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|| Blog: Frank Olea
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
The self-service kiosk industry grew 24% globally in 2013, and it is projected to continue this growth trend for at least the next five years. Increasingly, consumers are not only open to the idea of using a self-service checkout option, such as an interactive kiosk, but as the general public’s comfort level with these self-service technologies grow, consumers often demand a self-service checkout option due to the convenience and speed of checkout that these technologies provide.
The next wave of major innovation to self-service kiosk solutions is the integration of mobile payment solutions, such as Apple Pay. Olea Kiosks Inc., the premier manufacturer of cutting edge interactive kiosk solutions, is already integrating Apple Pay into its most recent custom kiosk projects, including a custom kiosk solution that will be rolled out to a national sandwich chain later this year.
The Growth of Apple Pay
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, stated that he expects “2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” Recently, Apple announced that over 200,000 new self-service machines, including parking meters, laundry machines, and vending machines, are now integrated with Apple Pay. Since launching
in September, Apple Pay has already become the most popular mobile payment method available. Apple Pay continues to add financial institutions to its roster of integrated payment providers, Apple Pay Logo and now is integrated by over 750 banks and credit unions.
This upward trend is apparent in two major national retailers that were early adopters of Apple Pay technologies. Panera Bread recently reported that Apple Pay comprises over 80% of the restaurant chain’s mobile transactions. Whole Foods, another early Apple Pay adopter, has reported that mobile transactions have increased more than 400% since Apple Pay was made available to their customers three months ago.
How Does Apple Pay Work?
Apple Pay is extremely easy to use and fast to process a transaction, which is one of the key reasons for its rapid rise in popularity. The system works by having the user simply tap an iPhone to a payment machine and then the user touches their phone’s fingerprint sensor to authorize the transaction. Both devices, the phone and the payment machine, must be outfitted with near-field communication (NFC) chips that store the payment information and user credentials. Currently, this technology is available in Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but will soon also be available in Apple’s new watch, which will launch in April of 2015.
Apple Pay through Self-Service Interactive Kiosks
The rapid rise of Apple Pay and its expected continued growth in 2015 means that consumers are getting more and more comfortable with paperless payments, which also means that more consumers will look for self-service checkout options integrated with this new payment technology.
As a result, it is important for retailers to provide self-service payment machines, such as interactive kiosks, that are outfitted with the latest payment technologies to meet this growing consumer demand for mobile payments.
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Monday, 17 November 2014
Based on recent, hugely successful deployments in some high-traffic jurisdictions, court kiosks are now attracting plenty of attention from administrators of courts and other government agencies nationwide.
Court kiosks armed with up-to-date technologies are an ideal way to reduce operating costs, speed transactions and improve service in courthouses and government agencies worldwide.
Kiosks in courts have been quietly shouldering an increasing amount of clerks’ workloads since the early 2000s, yet the recent blending of several key new technologies has now made these “mechanical clerks” quite popular.
From basic check-ins and fee payments to complex legal filings
Earlier generations of court kiosks were dedicated to mundane tasks such as documenting the arrival of visitors, litigants and attorneys for scheduled court proceedings. Nowadays, even the most basic courthouse kiosks provide real-time notification of parties’ arrivals, plus docket information including case numbers, hearing dates and times, names of parties, judges and attorneys, and even wayfinding directions to reach courtrooms. By replacing costly human staffing resources with kiosks to answer repetitive questions from courthouse visitors, busy courts and government centers now enjoy faster throughput and more effective outcomes.
Best of all, self-service kiosks in courthouses and government agencies improve efficiency in collecting fees and fines. Many jurisdictions are using kiosks to provide a fast, convenient way to pay traffic tickets and fines in ordinary cases, while other courts use them to collect a range of revenues. Court kiosks make it very easy for the public to pay fines, assessments, taxes and other legal obligations, including registration and licensing fees, court costs, and even support payments, all without requiring direct intervention from busy staff.
Beyond fee-collections and fines, systems are even capable of supporting remote video interaction between judges, parties and counsel, or filing complex legal documents.
