|| The Perspective
Monday, 28 April 2008
You know the saying, "you get what you put into it"? That is certainly true of participating in the Digital Signage Association. Since I often counsel our vendor members on how to get the most out of their membership, I thought I would put it down into a top-10 list. I’m sure there are more than 10, but this is a good start.
1. Write a carefully crafted company description for your membership directory listing. Include all the keywords individuals might use to search the Internet to find you. Make sure we have a clean company logo. Review your listing periodically to make sure it’s up-to-date and let us know of any changes.
2. Send us press releases on a regular basis. Every time your company lands an important new client, launches a new product, wins an award, speaks at a conference or makes an important hire, tell us about it and we’ll publish your news on our Web site.
3. Submit case studies for publication. People love to read real-world stories of how companies implemented a new technology successfully. It doesn’t have to be long. Simply describe the scope of the project, any challenges faced, the solution provided and the results. Include at least one high quality photograph.
4. Write a “Perspective” article. You’re an expert in your field. You can help the industry by writing about what you know best. Or give your opinion on an industry trend in this 500- to 1,000-word column. If you’ve ever written a blog post (or read one), you can write a “Perspective” article. We have editors on staff that can take care of the grammar and punctuation. The article will contain your picture and reference to your company.
5. Take action on sales leads received. Each week we’ll send you sales leads that are generated through our website. Carefully review these for opportunities that fit your company’s offerings. Even if the lead is not requesting your specific product, they may still want to hear from you. They may not know they need your product until you inform them! Consider adding the contact information from leads to your database and/or your company newsletter distribution list.
6. Use the project help form to receive quotes and information from fellow members. No one company does it all. You can use the same online form users do to find information on products needed for the project you’re working on.
7. Sign up your staff to receive our e-newsletter. You can sign up as many people on your staff as you wish. Just send us a list of names and email addresses and we’ll add them to our distribution list. Your staff will stay abreast of industry news and trends. They’ll thank you for it!
8. Use the Member logo. Promote your membership in the Association by using the member logo on your website, business cards, brochures, etc. At major industry trade shows we participate in, we’ll have a floor decal for your booth to publicize your membership.
9. Join a committee. Have you been looking for a chance to get involved, meet other people and help advance industry issues? Now is your opportunity! If you have an area of interest not currently covered by one of our committees, please let us know; we may want to organize a committee or task force to address that topic.
10. Ask us! Do you have a question you can’t find the answer to? If we don’t know the answer, we’ll probably know where to find it. Is there someone you would like to meet, or do you need help contacting a company or finding a particular product? We are happy to make an introduction for you or provide the contact details needed.
As you see, it takes a little work on your part to take advantage of all that membership in our Association has to offer. But I promise you it will be worth it.
David Drain is the executive director of the Digital Signage Association.
Monday, 28 April 2008
Some go to Las Vegas to get married or to gamble. I go to Vegas to renew my kiosk vows at the annual convention and KioskCom Awards event. On my return from Vegas, I rushed backed from New York’s JFK airport in order to avoid the traffic gridlock posed by the visit by the Pope and to see the new Microsoft Surface installation at the AT&T phone store.
The much-anticipated Microsoft Surface touch table landed at five AT&T stores this week in New York, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Francisco.
Much has been written in the trade press about the production delays. It appears that it had to do with Microsoft running a Betty Crocker Bake-off contest between the original partner, T-mobile and AT&T Mobility.
AT&T won and my congrats to Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility for understanding what it takes to win in today’s competitive environment. (You may recall that AT&T also was the first partner with Apple’s iPhone.)
You can see how the MS Surface application works at the AT&T site by clicking here.
How do I like it?
I’ve been excited by multi-touch technology ever since I saw Jeff Han’s video (now used by CNN Political TV coverage). Not a lot has been written about some of the pioneering competitive technology created by GestureTeks MultiTouch Application or Savant’s AV control touch table. Again, Microsoft has borrowed inventions from other industry innovators and sewn together an affordable, commercially available hardware and software product offering. The Apple iPhone interface also raised the bar on consumer interactive applications.
What is the secret to the AT&T Surface Application?
