn does acknowledge, however, that in some situations kiosks have replaced workforce needs — but typically it’s a situation where layoffs were happening already. An example is the time period shortly after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when airlines faced a devastating drop in bookings and business.

"The airlines pulled in the kiosks for customers to keep business operating, as they knew they were going to have to lay off staff due to the drop in business," she said. The technology’s cost-saving factor played a role in helping airlines get through the tough economic environment, she added.

And in many cases self-service kiosks are used to open new sales channels where there are no jobs to take away, she says.

Mendelsohn pointed to the standalone kiosks that offer up a new additional product or service to a retail’s customer base, a deployment she says is creating more jobs around kiosk support and maintenance.


Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 02:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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