Instead of bringing people to court, take the court to the people
Whether the equipment is installed on courthouse premises, or placed in other public or retail locations, these powerful tools can prevent document-filing bottlenecks and speed the resolution of cases in traffic and domestic courts and other jurisdictions with high-volume caseloads.
Some jurisdictions are using court kiosks for outreach to under-served communities. The convenience and anonymity of remote kiosks make it easy for all community members to find court-related information such as court calendars, legal forms and instructions, and individual case information.
The public can also use remote kiosks to perform basic filings, print court-related documents, and pay court-ordered fees and fines, without the need to travel to the courthouse in person.
A complete “courthouse-in-a-box” solution can meet the needs of any court, whether large or small. The solution begins with a tough, sleek, abuse-proof enclosure featuring a rugged touchscreen and/or keyboard with trackball interface.
Court kiosk systems include PC components and Internet connectivity, and they often feature card readers as well as printers and scanners. Depending on the court’s needs, the equipment also includes a two-way video interface, audio connection with live staff, or fingerprint reader.
Do more with less
Across the U.S. and worldwide, the popularity of court and government agency kiosk systems is growing rapidly, as administrators discover their usefulness and cost-effectiveness at helping governments accomplish better results, while using fewer resources.
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
At a time when healthcare providers are being squeezed by the economic realities of shrinking operating budgets and thinner revenues, the good news is that healthcare kiosk technologies have now evolved to offer truly effective solutions with numerous benefits for providers. Given the high operating costs of providing care, kiosks give organizations a variety of powerful tools to save money and improve patient outcomes.
Let’s take a look at the five most-popular ways that self-service kiosks are being deployed to support the healthcare mission.
Healthcare information retrieval and patient check-in
The quickest and easiest savings come from deploying kiosks with a primary function of checking-in patients upon arrival at the location, as well as empowering patients and staff to quickly and securely access patient information on-site.
In traditional reception scenarios, patients arrive for their appointments and besiege receptionists and other front-line staff with questions and requests for assistance in completing the necessary documents. In addition, all too often, patients show up in droves during high-traffic hours, and this requires administrators to over-budget for staff throughout the day simply to ensure adequate coverage during these peak times.
Time is money
In contrast, a well-designed self-service informational kiosk system allows most patients to check in at their own convenience, as well as automatically alerting staff about their arrivals. While a patient completes his or her own intake documents through a convenient touchscreen interface, staff is already preparing to meet that patient’s healthcare needs. And, once a patient completes the electronic check-in process, the kiosk can print out the exact office number and name of the healthcare professional whom they seek, while also showing a way-finding map and instructions on the kiosk’s screen.
Of course, reception staff is able to better focus on assisting those patients who truly need individual attention during check-in. The result is a reduced need for reception staff, faster turnaround time for all check-ins, and happier patients.
Collections are a critical component of any successful healthcare business – good care must be paid for, or the business can’t continue to serve patients. As more employers are offering high-deductible insurance plans in order to manage corporate costs, responsibility for collections of payments and co-payments is an increasing concern for providers.
Kiosks offer ideal solutions for speeding and simplifying the collections process. Accounting staff find kiosks an ideal way to improve collections while keeping patients happy.
Instead of sending a snail-mail bill several weeks after a service has been provided, savvy providers are deploying kiosks with card-readers which enable immediate collections for services rendered. Patients can check in, receive billing, and pay their accounts even while they await their appointments.
Wellness information and healthcare education
Another fast-growing use for kiosks involves dispensing wellness information and providing healthcare education. Often, patients arrive for their appointments on time, yet must then wait to be seen by the appropriate professional. A traditional scenario involves stocking waiting rooms with expensive printed educational literature, which all too often becomes costly litter to be cleaned from the waiting room floor.
Healthcare organizations are discovering the importance of using interactive kiosks to help educate patients regarding their medical conditions and individual needs, while saving valuable time for busy professionals. Most patients’ questions and basic concerns can be answered through kiosks with touchscreens. This provides them with useful information while also helping pass some time while they wait.
