|| The Perspective
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Airlines have peaked, redbox has legs, healthcare should see growth and the United States remains No. 1. No doubt, kiosks have become ubiquitous, and prospects look strong, but many question where the industry is going.
Could ‘airlines’ — short for traveler self-check-in at airports, the process that has virtually replaced ticket counters — have reached cruising altitude and be on the way to a descent? Does redbox have room for growth? And where will we see expansion in the next few years, either by segment or by global region?
Kiosk industry research house and consultancy Summit Research Associates seeks to answer these questions and others in its massive guidebook, "Kiosks and Interactive Technology," an 800-page report that includes statistics on the interactive kiosk installed base, background on 700 companies and a plethora of charts and tables, along with an examination of leading trends and significant projects.
The report grew from an online survey and follow-up research by Rockville, Md.-based Summit, led by Francie Mendelsohn, its president and a veteran kiosk consultant.
The report’s conclusions, and Mendelsohn’s, may surprise some.
For starters, self-check in at airlines has met its technological match, and it’s called the smart phone. Kiosks will remain a strong force in the sector, but many consumers eventually will switch to getting to their plane with the help of their phone.
“Airport check-in (via kiosk) is a very mature market sector. You will see incremental increases and updates of products. Smart phones will change the long-term dynamics,” Mendelsohn said.
Here’s how: Travelers will download a barcode to their smart phone when they conduct pre- check-in thru the Web before going to the airport. With the barcode loaded, the traveler will go to the airport and head straight to the security stop, bypassing the airline’s check-in kiosk to pick up a paper boarding pass. A device at the security stop will read the barcode displayed on the smart phone, and the traveler is good to go.
Mendelsohn says several major carriers, including American, Delta and United, have begun offering this smart phone application at select airports.
“In time, you will see less use of kiosks at the check-in,” said Mendelsohn, who notes this approach is more common in Asia, the global leader in smart phone applications. “Kiosks won’t go away. They are deployed at check-in all over the country. If you want to go anywhere anytime soon you will use them."
A kiosk firm that should continue to grow, she says, is redbox, the DVD-rental subsidiary of Coinstar.
“(Brick-and-mortar stores) are falling like dominos. Soon it’s going to be Netflix and redbox, if it’s not already. They serve two needs, redbox for new releases and Netflix for older movies,” Mendelsohn said.
Redbox offers extraordinary convenience, allowing consumers to make a 24-hour reservation and to drop off a DVD anywhere, all for a very competitive price, says Mendelsohn.
“Redbox is pretty formidable. I see people waiting in line to use it. That is an indicator of success,” she said.
A segment that offers promise for greater kiosk use is healthcare, specifically at providers such as doctors and dentists.
“It would be great to see patients using a kiosk to check in at their doctor’s office. (Managed care provider) Kaiser Permanente has begun to roll this out in some offices. The patient swipes a card distributed by Kaiser, and (the kiosk) brings up her information. It signs in for you,” Mendelsohn said.
Shifting to the electronic storing of patient information would reduce paperwork and eliminate many human input errors, says Mendelsohn. These factors, along with offering greater convenience to their patients, should convince healthcare providers to invest in kiosk check-in systems, she says.
Finally, Mendelsohn believes there is no question of the top international market for the industry.
“The U.S. is still the leader in the kiosk field," she said. "We can be behind others in taking to something, but once we adopt a technology we go after it whole hog.”
That’s what happened with parking and DVD rental, applications that were initiated in Europe but once implemented in the U.S. grew so large that they changed their industries. And keep in mind the U.S. is physically larger, so it has the space to offer uses like drive-thru restaurants where consumers can order via kiosk, says Mendelsohn.
So maybe airlines have peaked, redbox is still growing, healthcare shows promise, and the U.S. is tops. Then again, there may be an application out there no one is thinking of that remakes the whole industry. Entrepreneurs succeed by swimming against the tide.
Burney Simpson is contributing editor to KioskMarketplace.com This post originally appeared as an article on KioskMarketplace.com Aug. 9, 2010.
