The Perspective 
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Although I'll never be selected to get anywhere near the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, I do love the game of golf. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to enjoy it at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif., as I strolled up and down the dunes and watched the play at the USGA's 2008 U.S. Open.
This is where I found myself this past June.
When some very generous friends from the Digital Signage Association invited me to join them to see how the pros swing (thanks Ed Hovsepian of Visual Incite!), I couldn’t resist stealing some time away from the office. Besides, it would give me a chance to visit with two of my favorite San Diegonians: Sylvia and Peter Berens, co-founders of Apunix.
Sylvia Berens (pictured right) shows off an Apunix deli-ordering kiosk with an Apunix executive employee.
If you're an association member and you've never heard Sylvia's name mentioned, you probably haven't been an association member for very long. She was there when we started the Self-Service & Kiosk Association at Bay Hill in Orlando back in 2001. Sylvia is practically a matriarch of the self-service industry, and has been an SSKA board and executive committee member for all these years. I can't count the number of times Sylvia has piped in to contribute valuable insight to our association meetings, and we've only benefited from her pearls of wisdom.
So it was a no-brainer for me to swing by Apunix while I was in the neighborhood.
I have to say, the first thing I discovered was that there's much more to Sylvia than entrepreneurship, software and revenue projections. In fact her company (co-founded with husband, Peter) is no longer her most precious commodity. For that distinction, you have to look to the three rambunctious bundles of joy that light up her home: daughters Malika, 15; Madina, 12; and Zarina, 9.
Sylvia and Peter travelled all the way to Kazakhstan to adopt these precious youngsters — children who didn't know a word of English. Today, they speak it fluently. They're going through all the wonderful experiences that kids their age should — making new friends, enjoying sports and excelling in school. When I met with Sylvia, she was coordinating a last-day-of-school party to catapult the kids into summer vacation. Not exactly what you'd expect from a hard-nosed capitalist, but in the Berens family, kids come before dollar signs.
Sylvia was kind enough to give me the grand tour of the Apunix facility — and it's very professional! Located in the northern suburbs of San Diego, the series of offices practically buzzes with quiet activity from its workforce of 20 employees working on some of the most interesting self-service applications around.
There's a lot going on at Apunix. One of the most interesting projects they've been involved with is the creation of a customized, made-from-scratch software platform for Sun Microsystems' visitor check-in kiosks. That platform — which does not run on the Windows operating system — makes use of Linux and Sun's Java solution and was created using a toolkit Apunix developed for the self-service industry. It's a totally unique system, and we covered it extensively on Self-Service World. Click here to read more about it. When I think back on my IBM days, I recognize just how difficult it is to build something like that from the ground up. Peter and Sylvia have reason to take pride in their work.
Another thing that struck me was the sheer breadth of self-service options they have. Sylvia showed me kiosks of all shapes and sizes, from a $500 handset used to place food orders, to hefty play-and-win kiosks destined for casino game rooms. If anyone ever thought the self-service industry was slowing down, one visit to Apunix would blow those misconceptions away.
Ever the good steward, Sylvia is even getting into the environmental protection business. In conjunction with UC Davis, Apunix has developed touchscreen kiosks that show users how to take care of home and garden pests — prairie dogs, ground squirrels, groundhogs and the like — in an environmentally-friendly manner. They're already appearing in county offices, county fairs and Home Depots in the area.
I left Apunix confident in the company's leadership position and in the self-service industry as a whole. What a privilege it is to be working with innovators like Sylvia and Peter Berens. Thank you both for the direction you've given the association thus far – and here's to many more years of collaboration in the future.
Now if only I could find someone to help me with my putting!
Posted by: Dick Good AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  

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