It’s not about the technology. It’s about the creative application, fused with savvy in-store merchandising skills. The AT&T and Microsoft team (and perhaps a few clever contractors), produced a kiosk application that provides real value to consumers and store associates. The AT&T store salesperson was able to demonstrate dozens of different phone configurations, colors and coverage maps in a matter of seconds—without giving me 5 different paper brochures.
How will this change the kiosk world?
I’ve been involved in this industry for over two decades and love to innovate. And as founder of Netkey and Managing Director of SMP, I’ve worked on over 200 interactive kiosk projects around the world.
The AT&T Surface installation will change the kiosk world.
No longer will your customers want simple kiosk pedestals or wall mounted units. Your customers will request the amazing features of MS Surface: Multi-touch, product tag initiated information, relevant digital merchandising interfaces — in table top or wall mounted configurations.
My advice to my kiosk colleagues? Turn off your computers, get out of the office and take your entire team to visit an AT&T store to play with the MS Surface Application. Follow Microsoft’s example: Don’t copy, but instead enhance and improve on their application for your own specific industry market, and you just might beat them.
Or you might want to leapfrog Microsoft and start thinking about mobile devices. The Apple iPhone, with its rich, multi-touch interface, may be the next battleground for the in-store customer.
Technology will always change every 90 days, but I can safely make predictions about who will win the KioskCom 2009 Best of Show Award, the NRF Best of Show Award, GlobalShop Best of Shop or any other retail merchandising award category. And the winner is, AT&T Mobility.
Monday, 21 April 2008
Criminals are constantly "upgrading" - enhancing their strategies and weapons for attacks on ATMs, among other channels. Companies wanting to thwart criminal attacks need to upgrade, too, with ingenious mechanical and electronic means of defense.
Security is booming. The segment is chalking up double-digit growth rates, mainly in the banking sector. However, this isn't surprising when we consider that no other industry is exposed to such refined and brutal attacks by criminals, and that no other depends so greatly for its success on the trust of its customers and the security of their assets.
In addition, those in charge at financial institutions face considerable personal consequences if they neglect bank security.
Today's branches tend to have only insignificant amounts of cash easily accessible in conventional teller cash drawers. For this reason, more and more attacks are directed at electronic and mechanical equipment at banks and savings banks.
The culprits are brutal, mobile and use increasingly refined tactics. At risk are primarily ATMs, IT systems, transport routes and data networks. Also critical is the dramatic rise in theft of cards and PIN data, which can be used for withdrawing money abroad.
The situation will not ease in the near future: More and more machines are being installed, and increasingly at off-premise and highly frequented locations. Moreover, storage volumes keep growing. State-of-the-art systems can hold 12,000 banknotes, and even that amount is on the rise.
Luckily, preventive measures are having an impact. But it is a race in which the criminal community has a head start, at least for now.
The trend toward manipulating ATMs, mainly by skimming PIN and card data, remains unbroken, despite refined protective measures.
For a long time, Germany was a target for most fraudsters. Credit cards normally used abroad for self-service transactions traditionally promised far greater gain for criminals. Losses from such attacks in Germany are only around one-tenth of the 95 million euros lost every year in the United Kingdom to card fraud.
Anti-skimming: mechanical and electronic protection
But Europe's push to EMV appears to be motivating criminals to train their sights more strongly on the Federal Republic of Germany. Industry estimates now suggest that ATMs play a role in about 15 percent of all cases of identity theft. Up to now, banks have shouldered the losses. Now the losses are too great for the banks to continue to bear the financial load.
A customer's PIN can be stolen using a commercially available mini-camera hidden in a fire alarm, light box or brochure rack. The card data can be read using a skimming device, with the captured data and PIN mailed or sent by mobile phone to another country, where the information is used to plunder a cardholder's account.
Such crime sprees can easily cause losses in the high six-digit range.
Several offerings can protect cardholders at the ATM, however.
Some institutions prefer mechanical defenses. Common anti-skimming card throats prevent skimming devices from being attached to ATMs. These new throats are designed so that they cannot be broken or cut out of the machine.