Monday, 02 November 2009
The global economic crisis — coupled with increasing competition and rising customer expectation — has compelled the aviation industry to devise innovative and cost-saving solutions. As such, airlines all over the world are looking to technology to generate more demand and drive down costs.
Self-check-in services are helping airlines cut costs and improve customer experience. Moreover, according to IATA’s 2009 Corporate Air Travel Survey, more than 50 percent of passengers worldwide want more self-service options. Customers feel more empowered while using self-check-in services and save time at the airports. Online check-in, kiosks and mobile technology are ushering in a new era of customer self-service, while self-service kiosks are increasingly becoming more and more popular, as proven by their increased usage. Kiosks are also working well in tandem with online and mobile technologies.
According to the SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self Service Study, kiosk check-in usage is set to rise over the years and interactive kiosks will increasingly shift to the forefront of self-service. Kiosks not only benefit people who do not check-in online, but can also be used to provide multiple functionalities at the airport — like car rental or hotel check-in. Moreover, in the near future kiosks may become excellent avenues through which ancillary services might be purchased.
Another area where kiosks will play a huge role is in the process of self-tagging baggage. IATA, with its Fast Travel Program, will immensely improve and enhance passenger self-service through kiosks performing the functions such as printing bag tags, scanning documents, automating boarding gates and reporting missing baggage. Furthermore, the advent of CUPPS (Common Use Passenger Processing System) architecture — technology that enables airlines and handling agents to access their own applications from multiple workstations and peripherals throughout the airport that are shared by all users — will help continue to bring about increased efficiencies and cost savings.
In addition to kiosks, mobile technology will continue to take the world by storm. Mobile technology has a distinct advantage over kiosks — our mobile phone is always with us. It is thus very convenient to use one’s phone for various services. Mobile phones can be used not just for checking in but also to complete the entire booking process. They can also be used for the sale of ancillary services like hotels, cars and also for timetables, notifications, alerts, social networking and much more.
According to a 2009 SITA IT Trends survey, 80 percent of the airlines surveyed are planning to offer mobile check-in capabilities by 2012. What’s more, IATA has targeted 100 percent Bar Coded Boarding Passes (BCBP) by 2010. These facts alone guarantee the future of self-service technologies at the airport.
As network access speeds become ever faster and smart phones become increasingly powerful, the future of mobile services is poised to become even more popular than kiosk and Web check-in. Now, mobile check-in users consist of business and frequent travelers and smart phone users. However, this trend is sure to change as more and more leisure travelers are also purchasing smart phones.
The writer is senior business associate with NIIT Technologies.
Tuesday, 03 June 2008
Recently we traveled to pitch a kiosk concept to a very large prospect and the meetings went well. We brought along an IBM AnyPlace kiosk to demonstrate some of our recent custom kiosk applications to the client, which we do often. It gives them an idea of the type of applications they could build, shows them the level of design quality we can perform and allows them to touch and feel some actual hardware. The IBM kiosk is retail hardened and can take a lot of abuse and constant interaction.
But then we put it up against Delta airlines and the TSA.
After packing it in a foam-lined hardshell travel case (TSA locked), we checked the kiosk with our other baggage for our return flight home. All seemed well until we opened the case a week later to prep the kiosk for our next pitch.
The kiosk screen was broken!
Imagine the shock ... and anger. You always wonder how roughly they treat your luggage, and now we have a gauge of the high level of abuse. This glass is not cheap or fragile. It's touch stuff with lots of coatings, etc. (You can review IBM's specs at: http://www.03.ibm.com/products/retail/products/anyplace/index.html.)
As you can see from the picture, it must have taken a hard and heavy blow from a sharp object or corner of another package. But through our hardshell case? That takes some effort. And now that it is a week or more past our return flight, I don't know if we can issue any kind of complaint or claim. I doubt they will cover this, so I am simply down one unit and out a lot of money. My next step is to see what IBM will charge to repair the unit for me. They have great warranty service, but this should not be covered, obviously.
