|| The Perspective
Monday, 30 April 2007
Rufus Connell is research director of information technology for the business research and consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. He oversees Frost and Sullivan's subscription research on network security, digital media and retail systems.
Many of us are familiar with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard that constantly impacts retail self-service technologies such as electronic funds transfer (EFT) terminals. But fewer may be aware of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s (FFIEC) guidance on authentication in Internet banking environments.
In a nutshell, the FFIEC guidance called for financial institutions that conduct online services to provide strong authentication for its users by the end of 2006.
FFIEC didn’t stipulate a specific form of strong authentication but left that to the banks’ discretion. This means that the banks could choose some form of hardware token — like those successfully deployed by banks in Europe by Vasco and widely deployed in enterprise networks by the likes of RSA (the security division of EMC), Secure Computing and others — or some other means such as software tokens.
Many banks in the United States scrambled to meet the 2006 deadline and, as a result, opted to deploy solutions that combine a software token with sophisticated fraud monitoring tools, which often are backed up by challenge/response tools.
Today RSA is the leader in the online banking authentication space by benefit of its acquisition of Passmark and Cyota. Also in this space are a number of other competitors such as Arcot, Bharosa and others. RSA is estimated to have approximately 100 million registered users while Arcot and Bharosa are estimated to have around 40 million and 20 million users, respectively. These companies deploy technology that analyzes the location of devices that try to connect to a bank’s Web site and authenticates users via combinations of software tokens, username/password, answers to personal questions and even keyboard and mouse biometrics. Every day these and other companies develop more sophisticated tools to identify the user.
Implications for self-service
In Frost & Sullivan’s last survey of the kiosk industry we saw that banking and financial kiosks and Internet access terminals generated more than 10 percent of revenues from kiosk sales. These types of kiosks will be used to access Web sites that fall under the jurisdiction of the FFIEC guidance.
Even more importantly, a user endeavoring to access his bank’s Web site through such a terminal to conduct time-sensitive financial transactions will fail the authentication tests that already are installed at financial institutions like Wells Fargo, Countrywide, Vanguard and others.
The FFIEC guidance has made online banking a huge step safer for consumers everywhere, but it puts one more hurdle in front of those who want to bank from public terminals.
It is expected that this FFIEC guidance is likely to quickly become a best practice for all forms of consumer online services. Kiosk hardware and software vendors must take note: Work with security companies now to ensure that users accessing today’s financial Web sites, and tomorrow’s e-commerce sites, will be able to pass authentication challenges without compromising personal information.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
When deployers plan for a new kiosk deployment, it is easy to get caught up in aesthetics such as the size of the screen, design and color, overlooking some essential money-saving aspects. For vendors and end-users alike, here are several behind-the-scenes details that are often overlooked, but can make or break your next kiosk rollout.
Does your kiosk have a power filter?
Anyone who builds or owns a kiosk knows its CPU isn’t unlike the ones found in our home or office PCs. Having a kiosk freeze up can be much more costly, however.
A power filter is like a premium insurance package for your kiosks. Power filters protect the kiosk from power surges and spikes that can come through the electrical outlet, but also through phone and internet jacks. They also clean up “dirty power” and suppress electric noise.
“Electric noise is caused by things near the customer’s facility that they have no control over,” said Mike Honkomp, director of new market development for Electronic Systems Protection. "Maybe it’s in the convenience store next to the ATM machine, or next to a refrigerator where a compressor kicks on.”
A commercial-grade power filter provides much more protection than a common surge protector. Power filters eliminate more electric noise and have a much higher threshold in case of lightning strikes and large power spikes.
“A $180 investment for a power filter seems like a worthwhile investment to protect a $10,000 kiosk,” Honkomp said.
The best service for self-service
When you buy an appliance, a service plan is often included. If and when the appliance breaks down, a service person comes to your house and fixes it (between the hours of eight and four…thank you for your patience).