Those types of throats are popular in Germany. In other countries, financial institutions tend to rely more heavily on intelligent sensors located inside the card slot that do not alter the appearance of the ATM. These sensors monitor signs of manipulation and sound the alarm if anything has been altered.
ATM video surveillance
New criminal tricks have also helped bring about a revival in the cash-out camera, which complements surveillance with portrait and room cameras.
The tiny cash-out camera, positioned at the height of the output slot, has two functions. First, it records attempts by customers to defraud the bank by removing only part of a bundle of notes (causing the rest to be deposited in the reject tray). Second, it is an effective antidote to cash trapping, also known as reversal fraud.
With cash trapping, the output slot is obstructed so that customers making cash withdrawals cannot take their money. The trapped cash is then removed later by the criminal. Now with integrated image-recognition software, FIs are alerted as soon as an obstruction mechanism has been mounted on the ATM. The ATM is then shut down by the FI or operator.
But what about other types of scams, such as those that involve a group of fraudsters who work to distract an ATM user?
The remedy to that type of fraud is a security area around the ATM, one that is constantly monitored by a camera. If someone enters the zone, a warning appears on the ATM's screen. The customer can then assess the situation and decide whether to break off the transaction or complete it.
What about fraud that moves beyond the physical? Standard operating systems are gaining a growing foothold in network operations, meaning that ATM networks have become gateways that are easy to open, thus allowing criminals access to sensitive customer data. The result is a huge increase in the risk of unauthorized access.
Wincor Nixdorf, for instance, has developed virtual private networks that securely protect branches and host systems against data interception and internal misuse. Because it works on the principle that anything that is not explicitly permitted is forbidden, an attack, no matter how ingenious, cannot unfold.
A further step toward enhancing the security of transactions is the Secure Cash Out Procedure, which prevents cash from being withdrawn if there is an internal attack or if a trojan is infiltrated from the outside. Cash is dispensed only if data has been exchanged between the bank's host system and the cash-out application and the transaction has been approved.
Ink staining on the rise
FIs' and off-premise operators' ATMs in Germany and other countries are introducing ink staining (also called maculation) at the ATM. For a long time, this approach met with a lukewarm response; but an upswing in ATM violence has brought about a change of heart and provided the impetus for refinements in maculation technology.
The staining process can be triggered not only in response to blast waves or a change in location, but also if and when criminals weld open the rear panel of the ATM. Admittedly, the greatest protective effect offered by maculation is deterrence.
Stolen cash amounts are declining, and the number of attacks on branches and ATMs is stagnating in some areas. But theft activities are simply shifting to another stage. Cash-in-transit operators are targets more often than they were in the past. To combat that type of crime, locating systems based on mobile communications complements security mechanisms in cassettes, attaché cases and cash boxes.
Using GSM mobile phone technology, which has been introduced in more than 130 countries, a security center can precisely track criminals. If the microphone is activated remotely, security forces can even hear what the thieves are saying.
RFID chips: total control
Contactless radio frequency identification tags are expected to offer a new dimension of security. According to the latest RFID Report by consulting firm Eurospace, RFID technology will be used in marketing and distribution, as well as in tracking transports and vehicles.
The capabilities that RFID chips offer for logistics are being examined for the banking industry, since FIs and insurers want to pinpoint the location of the cash being transported. Errors in replenishment processes and the transportation of cash cassettes can practically be eliminated.
Wincor Nixdorf estimates that up to 2 percent of replenishment operations for cash cassettes are carried out incorrectly: The cash volume in the cassettes is recorded incorrectly, the cassettes are mixed up or the cash simply disappears en route.
Centrally monitoring the ATM network
Financial institutions should take proactive measures to protect their overall networks. To that end, they need to understand risk factors and revealing fraud patterns. For example, a certain number of aborted transactions may indicate that preparations for manipulation are under way.
Thieves, driven by their high level of criminal energy, are always a step ahead, however quickly the forces of law try to keep up with them.