Shipping electronics is always risky business, and passenger airlines are not in the habit of being gentle with the luggage in their care. I'm sure this would be a bit less likely with a carrier such as UPS/FedEx who handle a lot of fragile items daily. An airline is expecting clothing and golf clubs most of the time. We ship a lot of kiosks via common carrier and rarely have any problems. But we are going to have to re-evaluate how we travel with the kiosks on passenger airlines. We are currently evaluating other types of hard shell cases that we can check with the airlines, and will likely come up with a good solution that we will resell to other customers.
How about you, have you had similar experiences? Do you have mobile kiosks and need to protect them? How do you travel with them? Respond to my blog post and share your thoughts and experiences.
Tim Burke is on the owner of Electronic Art. His blog can be viewed here.
Monday, 31 March 2008
As the editor of Self-Service World, one of the many things that my colleague, Patrick Avery, does on a daily basis is comb the Web for stories that involve the self-service industry. Not too long ago, he found this gem, reported by the Isle of Man Newspapers:
British airline to charge those who don’t use kiosk
FlyBe has announced it may charge passengers in the future for using its check-in desks at Ronaldsway Airport . The airline plans to install self-service kiosks to speed up the process of checking in for flights. A spokesman for FlyBe said that passengers who wanted to continue to use the traditional check-in desk rather than the self-service kiosks could be charged for doing so in the future.
The story quotes an anonymous source who works for the airline as saying: “We have long been on record as saying that those passengers who want the personal service of a check-in desk or prefer to use one out of habit will be costing other passengers a lot of money.”
In essence: Use self-service — or else.
At the risk of sounding like one of my high school English teachers (who on more than one occasion threatened to “staple my tongue to the Belvedere,” a local Louisville, Ky., landmark), I think there are two things we can glean from this story.
The first is the monumental significance of what the airline is proposing. A year ago — maybe two — the airline industry had representatives standing next to check-in kiosks, urging weary travelers to try the new-fangled self-service devices for the first time. Travelers were skeptical. What was up with these new devices? How did they work? Were they reliable? If I’m a passenger with reservations on a non-stop flight to Boise, is this kiosk going to print out a boarding pass for the red-eye to Tel Aviv?
And what about security? How could we be sure these self-service devices weren’t going to let the guy with two feet of firecracker wick trailing out of his Nikes get on the nearest 747?
Time has since allayed these uncertainties. Not only are the kiosks quick and easy to use, but they also cut down on check-in queues and, according to Air Canada, save on labor costs. What’s more, some custom-use self-service kiosks can in some ways actually help to improve airport security by providing a scanned record of passengers’ passports and other travel documents. And since even malevolent travelers with suspicious shoes still have to face live security screeners, there aren’t too many worries that the kiosks are going to be a free pass for anyone who walks in the door.
The bottom line is that the kiosks are a success. And it is because they are a success that FlyBe airlines is thinking about charging its customers who try to avoid the kiosks. It used to be that the onus was on the airline to prove that the kiosks were beneficial. Now it’s on the traveler to prove that they’re not. That says something about technology adoption.
The second thing I noticed about the article is the glaring use of the qualifier “may.” It’s not that FlyBe is going to start charging fans of live service ... but it "may."
Again, at the risk of sounding like my aforementioned high-school English teacher (who, after reviewing our test grades on another occasion, threatened to throw herself off the Second Street Bridge — another local landmark) that qualifier makes a world of difference.
Congress may balance the budget next year. We may have a manned mission to Mars by 2020 (although this story makes the prospect seem less likely). There may be another Star Wars movie. At this moment, Bigfoot may be at your home, sitting in your Lazy-Boy eating your nachos.
So what does “may” tell us here?
FlyBe is absolutely, positively, 100-percent certain that charging the kiosk-averse is the right thing to do ... but even FlyBe has its doubts. That’s why the “may” is there. (Given the hesitation, one wonders why the airline chose to announce its intentions at all. I mean, why give away the fact that you may or may not do something? Perhaps it was a test.)
It’s an interesting crossroads for the airline — and airlines everywhere, I suppose.