As well, kiosks that dispense wellness information are proving to be a big hit both inside healthcare facilities and in retail locations such as drugstores. Healthcare kiosks can perform a range of basic diagnostic services including blood-pressure and temperature checks, weighing, and diabetes screening. Advanced kiosks can perform vision and hearing checks, too.
Patients report increased feelings of satisfaction and comfort when using these self-service diagnostic services, and retail organizations have been quick to leverage such kiosks for sales purposes by offering condition-appropriate marketing messages according to the results of kiosks’ screenings.
Likewise, kiosks are very popular in retail food markets where health-conscious consumers wish to learn the calorie counts, nutritional content or other background information about the foods they purchase. In fact, it seems that anywhere people desire to learn detailed, accurate health information, kiosks can help save money and provide better service overall.
Healthcare staff and visitor access
In today’s security-conscious society, another less well-known application for kiosks is becoming more widespread – the use of kiosks to monitor and control access to medical and nursing facilities.
In traditional scenarios, organizations use personal ID badges to identify staff and frequent visitors such as outside vendors and staff, yet it’s an imperfect system. Of course, it’s very difficult to keep track of one-time or occasional visitors such as patients’ families.
Yet, nowadays kiosks are being used to verify all visitors’ credentials and approve their access to particular locations. For example, visitors may check-in and receive a printed pass authorizing access to some areas of the facility, but not others.
Such kiosks help institutions comply with the strict requirements envisioned under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by ensuring visitors’ accountability and limiting access to sensitive patient information. Likewise, kiosks can be used to ensure that visitors read and agree to important safety information or non-disclosure rules before being allowed to enter a location.
Kiosks as miniature satellite pharmacies
One of the most interesting applications for healthcare kiosks is their growing role as miniature satellite pharmacies, capable of dispensing a limited number of the most-common medications. This function is a critical time-saver for mainline pharmacy staff, and allows them to focus on serving the needs of patients who require the most attention.
In large pharmacy environments where many patients are waiting to have prescriptions filled for common medications, kiosks can dramatically reduce operating costs of fulfillment. Patients approaching waiting lines are prompted to check for availability of their common prescriptions, and upon swiping their prescription, they may receive a lightning-quick fill.
In summary, kiosks are spreading throughout the healthcare community. They’re finding new uses almost every day in locations ranging from hospitals to retail stores, and they’re certainly a welcome tool for both cost-conscious healthcare administrators and consumer retailers alike.
Wednesday, 01 October 2014
The Space Needle, the world famous landmark in Seattle, Washington, recently launched a number of innovative new digital experiences to enhance the visitor’s experience. The digital programs include a 20-foot by 8-foot interactive touchscreen dubbed the “SkyPad,” an augmented reality system that presents visitors with a variety of virtual scenes through interactions with their phone, a system that provides virtual tours of local landmarks using Microsoft PhotoSynth and an interactive photo system powered by 10 customized 32-inch Milan Landscape Olea Kiosks.
The 10 Milan kiosks are positioned throughout the landmark, from the gift shop to the observation deck. Throughout their visit, photos are taken of the guest and affiliated with their ticket. Guests can then visit one of the kiosks and scan their admission ticket to view their photos, which can be emailed to them or a friend.
This is the second time that Olea has had the privilege of working with the Space Needle organization in Seattle. Olea’s first project with the Space Needle involved the deployment of the Metro 22 transactional kiosks as a ticket vending machine.
For the latest Space Needle kiosk project, Olea worked with the Space Needle group to create a customized kiosk that not only included innovative interactive functionality, but could also withstand the rigors of millions of users annually. The Space Needle kiosks are based on the 32-inch Milan Landscape, fitted with a bar code scanner and interactive touchscreen interface. The bases of the kiosks were made smaller than the standard Milan Landscape model for a reduced footprint that consumes the least possible floor space. The bases have been bolted to the floor to ensure that the kiosks will withstand the wear and tear caused by the heavy foot traffic of this iconic landmark.