So what about your kiosk? Having a plan for service and maintenance can lower your kiosk’s downtime from days to hours. More and more companies are supporting their own service teams of certified technicians working for the company, but placed throughout the country for quick service.
MTI is a retail fixture company that has used RFID and targeted marketing as part of its self-service initiative. They have 100 contracted service employees around the country for system repairs, bridging the labor gap between expensive IT contractors and what Vice President Jason Goldberg calls “dusters and fluffers” – store merchandisers who don’t do repairs. MTI’s maintenance crew also performs monthly check-ups on MTI stations in their region.
For those deployers who do not have their own in-house maintenance service, there are companies such as Rhombus Services. Rhombus maintains a nation-wide network of qualified subcontractors specialized in kiosk repair and service.
Rhombus’s president, Jeff Metzger, says it is also very important to synchronize your service plan with the recommended service times for kiosk components such as printers and bill acceptors.
Whether contracted or in-house, you want to make sure your kiosk vendor can provide you with quick maintenance service, whether in-house or sub-contracted. You can’t afford to have a kiosk down for days particularly if you are located in a remote area, while you wait for a technician to come cross-country for a service call. Not to mention, you will most likely be paying the cost of his plane ticket.
Keep an eye on it with remote monitoring
Whether your kiosk is a revenue generator or a customer information tool, downtime is going to end up costing your business. A remote monitoring package is a very cheap and worthwhile feature often overlooked, especially during small kiosk rollouts or pilots.
Through programs such as Provisio’s SiteKiosk, kiosk manufacturers and deployers can monitor amounts of money accepted, printer paper levels and even gather user demographic information. Most importantly, you can be notified if your kiosk goes down through email, SMS or cell phone calls.
Like the service plan, remote monitoring services can be done independently or through a kiosk vendor.
“It’s insanity that more people don’t spend a few bucks for the service,” said Peter Snyder, managing director, International Kiosk Group, Kiosk Information Systems.
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
In late March, I attended RFID World, held at the Gaylord Texan Resort near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The show is in its fifth year, and I began to see more parallels to the self-service and kiosk industry. Like kiosks, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has been around for decades, but people still wonder when it is really going to take off.
With about 3,000 attendees and 200 exhibitors, it would appear RFID has arrived. The fact that Wal-Mart was not present was seen as a boost to the industry rather than a mark against it. Some said it proved that RFID can stand on its own.
While most of the show dealt with supply chain management, there were some areas of interactivity that were relevant to self-service.
Best Buy CEO Robert Willett was a keynote speaker, lending more validation to the industry. Willett talked about a “massive demand for personalization” and that Best Buy’s goal was to “co-create solutions together” with its customers.
“We believe RFID can make a tremendous difference,” Willett said.
Willett’s vision is to place an RFID tag on every single product in the store. In tests, RFID has enabled Best Buy employees to spend more time on the floor rather than stocking or looking for items. Willett also mentioned smart signs in the store where data from RFID-enabled smart shelves correlate sales to the store. Shopping assistance and check-out were two other areas that can be improved with RFID technology.
Future plans for the $30 billion electronics giant include an expansion of its pilot, an upgrade to Generation 2 tags, improvement of tag reads and exploration of ways to use RFID to improve the customer experience.
Following Willett was Kevin Ashton, vice president of ThingMagic. Ashton demonstrated advances in RFID reader technology, such as RFID tags that can be read inside a tin can, inside a glass of water and tracking a colleague’s movements around the ballroom using a Google Maps application. ThingMagic’s new reader is about the size of an iPod Nano.
Winners of the first RFID Excellence in Business Awards were announced at RFID World on March 27, prior to the conference keynote address.
Of note: Eugene, Oregon-based ADASA, Inc. was given the Excellence in RFID Technology Award for its low-cost, wearable, mobile encoder, the PAD3500, which supports the encoding of tags anywhere, anytime. The device works in conjunction with ADASA’s SmartCartridge, enabling the hands-free loading and encoding of RF tags. The solution has already demonstrated business value in a pilot with SSKA member Freedom Shopping, which reduced labor by as much as 50 percent.