FlyBe will be seen either as a pioneer or that dog in the Aesop fable that dropped the bone in the creek while trying to steal from its own reflection.
So how will consumers see it? Economists will say that depends on which side of the demand curve the proposal falls on. I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with an example of a similar crossroads in another industry, and I keep coming back to the Internet. After online ordering took off, merchants started dishing out significant discounts to customers who chose to buy online rather than in the physical store. Maybe this is like that.
Looking at FlyBe’s proposal, one can see pros and cons.
The Pros: Adoption will increase; costs will decrease. FlyBe could potentially save more in labor costs. Since fewer customers will visit the check-in desk, FlyBe will need fewer attendants. On the consumer side, travelers will probably be able to move through the check-in process more quickly. Additionally, people who may have been afraid of the technology in the past will now have an impetus to check it out, and discover just how user-friendly it can be.
The Cons: FlyBe runs the risk of backlash. Purists who insist on speaking to a human being at the check-in desk might rebel and seek out a different airline.
Either way, however, FlyBe is considering a policy that demonstrates just how far self-service has come. Are self-service check-in kiosks ready to become mandatory devices? Are consumers ready for it? Are the airlines ready for it? Is FlyBe’s proposal good for the industry?
What do you think? Send your comments (anonymously if you like) to and I’ll consider posting them in my next column.
Monday, 07 May 2007
Let’s face it. Traveling can be stressful. No one likes long lines, crowds, a lack of information or lack of choices when going to airports. Thankfully, airports have been in the forefront of self-service to help deal with the enormous volumes of travelers that go through airports each day.
The airline industry is constantly in the news and most of it is negative: stranded passengers, long delays, lost luggage and bankruptcies. However, airports and airlines have really led the way in the use of self-service check-in kiosks. When introduced several years ago, airline personnel assisted customers as many interacted with the devices for the first time. Customers learned how easy they were to use and now many frequent fliers have completely embraced the technology. As airlines are now discovering, kiosks can also serve passengers in multiple languages.
While many customers have embraced self-service check-in, there are still large numbers of first-time or occasional flyers that need encouragement or direction in using the kiosk. For those who have become accustomed to the speed of the check-in process using a kiosk, the wait and confusion of infrequent users can be frustrating.
Another frustration can come when kiosks are down. US Airways learned this recently when the airline merged its reservation system with America West’s the first weekend in March. Massive delays ensued at kiosks the first few days and glitches continued throughout March.
Customers are not the only ones reaping the benefits of self check-in. Air Canada recently stated that it spends 16 cents to check in a traveler through a kiosk versus $3 through a staffed counter. And the 2006 SITA survey stated that the airline industry’s move toward self-service is saving it billions of dollars.
Continental bragged about its 1,000th kiosk deployment last year in a press release, claiming to have more kiosks per customer than any other airline. Continental has also implemented application acceleration technology which speeds up the transaction time on kiosks.
Once limited to domestic flights, self-check-in is now available to international travelers as passport scanners have been added to newer models.
There has been much interest in common use self-service (CUSS), where airports manage the check-in kiosks rather than the airlines. Las Vegas’s McCarran Airport as well as several airports in Europe have implemented the system. The main benefit for airports is better utilization of space and flow for check-in. Another promise of CUSS is to enable more possibilities for remote check-in, such as convention centers, hotels and airport parking.
Safe and secure
After checking in, the next stage of self-service adoption is coming to security. Airports are continuing to roll-out registered traveler programs that help frequent fliers speed through security after completing a background check and paying a fee. Shoe scanners are a new addition to the effort to make going through security more effortless.
The U.S. and Canada have recently agreed on the use of border security kiosks through the NEXUS program at Canadian airports for travelers who cross the border frequently.
Biometrics is increasingly being used at security, such as iris recognition, fingerprint scans and facial recognition technology. There is also a growing acceptance of biometrics among consumers as they become more educated about its use and recognize the benefits.
Trying to bring it all together and simplify air travel, the Hong Kong Airport Authority, Immigration Department and Cathay Pacific are engaged in a six-month trial of a new kiosk that integrates immigration, boarding and luggage.