Wednesday, 02 April 2014
The new generation of kiosk technology has the power to disrupt our healthcare landscape in a good way, especially at a time when the effects of the Affordable Care Act are already being felt by patients and healthcare providers alike. Although there are challenges still to be overcome, it is impossible to overlook the benefits and advantages now resulting from more widespread use of kiosks in the healthcare-services industry.
In the past, most healthcare kiosks were in the form of basic, digital blood-pressure monitors installed in drug stores and supermarkets. Yet, today's technology can do far more, including measuring height and weight, checking vision, and even connecting users with live healthcare professionals for more in-depth diagnostic processes. Kiosks can question patients about their symptoms and help assess current conditions, and all these functions can be performed at lower costs than traditional medical examinations.
Kiosks are engaging, versatile and far-reaching
Most importantly, Internet-enabled kiosks can engage people and draw them into longer-term relationships in ways that standalone digital equipment cannot, by serving individuals who are undiagnosed, or perhaps not yet ill enough to receive more-costly treatments at home. And, when deployed in healthcare facilities, retail stores or public locations, kiosks can guide users with pinpoint precision for both wayfinding and product-selection purposes.
As well, kiosks excel in home-monitoring environments where elderly or under-compliant patients may have trouble taking action. For example, when monitoring diabetes or blood pressure, kiosks can direct patients step-by-step to complete a home diagnostic process, or connect them directly through internet video when they need assistance. Indeed, kiosks are quite effective for improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare expenditures, whether at home or in a public setting.
From a business perspective, healthcare kiosks offer plenty of new avenues for increasing revenue. Empowered by kiosks, companies enjoy more opportunities to market products and services directly to their captive audiences, assuming that such advertising is both well-targeted and appropriate for healthcare needs. Traditional, broad-media healthcare advertising uses a "shotgun" approach in an attempt to reach those who suffer from ailments which often affect only a small percentage of the population, and results are rarely quantifiable. Yet, kiosks allow marketers to address the precise needs of specific patients, even while checking their vital signs and monitoring their health conditions.
Still, there are obstacles to be overcome through education: One of the common misperceptions about healthcare kiosks is that they lead to less face-to-face time between patients and healthcare professionals. As with other unfounded worries, this confusion results from not fully understanding the power of well-applied technology to connect people rather than separate them. Most people would agree that advancing technologies in general have greatly enhanced medical care while saving lives and improving quality-of-life for patients. As such, kiosks blend together the best technologies for helping people.
Beyond the cost savings realized when providers streamline interactions between healthcare workers and patients, most kiosk-users report a better experience overall, since kiosks enable patients to receive diagnostic information and interact with providers on their own terms, and on their own time schedules. When the workload is managed with the help of kiosks, busy healthcare professionals are able to spend more time with the sickest patients, or those who require the most personal attention.
Another easily-debunked myth regarding kiosks is that users spend too much time entering information into the system. Yet, the reality is quite different. Unlike handwritten systems or personal interviews, a well-designed and deployed kiosk system saves a considerable amount of time for both patients and staff alike, by speeding and streamlining the large volumes of data needed for best care. And, with the HIPAA-compliant interfaces now available in healthcare kiosks, concerns about personal data security are largely resolved.
Skepticism turns into enthusiasm
Internet-connected kiosks also help protect patients from medication and treatment errors, as well as offering opportunities for medical follow ups, and even marketing, all of which have the effect of reducing healthcare costs and improving patient outcomes. As with any well-proven technology being newly applied to healthcare, the earlier skepticism about kiosks is now being replaced with wholehearted enthusiasm by an increasing number of healthcare professionals, patients, and providers.
Tuesday, 04 February 2014
I am proud to announce the launch of the Automated Passport Solution, a touchscreen kiosk-based customs inspection system aimed at streamlining the airport customs process and reducing customs processing times. The APS kiosk system will be launching this fall at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, with 30 APS units in the initial launch.
Customs wait times across the country have been skyrocketing at nearly every international airport across the United States. Over the past 20 years, there has been a 117 percent increase in international travelers flying in and out of the U.S. At the same time, there has been a $754 million reduction in the budgets to the customs and border protection departments over the past year as a result of government sequestration. As a result, wait times have increased exponentially, leaving travelers forced to endure long lines at most international terminals, resulting in extreme wait times, such as 182 minutes to pass through customs at JFK's international terminal.