Monday, 14 April 2008
As the owner of a company that publishes kiosk system software and develops custom self-service kiosk applications, it has been interesting to me to watch the convergence of the digital signage and self-service kiosk industries. Although kiosks are typically designed for interactivity and digital signage is not, it is apparent to me that the kiosk industry has a lot to offer to digital signage.
Digital signage gives the opportunity for signage to evolve from static to dynamic; static branding can become animated, a static advertisement can become a video commercial, maps can be instantly updated with latest information, and current news can be easily displayed. Perhaps most importantly, content can be readily modified.
With the convergence of digital signage and self-service kiosks, now dynamic digital signage can become interactive. Self-service kiosk applications exist to provide a seamless user interface, enabling a kiosk user to perform a task. Similarly, the digital ad that draws a user to the kiosk can now be extended to enable the user to find out more information about the product and ultimately place an order. Or, a user can drill into a ticker tape news item and read the complete story. The ability to make digital signage interactive enables more information to be transferred ultimately improving the ROI of the deployment.
The first inkling of things to come occurred several years ago when LCD display prices dropped to enable kiosks to economically have second monitors – typically a big, beautiful widescreen LCD mounted above the kiosk. This gave the kiosk deployer an interesting choice. The second monitor could be used to enhance and expand the functionality of the application running on the primary monitor - for example, by providing context sensitive help, displaying detailed product information, or providing additional dynamic branding for the kiosk. Or, the second monitor could be used as an independent revenue stream by selling advertising.
Whereas, advertising had long been sold for display on a kiosk’s primary screen especially for display during periods of inactivity, the second monitor enabled constant advertising exposure and most importantly during periods of kiosk activity, when a potential customer is at the kiosk and most ready to be influenced.
Interactive Pandora’s Box
While making digital signage interactive has many obvious benefits, it also opens up many self-service kiosk issues that need to be addressed. The most important include the need for the user to be kept away from the operating system and network, to clear the user’s confidential information, and to reset the application after the user leaves. These are significant requirements to add to a digital signage application but fortunately long ago solved by the kiosk industry, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
As with self-service kiosks, the only thing worse than having a digital signage installation broken down, is not knowing your digital signage installation is broken down. ROI is a key determinant of the success of a project and when a kiosk or digital signage unit is sitting with a dark screen, ROI plummets. Fortunately, the kiosk industry has a solution whereby the kiosk regularly pings a centralized server saying ‘Here I am alive and well’ and typically sends a statistical snapshot of its health for proof. When a kiosk stops pinging, the centralized server sends out the alarm. The technology is readily transferable to a digital signage installation.
Similarly, the nature of digital signage is one of dynamic content and the requirement for content to change regularly. Depending on the complexity and size of the digital content and the quality of the internet connection, content can be hosted either locally at the digital signage location or at a remote server. When content is hosted locally, there needs to be a robust method to update content. Once again, this dilemma has been resolved within the kiosk industry, and the technology is readily transferable to a digital signage installation.
Not just a one-way street
Lest one believe that only the kiosk industry has technology to share with digital signage, the digital signage industry has helped the kiosk industry in at least one way by popularizing the concept of a computer on a wall. The first digital signage implementations were generally a display unit hooked up to a DVD player or to a closed circuit media network, but especially with the advent of PCs small enough to be packaged onto the back of a display unit, digital signage displays are more commonly PC driven which receive content directly from the Internet. Similarly, self service kiosk applications are increasingly either wall mounted or desktop displays instead of being floor mounted, thus freeing up valuable floor space and increasing viable installation locations.
One source of instability that plagues both kiosk self-service and digital signage is the quality of digital media players. Whereas the typical industry standard media player was designed for a user sitting at their desk playing a video file over a relatively short period of time, the media player in a kiosk or digital signage application must play a video for an extended period of time, perhaps measured in months.
Many industry standard media players and/or codecs are not up to the task of extended play. They tend to leak memory and resources in a manner that a user sitting at their desk would not notice, but can bring a kiosk or digital signage application to its knees over an extended period of time. In the kiosk industry, sophisticated kiosk system software monitors these applications and when necessary restarts the application or reboots the computer; however, the user experience of having an application freeze due to depleted system resources, then get restarted by the kiosk system software is not ideal, and it would be far better for everyone involved if the industry’s media players/codecs were better written.