Observations from the show floor:
Tyco Electronics was demonstrating its RF system by showing a Nike shoe and clothing item with an RFID tag that displayed product information on an interactive digital sign.
German company Atlantic Zeiser showed off its smart cards, tickets and bank notes.
France-based IER makes printers, gate readers and kiosks for airports. Matho Li, RFID R&D & marketing manager, told me that IER made the first CUSS-compliant kiosk for the British Airport Authority.
Avery Dennison makes the RFID item level tags for Freedom Shopping.
MediaCart exhibited its interactive shopping cart in ThingMagic’s booth. (See “Media Cart deploys smart shopping cart”)
EnvisionWare shared part of UPM Raflatac’s booth to display their library self-service kiosk, whereby you could check in, check out and pay fines – basically “anything to do with self-service in a library,” according to Michael Monk, VP marketing and business development.
“We took all the data from retail, airlines … and applied it to libraries,” Monk said. EnvisionWare has 4,500 library clients in the U.S. The kiosk, designed and manufactured by Anne Reid Technologies, is multi-lingual, has a bill acceptor, card reader and, of course, an RFID reader.
Precision Dynamics Corp. started out manufacturing RFID wristbands and then developed a kiosk at the request of Great Wolf Lodge (an indoor water park), who wanted to allow customers to load money onto the wristband. Since the wristbands are waterproof, this is a great way for guests to pay for items at concession stands without the need to carry a wallet or purse.
Another feature of the kiosks is a “family locator,” which allows members of a family to locate where other members last checked in. There are currently 10 kiosks in the field, according to Douglas Bourque, RFID market development manager, including the Jacksonville Suns baseball park.
RFID Revolution provides consulting and training on RFID.
“Our goal is to make it fun, show how it’s relevant,” said Leslie Downey, company founder. “We want to help end users find opportunities and assess risks RFID might pose.”
The firm has a new e-learning introductory course coming out called “RFID Essentials” which Downey said is intended to be “hands on, engaging and visually exciting.”
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Despite a massive pollen dusting from the southern pines, one of the most beautiful areas in the country in April is North Carolina. It was no coincidence that SSKA Executive Director David Drain and I chose this time of year to visit the Tar Heel State, which also happens to be a hotbed for self-service technology.
IBM, Research Triangle Park, N.C. — Our first meeting was with IBM in its Triangle Park complex, which is where the popular Anyplace kiosk is developed. We began by meeting with Juhi Jotwani, director of marketing and strategy for retail, who believes that the future of self-service in all industries is bright.
“If anyone thinks they have all the answers, they’re completely wrong,” Jotwani said. “But self-service is a high growth environment and we think it is the right industry to invest in.”
IBM Marketing Manager Bruce Rasa led us through one of IBM’s self-service development labs and later into its Executive Briefing Center, where IBM has set up mock retail stores to demonstrate new self-service technology using the Anyplace kiosk.
Joining us on our tour of IBM was Carrie Reuben from SmartVista Technologies. Her company specializes in designing software for educational programs using kiosks, and is a reseller of IBM’s Anyplace kiosk.
ArcaTech Systems, Mebane, N.C. – Located in tiny Mebane (rhymes with “heaven”), ArcaTech is a company of 35 employees that specializes in the integration of cash automation machines for financial institutions and retail outfits. Its cash dispensers and currency recyclers, like those used in ATM systems, act as safes that recognize, count and dispense currency of all denominations. ArcaTech has over 200 OEM customers and supplies bill dispensers to IBM for self-checkout.
SAS Institute, Cary, N.C. – How much would you pay for yesterday’s newspaper? Not much, right? Now, how much is tomorrow’s paper worth? – That’s how Michael Penwell of SAS describes the goal of the company’s business analytics software. Penwell, applications developer of video
communications and new media, took us on a tour of two SAS TV studios used for recording webcasts and promotions to be aired on its BetterManagement.com website.
Michael Penwell of SAS points out the features of their marketing kiosk.
