Airlines have peaked, redbox has legs, healthcare should see growth and the United States remains No. 1. No doubt, kiosks have become ubiquitous, and prospects look strong, but many question where the industry is going.
Could ‘airlines’ — short for traveler self-check-in at airports, the process that has virtually replaced ticket counters — have reached cruising altitude and be on the way to a descent? Does redbox have room for growth? And where will we see expansion in the next few years, either by segment or by global region?
Kiosk industry research house and consultancy Summit Research Associates
seeks to answer these questions and others in its massive guidebook, "Kiosks and Interactive Technology," an 800-page report that includes statistics on the interactive kiosk installed base, background on 700 companies and a plethora of charts and tables, along with an examination of leading trends and significant projects.
The report grew from an online survey and follow-up research by Rockville, Md.-based Summit, led by Francie Mendelsohn, its president and a veteran kiosk consultant.
The report’s conclusions, and Mendelsohn’s, may surprise some.
For starters, self-check in at airlines has met its technological match, and it’s called the smart phone. Kiosks will remain a strong force in the sector, but many consumers eventually will switch to getting to their plane with the help of their phone.
“Airport check-in (via kiosk) is a very mature market sector. You will see incremental increases and updates of products. Smart phones will change the long-term dynamics,” Mendelsohn said.
Here’s how: Travelers will download a barcode to their smart phone when they conduct pre- check-in thru the Web before going to the airport. With the barcode loaded, the traveler will go to the airport and head straight to the security stop, bypassing the airline’s check-in kiosk to pick up a paper boarding pass. A device at the security stop will read the barcode displayed on the smart phone, and the traveler is good to go.
Mendelsohn says several major carriers, including American, Delta and United, have begun offering this smart phone application at select airports.
“In time, you will see less use of kiosks at the check-in,” said Mendelsohn, who notes this approach is more common in Asia, the global leader in smart phone applications. “Kiosks won’t go away. They are deployed at check-in all over the country. If you want to go anywhere anytime soon you will use them."
A kiosk firm that should continue to grow, she says, is redbox, the DVD-rental subsidiary of Coinstar.
“(Brick-and-mortar stores) are falling like dominos. Soon it’s going to be Netflix and redbox, if it’s not already. They serve two needs, redbox for new releases and Netflix for older movies,” Mendelsohn said.
Redbox offers extraordinary convenience, allowing consumers to make a 24-hour reservation and to drop off a DVD anywhere, all for a very competitive price, says Mendelsohn.
“Redbox is pretty formidable. I see people waiting in line to use it. That is an indicator of success,” she said.
A segment that offers promise for greater kiosk use is healthcare, specifically at providers such as doctors and dentists.
“It would be great to see patients using a kiosk to check in at their doctor’s office. (Managed care provider) Kaiser Permanente has begun to roll this out in some offices. The patient swipes a card distributed by Kaiser, and (the kiosk) brings up her information. It signs in for you,” Mendelsohn said.
Shifting to the electronic storing of patient information would reduce paperwork and eliminate many human input errors, says Mendelsohn. These factors, along with offering greater convenience to their patients, should convince healthcare providers to invest in kiosk check-in systems, she says.
Finally, Mendelsohn believes there is no question of the top international market for the industry.
“The U.S. is still the leader in the kiosk field," she said. "We can be behind others in taking to something, but once we adopt a technology we go after it whole hog.”
That’s what happened with parking and DVD rental, applications that were initiated in Europe but once implemented in the U.S. grew so large that they changed their industries. And keep in mind the U.S. is physically larger, so it has the space to offer uses like drive-thru restaurants where consumers can order via kiosk, says Mendelsohn.
So maybe airlines have peaked, redbox is still growing, healthcare shows promise, and the U.S. is tops. Then again, there may be an application out there no one is thinking of that remakes the whole industry. Entrepreneurs succeed by swimming against the tide.
Burney Simpson is contributing editor to KioskMarketplace.com This post originally appeared as an article on KioskMarketplace.com Aug. 9, 2010.