The APS kiosk system has been developed as a tool to automate and streamline the passenger-checking process of international customs by providing a high-tech solution to check and gather data. The APS software provides a touchscreen interface that allows the passenger to navigate through the software without needing human assistance.
The APS first scans the passenger's passport using the attached passport scanner peripheral. This retrieves the passenger's personal information from the integrated customs database. The passenger then must respond to questions that are similar to those that are asked by a human customs official. The thermal printer attachment allows the passenger to print their answers to the questions directly from the APS system. In addition, the webcam peripheral takes the passenger's photograph and stores that in the customs database for future retrieval.
The APS kiosk is built on Olea's Metrolite Kiosk framework. For the APS, the Metrolite has already been outfitted with the capability to attach a fingerprint reader peripheral to provide for a greater level of security.
Tuesday, 07 January 2014
For years, Olea Kiosks has been manufacturing digital kiosks for customers around the world. Most of our kiosk parts were fabricated by outside vendors and welded by us, and recently, we made some upgrades to our manufacturing equipment by adding a brand new state-of-the-art Amada CNC laser machine. We can now achieve even higher levels of precision engineering with this new CNC machine.
A few of the benefits of the Amada CNC laser machine include:
- Built with a cast iron frame for stability and durability when working with heavyweight projects and materials.
- Water Assisted Cutting System (WACS) that uses water mist to absorb the heat generated during the manufacturing process.
- Plasma detection to prevent piercing with a variety of materials from thick stainless steel to lightweight aluminum
- High speed cutting allows for high degrees of efficiency
Olea's commitment to excellence does not end with our precision manufacturing process. We ensure that our clients receive VIP treatment throughout the entire course of the project, including installation, and that our customers get exactly what they expect and more.
During a recent custom kiosk project, the Olea VIP team was installing Nike SSP Training Stations at one of Nike's biggest college football programs. The kiosks were to be mounted on a wood wall that had been prepped by university staff to accommodate the new kiosk machines. Upon completing the installation, the Olea VIP team realized that the university staff had "prepped" the wall in such a way so that it no longer matched the rest of the locker room. Due to depart the next day, the VIP team sprang into action and worked through the night creating new custom wooden panels that match the rest of the room's design elements. While the specs of the project did not call for this extra effort, we wanted to ensure full customer satisfaction. After reviewing our installation, the project manager at Nike stated:
"OLEA's premium execution and willingness to go above and beyond for the customer has been displayed numerous times throughout its partnership with Nike ... This level of service is rare in any industry and what sets OLEA apart from the competition."
Tuesday, 08 October 2013
I recently attended the 2013 Epic User Group Meeting in Verona, Wisconsin. The event saw an estimated 8,500 health care professionals on-hand for a variety of presentations and peer-to-peer educational sessions.
The conference gave our company a great opportunity to showcase some of our latest innovative implementations of the Epic Welcome software with our health care kiosks. Some of the most common features that are implemented with the Epic software and our kiosks are:
Patient self-check-in functionality – This allows patients to check-in to their doctor's office or hospital through an automated electronic interface, which provides a highly efficient user experience and also allows the health care provider to streamline their admin staff.
Patient payment functionality – By allowing the patient to electronically pay for their co-payment, these systems streamline the check-out process for both the patient and the healthcare provider.
Card scanning – By scanning the user's healthcare ID card and their driver's license, the provider can ensure that it has the latest customer information in its systems.
Electronic signature – With an electronic signature pad, electronic consent forms can be digitally signed to give them full legal authentication.
Wayfinding systems – With wayfinding functionality, the kiosk can provide a patient with directions within a specific building or inter-office directions for multiple buildings throughout an entire hospital campus.
Document printing capabilities – Adding a printer to the kiosk allows the patient to print a copy of office policies, their patient consent forms, and even directions provided by the wayfinding systems.