In summary, as digital signage applications move toward increasing interactivity, I believe the self-service kiosk industry has a lot to offer the digital signage industry and the convergence of solutions is a positive step forward for both industries.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Last week I found myself probably way too excited to be playing the latest video game in Tom Clancy’s series, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 for Xbox. My brother and I sat down to get our mission briefing from our virtual commander, which to my surprise was brought to us via a “Cisco Digital Signage” screen.
Later that night I was again in front of the TV, but watching one of the many games of the NCAA Tournament. When the game cut to a commercial break, the first ad featured a woman being greeted by an interactive digital sign on the street, and another man passing by an interactive shop window. The tagline at the end: “Cisco – Welcome to the human network.”
It’s not just that Cisco seems to be showing up in all kinds of entertainment mediums. It’s that Cisco is bringing digital signage to the forefront when advertising or doing product placement in those mediums.
My guess is that most people who have left their houses in the past year have encountered digital signage at some point. Ask someone if they’ve seen screen ads in airport terminals and they will shake their head “yes,” but tell them you’re in the “digital signage” industry and you’ll probably get raised eye brows.
For those of us involved in the industry “digital signage” is a term we hear every day. But the greater public has not yet accepted it as a term for out-of-home advertising.
This will change in the future. Think back to a few years ago when flatscreen TVs became popular. They were known simply as flat panels or flatscreens to most people. Now ask someone about their next TV purchase and they’ll ramble off the differences in LCD vs. plasma, 1080i vs. 720p and HDMI vs. RGB.
As digital signage proliferates into the mainstream, familiarity with the nuances of the medium among the public will grow, as it did with flatscreen TVs.
At this point, Cisco seems to be pushing that process along nicely. In addition to the digital signage placement in Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Cisco is also work closely with major networks such as CBS, FOX and NBC to integrate its products into TV shows, such as "Heroes" and "CSI." Click here to see video from Cisco on CBS.
On the virtual front, Cisco is responsible for incorporating digital signage into the popular online role-playing game Second Life. Cisco digital signage and the company’s TelePresence product are located on CSI Island, where Second Life players can solve crimes in the same fashion as the TV show.
While industry members know the list of “big hitters” in digital signage, Cisco’s product placement strategy and advertising plan is positioning them as one of the top dogs for digital signage in the eyes of the public.
"Cisco is illustrating that they 'get it' in terms of the advancement of digital signage and its place in ad display spending,” said Lyle Bunn, strategy architect with Bunn Co. “Digital signage allows for better message targeting, which will increasingly be based on dynamic ad provisioning. This is the domain of enabling technologies. Internet cookies, cable TV viewing history and cognitive recognition for digital signage all have the same objectives, and each is based on technology supporting target marketing. Message targeting is becoming a back-office technology where ads are pulled from storage and displayed based on pre-set 'if-then' display rules. This is a domain of practice that Cisco understands well and will help advance aggressively."
Bill Yackey is the editor of Digital Signage Today.
Monday, 07 April 2008
As I was thinking about what to write for this piece, I was dialing into the first of the two weekly conference calls we use to keep our dealer kiosk program running smoothly. When we started back in 2001, I had no idea how important these calls would be, or that we would still be doing them several years later.
It struck me that the relevant analogy for a kiosk program might be an iceberg. The bulk and complexity of most programs largely are unseen. Be advised, however, that running one is not unusually difficult. It’s just that, like many other things in life, there’s a lot more to it. And it helps if you are prepared to work through it all.
BMW’s kiosk programs have won 21 industry awards over the last few years. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things. I will try to share some of that learning with the caveat that I can only describe the BMW experience. Hopefully, others will find some useful nuggets in this tale.
For BMW, the obvious underlying kiosk elements were fixture design, kiosk operating technology, hardware, high-speed Internet connectivity and help desk support for each of these essentials. In today’s marketplace, these things all are readily available. But once you have these elements together, it’s very important to remember that they all are there only to support the content — which is all the customer sees. More about content in a moment.