SAS is the largest privately held software company with an annual revenue of $2 billion, half of which comes from outside of the US.
SAS has deployed 12 kiosks in its office buildings that serve mainly as marketing tools. It also use these kiosks during trade shows and run a digital signage network with similar marketing intentions.
ESP, Zebulon, N.C. – Electronic Systems Protection manufactures a critical kiosk component that is often overlooked by deployers: a power filter.
“Power filters are a staple in the office supply industry, but haven’t caught on with kiosk deployers yet,” said Mike Honkomp, director of new market development. Honkomp says regular surge protectors aren’t enough to protect kiosk units from damage caused by power spikes or lightning, not to mention electrical noise that can cause computers to freeze up like our home PCs. Power spikes can also come through phone lines and Ethernet cables, which are commonly hooked up to kiosks.
ESP has worked with Olea, Dekko and other kiosk manufacturers who have integrated ESP power filters into its kiosk systems. A 62-employee company, ESP does all of their manufacturing in-house.
David Perrotta of demostrates the soldering process for ESP's circuit boards.
Meridian Kiosks, Aberdeen, N.C. – Upon entering its showroom in the North Carolina Sandhills, I noticed Meridian’s sleek Monarch kiosk looked very familiar. And it was. I had seen it the previous day in SAS’s lobby.
Meridian president Chris Gilder admits his company is laying low and spending time on development rather than advertising, however, Meridian’s kiosks have been used by Mazda, Shop to Cook and Red Bull. Meridian is now showing its DS-42p, a 42-inch vertical touchscreen kiosk.
Like the sleek DS-42p and Monarch kiosks, Meridian believes simpler is better when it comes to design, for many reasons.
“A lot of kiosks are over-designed,” Gilder said. “By doing our own in-house fabrication, we’ve been able to design out some of the cost.”
Meridian's DS-42p kiosk with interactive touchscreen.
Gilbarco, Greensboro, N.C. – As one of the leading manufacturers of gas pumps, Gilbarco became one of the pioneers of self-service when it introduced pay-at-the-pump in the late ‘70s. After 30 years of encouraging pay-at-the-pump, convenience stores are finding they are losing revenue on food and other in-store products from people not entering the store. After recently acquiring Intermedia Kiosks, a self-ordering provider for foodservice, Gilbarco is working on new promotional ideas through its outdoor pay-at-the-pump systems.
Freedom Shopping, Hickory, N.C. – Freedom Shopping stood out as being a company whose entire interest exists on the cusp of future kiosk technology. It creates RFID-powered mini-marts that can allow customers to check out in as little as six seconds.
Designed for use in hotels and cafeterias, the mini-marts feature products tagged with RFID sensors that are instantly rung up when placed in front of a check-out kiosk. In hotels, customers can enter their name and room number and be settled up in a matter of seconds. For other applications, the kiosk features a bill acceptor and card reader.
For the retailer, Freedom Shopping has created a remote-managed back-end that aids in inventory and promotions. Freedom Shopping can also access this area to provide up-to-the-second maintenance. For end-users, the touchscreen features a “Live Help” button that cuts out the middle-men and connects them directly to tech support at the Hickory headquarters.
Source Technologies, Charlotte, N.C. – Our final stop was Source Technologies, a company that began by making bank printers and has expanded into financial self-service. Source integrates their printers and check scanners into their 3, 5, and 7 product lines of advanced financial services kiosks. Like BMW, each series is larger with more bells and whistles.
Glen Fossella, GM of controlled-print solutions, says Source is striving to standardize financial services kiosks, much like our PCs have standard components and standard operating systems. The goal is to be able to offer a low cost, off-the-shelf kiosk solution that may be quickly deployed.
Source also demonstrated its interactive kiosk planning program, which can be found on their website. As Engineering Manager Kevin Kennedy explained, the program goes beyond general help, providing 10 steps containing specific questions about integration, components, and even color. The end result is a customized kiosk idea that can be sent to Source’s developers.