One of the newest pieces of functionality to be integrated into the Welcome software is biometric scanning functionality, which allows a system to identify a person based on unique identifiable biological information, such as fingerprints or the iris of the eye. The Welcome software supports integration with multiple different types of biometric scanners.
Overall, the 2013 Epic UGM show was a great opportunity to showcase the latest healthcare innovations. We look forward to continuing to push the envelope with new functionality that will provide better and more efficient patient experiences in the health care industry.
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
One of the newest kiosk technologies is the multitouch system that allows multiple touch points to be functional on the screen at the same time, meaning that two or more points of contact on the screen can be controlling functionality simultaneously. This provides more flexibility in how kiosk applications are structured so that a single user can interact with the kiosk using both hands, or multiple kiosk users can interact with the kiosk screen at the same time. These innovative kiosks are being used for a range of applications in the public and private sector.
One of the most common applications of the multitouch kiosks is wayfinding. Whether deployed in retail stores, museums, hospitals, or other public venues, wayfinding kiosks can be placed nearly anywhere and provide an easy-to-use method of guiding the user to their final destination. Touchscreen and multitouch technology has brought about a revolution in the way we use our personal hand-held devices, such as tablets and mobile phones, and this same technology offers benefits to electronic kiosks. By using multitouch functionality, wayfinding kiosks are easy to use, and navigation between screens is fast and efficient, even for a layperson.
In the commercial market, multitouch kiosks may be used to present your products and services in a distinctive way to the target audience. One example of this distinctive user experience is the application of multitouch kiosks in a retail store to allow customers to compare the prices of different products. By using multitouch functionality, customers can browse for multiple products at the same time on different sides of the screen to create a highly efficient user experience. In addition, sophisticated multi-touch retail kiosks may also include wayfinding functionality to guide the user to the physical location of the product in which they are interested.
Another benefit of multitouch kiosks is that they are highly extendable with a wide array of add-on modules, functions, and peripherals. For example, multitouch kiosks can be configured with high resolution digital cameras and photos printers to create a sophisticated and portable photo kiosk system. The multitouch functionality of a photo kiosk's touchscreen can provide for a highly efficient user interface that allows the user to handle multiple photo editing tasks through multiple touch points. In addition, multitouch functionality can also be leveraged to allow multiple users to engage in the photo editing and social sharing process at the same time.
Multi-touch kiosk functionality is constantly evolving to encompass many new and innovative implementations in both the public and private sectors. As touchscreens become a greater part of all of daily lives, the potential for multitouch applications is endless.
Monday, 10 June 2013
As people become acquainted to and more comfortable with using tablets, smartphones and other touchscreen technology within their shopping experience, it is easy for self-service providers to profit and capitalize on the new trend.
Not only do virtual shopping kiosks enhance the experience for many shoppers, the financial benefits of using them for storeowners make them the ideal sales assistant. Some of the benefits of using these virtual shopping systems are as follows:
Answer shopper questions
Since shoppers are accustomed to using touchscreen software, virtual kiosks can answer myriad questions with accurate pricing and information. Shoppers can browse through displayed and non-displayed items from one central location on the kiosk, minimizing the cost of a large store footprint. The unique interface makes it easy for shoppers to navigate through large item inventories, and it provides a better shopping experience by giving the user up-to-date information on whether an item is in stock.
Product promotion and upselling
Many retail settings, such as clothing stores, can benefit from the kiosk's ability to promote relevant items based on past shopper purchases and preferences. Virtual kiosks can simplify pairings for shoppers by offering item suggestions that promote cross-selling. This gives owners control of promoting certain items over others and possibly increasing sale amounts within every transaction.
One issue that retail store owners are constantly looking to minimize is the problem of wasted inventory. With the automated database of products in a virtual kiosk, inventory management is simplified making it easier to control waste and only renew stocks of items that are running low in quantity. This reduces costs associated with unnecessary overstocking, while also being able to better manage the in-stock quantities for high demand items.
