On our trip to Western and Upstate New York this past week, Bryan Harris and I traveled more than 500 miles by car to tap the knowledge of nine innovative self-service firms:
ShoptoCook, Buffalo – ShoptoCook creates content delivered through a kiosk for grocery stores to help consumers get meal ideas while at the store. Customers can look up a product, find a recipe that contains the product and print a recipe with all the ingredients listed so they can complete their shopping. The content is available to stores on a subscription basis and is uploaded remotely. We met with CEO Frank Beurskens, who pointed out that we would be hard-pressed to find the word “kiosk” on their website. They prefer “interactive technology” or “customer-facing technology,” because “people say ‘we’ve tried kiosks and they didn’t work.’” Beurskens cautioned against focusing too much on technology since it can lead one to think about “what you could do versus what you need to be doing.”
ANS Marketing, Hamburg – ANS is an ATM ISO that is branching into DVD rental kiosks with a brand they call Boxer Video Galleries (the name was inspired by President Joe Harris’ dog, a boxer). Boxer is doing two things that seem new and different: they offer in-wall-mounted units, similar to ATMs, and “video galleries” (they also make a stand-alone unit). The video galleries are 400-500 square foot retail stores, ideally located in a shopping center. With one door which customers can only enter with a credit card or membership card swipe, the lobby can be open 24/7. Renters can use cash or credit cards to rent movies. The kiosk also dispenses stored-value membership cards, which offer savings or “movie bucks” to create loyalty. The kiosks are manufactured by Italian-based Videosystem. ANS is deploying three simultaneous pilots on September 9 in Hamburg, N.Y.; Brooklyn, N.Y. and El Paso, Texas.
A Door Six digital sign waits to ship.
Door Six, Rochester – Door Six is a digital signage company launched in 2004 by Jim Odorczyk (his last name sounds like Door Six). Jim’s experience in the kiosk industry goes back to 1982 with a company called Inter-ad. We had a “It’s a Small World” moment when we learned that Jim and Elo's Greg Swistak both worked at Xerox at the same time (each man’s first job out of college) and that Jim hired Greg’s former company Factura to make the enclosures for Inter-ad. Jim sold Inter-ad in 1992 and started a custom touchscreen business called National Integration Services. Jim sold NIS to Elo in 1999. Door Six is marketing simple digital signage at an affordable price point. The product is called Brightboard, which has a 19-inch screen that can be mounted on a pedestal or hung on a wall or from the ceiling. The stand-alone unit runs off standard memory flash cards with no custom software needed; it can display jpegs, mpegs, PowerPoint slideshows, etc. The networked units can have content uploaded remotely.
Eastman Kodak, Rochester – We had a two-hour meeting with Dave Jones, WW Product Line Manager for Kiosks, and Rowan Lawson, WW Marketing Manager for Kiosks. We were given an overview of Kodak and where kiosks fit into their business. Lawson said that Kodak is very serious about kiosks and that kiosks are very important to the company. They have a strong position (#1 in distribution and share of printing) in virtually every country. As the methods of capturing and using pictures continue to evolve, Kodak’s goal is to give consumers the ability to share pictures anytime, anywhere.
IBM, Rochester – IBM’s world headquarters is in Armonk, NY, but Cort Johnson, manager of the national kiosk/ATM practice, is based in Rochester. Johnson was the SSKA president for the past three years and was reelected in March to serve two more years on the Advisory Board. Johnson took us to visit two deployments of IBM kiosk products. At Martin’s (part of the Ahold and the Giant food stores chain), we checked out the Shop & Scan handheld scanner and the related kiosks loaded with applications including: item locator, recipes, deli ordering and cake ordering. Interestingly, the recipe I printed out indicated it was “powered by ShoptoCook.” Next, we headed to Sam’s Club to see the latest Fuji photo kiosk developed by IBM.
IBM Global's Cort Johnson, manager of national kiosk/ATM practice, relaxes at his Upstate New York home.
Elo TouchSystems, Rochester – Elo’s headquarters are in California, but their custom touch screens are made in Rochester. We met with Greg Swistak, former executive director of the SSKA. Swistak is a great teacher and explained all the different types of touch screens (resistive, surface acoustical wave, capacitive, infrared, etc.) and the pros and cons of each. Elo has come out with a new technology (acoustic pulse recognition), which uses clear glass (no coating) and transducers around the perimeter. As the name implies, it responds to sound, so it can work with the touch of a finger, card or stylus. We also toured their facility and saw touch screens being assembled.
Ultimate Technology, Victor – Nick Daddabbo, a member of the SSKA Advisory Board, recently moved from Hand Held Products to Ultimate Technology. Ultimate is a POS manufacturer that has recently branched into self-service with the KwikUse kiosk, built for ticketing, gift registry, etc. We also met with Dave LaBudde, VP of marketing & business development. LaBudde explained the history of the company and the request from client Kerasotes Theatres that led them into kiosk sales. He also shared with us the news that in the inaugural RIS News Hardware Leaderboard Survey released in July, Ultimate was ranked #1 by North American retailers in the POS Systems category.
Hand Held Products, Skaneateles Falls – At Hand Held, we met with Don Thompson, marketing manager; Lisa Danese, marketing coordinator; and Lisa Chalupnicki, supervisor, OMC. Hand Held, a division of medical products company Welch Allyn, has approximately 900 employees with offices around the world. While the majority of Hand Held’s product line is mobile computers, handheld imagers and transaction terminals, they have a product specifically for the self-service industry: the Image Kiosk 8560, a mini kiosk that can be used for price checking, product information and loyalty programs.
Hand Held products marketing manager Don Thompson demonstrates the Image Kiosk 8560, a combination price checker/mini kiosk that can also function as a miniature digital sign.
Optical Products Development (OPD), Elmira - OPD President and CEO Ken Westort has several patents and several pending for his 3-D optical technology. The company got its start 10 years ago developing optics for flight simulators. Now the company is turning its focus on its Promo Driver coupon dispensing kiosk, which uses a 3-D “floating image” or holograph to attract attention. The kiosk has a 23-inch digital sign above and a 19-inch touchscreen below the 3-D image. OPD does not plan to sell the kiosk, but to place them in grocery stores, using a revenue-sharing model from manufacturer advertising.