The Perspective 
Monday, 05 June 2006
Over the past three-plus months, I have been to trade shows in Orlando, Las Vegas and Chicago and have visited with companies in the Midwest, New England and (old) England. An observation: people tell me the grass must be greener on the other side.
 
They don’t use this expression, but essentially this is what they’re telling me. In the U.S., people have wondered out loud why America is slow to adopt things already seen in Europe. Well, I have a surprise for Americans: people I met recently in England thought that the European kiosk industry was generally behind the U.S. “What happens in America will eventually happen here,” I was told by Louise Janeway of Hemisphere West Europe. Case in point: the U.S. has had a kiosk show for 10 years and kiosk shows are now only starting to crop up in Europe.
 
So who is further along? I would say each is more advanced in certain areas. Obviously, citing the number of shows and how many years they have been in existence, the industry in North America is more mature than Europe. But that doesn’t mean Europe hasn’t been more innovative in some ways. It could certainly be argued that kiosk design in North America has been strongly influenced by sleek European design. And where would we be without engineering and manufacturing innovations from Asia?
 
It seems the U.K. at least is further along in protecting credit card users from fraud. On February 14, the U.K. government rolled out an initiative to implement chip and PIN (or smart cards) across the country. (Exceptions are being made for residents who have not received their new card and overseas visitors.) Several restaurants I’ve visited in the U.K. bring the PIN pad to the table so that the credit card never leaves the consumer’s hand.
 
According to a press release, fraud fell by 80 percent after introduction of smart cards in France. So while mass chip and PIN introduction in Europe is ahead of North America, some parts of the U.S. are leapfrogging to biometric technology (see related story: Misplaced fears impede biometric adoption). Jewel-Osco stores in the Midwest U.S., for example, have implemented biometric payment systems.
 
This “grass must be greener” theory also exists in vertical markets. While at the Retail Systems show in Chicago recently, a visitor to our booth commented that retail has been slower than other indutries to implement self-service. I also heard a similar refrain about the restaurant industry at the National Restaurant Show.
 
So which industry has adapted more self-service? It depends on your perspective. The financial industry really kicked this thing off with ATMs, which is the most widely-deployed kiosk, but did little other self-service until recently. Pay-at-the-pump, not usually seen as a kiosk, but is certainly self-service, has been around for decades. Check one off for the petroleum industry.
 
Who would have guessed that the airline industry, with all its troubles, would have been so pioneering in deploying self check-in? Or that supermarkets would lead the way with self check-out?
 
Different industries have different strengths and weaknesses. There are bright spots and innovations in all areas. You may find that you are surrounded by green grass in your part of the world or your sector of the industry once you take a closer look.
Posted by: David Drain AT 02:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  
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