Wednesday, 06 March 2013
In an era when consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on technology, businesses today are turning to digital kiosks as a more effective way to deliver service. Digital kiosks not only are beneficial for improving the user experience of customers, but also owners stand to benefit from them in a number of ways. Here are 5 reasons why using digital kiosks can offer advantages for both business owners and the consumer:
Privacy and security
Digital kiosks give today's consumer options for the way in which they make purchases. If a buyer prefers to research, decide and buy on their own with minimal interaction with staff, they have the option to do so. Having these kiosks can significantly improve consumer experience by allowing them privacy when they want it. In addition, they reduce the chance of human error throughout the process and keep sensitive data secure.
Reduces the need for staff
Depending on where they are placed, digital kiosks are generally programmed to serve a specific purpose by either providing specialized information or services. Whether it's a train station or retail store, the capabilities of these kiosks significantly reduce the need for staff members normally associated with these processes. As a result, owners can save significantly on the conventional overhead costs incurred with employees.
Consumers are no longer limited to traditional business hours with the 24/7 service these digital kiosks provide. By offering this service, owners convey the message that they value their client's time and business by considering their needs even after hours.
Kiosks have the ability to collect important market data that give businesses insight into opportunities to enhance their business strategy. Having client data sheds light on what customers want and need so that businesses can develop their products and services accordingly.
The maintenance required for these digital kiosks is relatively minimal. We also offer technical support for our clients in the unlikely case that a kiosk does malfunction.
Tuesday, 03 May 2011
As a father of four children ranging from six to 17 years old, I can attest to the fact that the next generation is constantly buried in a screen of some sort. My 6-year-old daughter has owned an iPod touch since she was four. My other children received cell phones in seventh grade and all have their own laptops, iPod touches, Nintendo DS and flat screen TVs in all of their rooms with PS3 or Xbox. I agree that my family might not be all that typical, but I can't help but believe in the new term describing them as "screenagers."
I was sitting in the Digital Screenmedia Association board meeting last week at the CETW show in San Francisco when someone brought up the term. I'm not quite clear who coined it, but it makes perfect sense. Now, more than ever people are connected, and not just the kids. I'm typing this blog sitting on the plane flying home and just spent the last 15 minutes teaching a 75-year-old gentleman how to text on his phone in the terminal.
How is this going to affect businesses looking to deploy kiosks and other technology? During the show I was constantly being asked, "What's next and new?" Everyone wants to know how to leverage social media and other techniques to reach more people. I would just like to know how to reach my kids at the dinner table when they seem more interested to surf the net or text their friends, who also don't want to speak to Mom and Dad. These kids are connected like no other generation before them. Some argue they may be anti-social, but in my experience these kids are carrying on sometimes five conversations at once and multi-tasking comes with ease.
So what is new, and how are we to reach these people?
Last year when my company built 1,500 kiosks for Hot Topic, the CEO at the time, was really trying to hit the nail on the head. She wanted her stores to become a destination for people to come and hang out. The kiosks we designed had things like USB ports for charging, hangers to hold bags and multiple headphone ports, so friends could all plug in together and listen to music. The kiosks even featured a foot rest to encourage a longer user session. Eventually, built-in Webcams will allow shoppers to take pictures and upload them directly to Facebook. At some level, certain kiosk applications have to evolve to allow for this type of free-thinking society. The user interfaces have to be intuitive, quick and innovative for this generation to care. And let's not forget these kids are young, now but they are the future. This is how things will be done in a very short time.
The Hot Topic kiosks not only allowed you to listen to music available in the store, but they also incorporated the endless aisle concept and had everything available online that might not be in the store. If you decided to have your item sent to the store, shipping was free, which was another way to get people to come back to the store. Each store, which averaged only about 600 square feet, featured multiple kiosks.
It's high time for retail to begin adopting kiosk technology and to not be afraid of taking some chances -- just like the old man learning to text. The key here is to work with and listen to your customer base. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to tell you what's missing in your stores. Because if you don't ask and someone else does, guess what's next? You become Mom and Dad, who's getting ignored at the dinner table, and your competition is everyone's new best friend.