The other key elements of a successful program are less tangible. It should go without saying that management support is essential — so communication on this front needs to be ongoing. Team building among your vendors and internal staff takes time but pays big dividends. Communication to key user groups also is essential. Communication to other stakeholder groups within your organization that could participate or benefit from the program also will help it to succeed. The other element often overlooked but very important is training. Teach your user groups how to benefit from the program.
And then there is content, often referred to as the Graphic User Interface or GUI, (pronounced "gooey") — that’s geek-speak for what the customer sees on the screen. Many deployers have a hard time getting this part right. It comes at the end of the whole kiosk building process when money and time are often limited, so it gets rushed, cheapened or is not well thought out. Yet on-screen content is the most important part of the program. It’s all the customer sees. Equally important, ongoing content costs need to be estimated and communicated so decision makers fully are aware of what it will take to maintain that content over the life of the program.
For some applications, a few simple screens may be all that’s needed. However, even in these cases those screens should be designed by a graphic artist who understands the medium. Do not let your technology provider do it. Remember, what’s on the screen is what makes things happen. It pays to do it well.
For a brand marketer like BMW, there is so much more to it. We think of our kiosks as a private, interactive video channel that must engage our customers’ heads and hearts, with an occasional visceral response thrown in. That works out to be high quality video, much of it produced specifically for the channel. Or if it’s re-purposed video, edited for the channel. “Informative,” “entertaining,” “brief,” and “updated often” are words we live by — "all meat" as Law & Order’s Dick Wolfe would say. These kiosks have a voracious appetite that we feed constantly.
As we said at the beginning, a kiosk is like an iceberg. For most projects there’s more to it than you might think at first. But if you do everything well, kiosks really work. So read, learn and go for it. Below are some real-life concrete examples of what’s involved, the steps we went through for our most recent BMW dealer kiosk deployment. And I may have missed a few along the way:
- Fixture design competition
- Prototype technology partner selection
- Prototype content partner selection
- Hardware spec
- Prototype build
- Prototype technology build
- Prototype content build
- Internal review with management
- Internal review with BMW IT
- Preview with feedback survey at X5 launch dealer meeting
- RFP for dealer project to select fixture partner, technology partner, content partner
- Bid review and partner selection with Purchasing and internal management
- Team building and weekly conference calls with all partners begins
- Ongoing face-to-face meetings with Reality Pictures, the content partner team. Communication and meetings with this partner are frequent, ongoing and will continue for the life of the project. While all the moving parts are important, content is really the only thing the customer sees. It must be entertaining, informative and brief. Most importantly, it must be frequently updated.
- Two revised prototypes: fixture, technology and content builds.
- Prototypes deployed in two BMW Centers within driving distance of BMW HQ
- Ongoing weekly review of prototype installations with Center personnel, team partners, BMW management and BMW field staff (6 weeks)
- Ongoing communication about program with BMW field staff begins
- BMW’s training group engaged. They review prototype installations and create a training video on kiosk use for dealer sales personnel
- Key learnings incorporated into revised fixture, technology and content builds
- BMW IT reviews technology and participates in a major way in planning for connectivity and support for beta test.
- Weekly support conference calls begin with BMW IT, BMW’s connectivity vendors Reynolds & Reynolds, ADP and Reality Interactive, the program’s technology partner
- Beta test deployment: 11 dealers nationwide selected from list of major problem sites from previous program
- Key learnings from beta test incorporated and rollout begins
- Two weekly conference calls continue — one with all build partners, the other with all support partners. Regular calls with all build partners will eventually discontinue.
- Weekly calls with support partners will be ongoing for the life of the program.
- Internal communication about the program — especially success stories — is ongoing.
- Internal presentations for management about various aspects of the program, new content etc., also ongoing
- Meetings with BMW field staff, dealer groups and dealer sales personnel, ongoing.
Clearly a kiosk project is more than it appears. Deployers should understand that the iceberg is deeper than they think and should be quick to get a handle on all time and preparation that is involved. If they don't, they run the risk of a "hull breach" and a kiosk project that sinks into the depths.
Robert Plante is the kiosk programs manager for BMW of North America LLC.