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
I’m sure like most people that are going to read this blog you’re looking for a formula that will help you to deploy a successful kiosk project. Like most anyone else I’ll tell you that a lot of up front planning is certainly going to help you. I’ve personally been involved with hundreds of different deployments over my 15 years in this industry and have seen great ideas and horrible ideas and have actually seen each have success and failures.
Failure more than anything seems very easy to describe as often times you can see it coming from a mile away. Typically these projects are poorly managed and not really well thought out in advance. Often times their RFP might look more like an RFI. Sort of the “tell me what you think is best” type of scenario. Don’t get me wrong after 15 years I know what might work best. But I’m not an expert on your business. I’m an expert in Kiosk design and manufacturing. Meaning I can tell you what style is going to work best in your store but I can’t guess at what hardware you want inside of your kiosk or what is going to work best without some meaningful input from you.
Often times it seems our most valuable clients and easy to work for are clients that have prior kiosk deployment experience. Because like us they’ve been there and done that and have seen it all. These people tend to know the pitfalls of kiosks in their business and want to avoid them at all costs. Often we see these clients going with the top of the line hardware as they know what MTBF means. They also know what the true cost of an out of order machine is.
Look at companies like Macy’s and Target who have run multiple generations of machines in their stores. Every time they go out for a new kiosk they’re armed to the hilt with information for what they do and don’t want. Just like any other business practice they get better at it over time.
One of my favorite deployments was for a Canadian Lottery. We did over 1,000 machines in a very short time frame. The job was a blast because we got to sit down with technicians who have been servicing their original kiosks for more than 5 years. These guys were amazing. They not only knew kiosk hardware but they completely understood their business in a way I never could. They literally helped us to design the kiosk from the inside out.
If you don’t have experience with kiosks don’t fret. This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail. It means you need to involve your thought leaders in the planning. All too often I see marketing depts. making what I think should be I.T. decisions or vice versa. The best companies bring all the business unit leaders together and make joint decisions. Marketing, Store planning, I.T., Legal, and other entities should all be involved in these types of projects. Self-Service being so new many companies have yet to form a strategy around deployments let alone a business unit whose sole purpose is self-service. So until that happens try to recruit other folks within your organization to your team. And work with a company that is willing to walk you through the steps and help you to understand the pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Not a day goes by that we're not on the phone with a potential client who needs a kiosk ASAP. We're not talking three or four weeks, but literally like two or three days. I often wonder why a company thinks deploying something as complex as a kiosk is a good idea.
If you know anything about kiosks — or any business decisions that involve thousands of dollars — you know there should always be good planning and budgeting behind major purchases. It goes without saying that when you wait until the last possible second your choices drastically decrease and prices often skyrocket.
I think it's a misconception that manufacturers keep inventory in a multitude of colors, quantities and hardware builds. For example, just one of my standard kiosks — the Metropolis — comes in seven standard colors and roughly 30 optional hardware items. This literally creates thousands of possible combinations. It would be impossible for us to keep even a tenth of that on the shelf for these "emergencies."
Price hikes happen for a number of reasons, including rush fees for possible overtime labor or overnight-shipping charges on hardware. Or worse, paying to overnight the kiosk can kill a budget. I cannot count the number of times we've overnighted a kiosk to the East coast and have seen the bill top $3K just for shipping! Most kiosks, when packed, are the size of a mid-size refrigerator. And if they cannot lay down, finding a plane large enough to transport them can get difficult.
Here on www.DigitalScreenmedia.org, you'll find all sorts of good information on proper planning for kiosk deployments. I think some folks think it doesn't pertain to them or maybe only applies to custom-made kiosks. I'm here to tell you that it counts for all types of kiosks. What if these last minute customers gave themselves a couple of weeks? They could likely get better pricing, more options and a color or style that works best for them.
The good news is that all of this can be avoided. You just need to plan ahead and start working with vendors earlier. Our standard product ships within two or three weeks but custom-made options obviously take longer. My advice? The moment you start thinking about a kiosk, reach out to vendors with questions about lead times and options. Most of us love our industry and would be more than happy to spend a few minutes educating. Of course, don't forget to plan your software needs, deployment goals, service and other resources, too. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.
|| Blog: Frank Olea
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