The restrictions on liquids at security have proved a challenge for airports and passengers alike. Entrepreneurial companies like Mail Safe Express have sprung up offering to ship banned items home. At Chicago O’Hare, security officers direct passengers who want to ship these items to a touchscreen kiosk. The 60-day test was deemed successful enough to implement them at nearby Midway Airport.
Once through security, passengers become shoppers if they have time before their flight. ZoomSystems has taken vending to a whole new level, enabling people to buy high-end items such as iPods and Bose headsets through modern vending machines.
Sony has gotten into the act by selling its products through a Sony-branded kiosk called Access. At the recent GlobalShop show in Las Vegas, retail fixtures manufacturer idX displayed its new automated store, Shop Robotic. With products brightly displayed so near the glass that you feel like you can reach out and touch them, watching items be dispensed is a fascinating part of the experience.
At your service
Staffed information counters with brochure racks are a common site in airports. Chicago O’Hare has recently installed an interactive touchscreen kiosk that provides travel information to visitors. The kiosk, which officials are calling a “virtual concierge,” provides airport, hotel, transportation and weather information in seven languages.
Smarte Carte, makers of the ubiquitous luggage carts for rental, now outfit their lockers with touchscreens. The company has also introduced cell phone charging kiosks.
As the majority of passengers and airport visitors carry cell phones, it’s no surprise that pay phone usage has decreased dramatically. As a testament, some pay phone stations have been replaced by internet access kiosks. While internet access kiosks still have promise outside the U.S., within the country the growth has probably peaked since so many people carry laptops or some other wireless internet device with them.
Self-service business centers like PowerPort provide laptop rentals, printing, and recharging stations for electronics. For those passengers that need to recharge their body, automated massage chairs are cropping up as an additional revenue source.
A new product that seems perfect for airports is a self-service document shredder from RealTime Shredding. The machine quietly shreds stacks of paper (including staples or paper clips) as well as CDs. Unloading unwanted confidential documents before or after a flight could be a great service for passengers.
Frequent flyer enrollment
Qatar Airways has initiated an instant frequent-flyer enrollment kiosk for new members at Doha International Airport. Situated in the Qatar Airways Business class lounge at the airport, the kiosk dispenses membership cards immediately after passengers complete their registration.
In November, Alamo Rent A Car announced that it would roll out self-service kiosks at all its locations in the U.S. after successful tests in Dallas, Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Fla. The company claims that the kiosks reduce check-in time by 50 percent compared to typical counter service. The kiosks use an ID scanning technology by Intelli-Check.
“Self-service eliminates one more hassle from family travel,” said Jerry Dow, Alamo's chief marketing officer in a company release. “Customers are already comfortable using the check-in kiosk for flights, using a self-service kiosk for car rental is a natural progression.”
Like a good employee, the kiosk always suggests an upgrade.
Another innovation from Smarte Carte has been a new kiosk that lets customers use their credit card for a voucher to pay for taxicab fares. The kiosk is being tested in Salt Lake City.
Frontier Airlines announced recently that it plans to allow rebooking at kiosks for canceled flights at Denver International Airport. This could be a good way to speed up the process and enable frustrated passengers to make alternative plans.
Digital signage is taking the world by storm and would deserve an article all on its own to do it justice. Interactive digital signage, like the one unveiled at O’Hare last year, is an example of the possibilities out there.
New forms of payment are coming on the scene, ranging from vending machines that accept credit cards for micro payments to biometrics like those implemented by Pay By Touch. Payment using a cell phone has been discussed for a few years and is closer to reality. Rather than using RFID technology like contactless credit cards, chips can be added to phones that will enable them to exchange secure data (like a credit card number) with a reader.
While checking into a flight from home or a hotel is not new, companies like Hilton have tested check-in kiosks at airports. Could CUSS also bring major hotel properties together under one kiosk?
While it’s always difficult to predict the future, one thing seems certain: travel self-service is here to stay.
Monday, 19 February 2007
Lord knows the kind of self-service some JetBlue and Delta passengers were contemplating recently.
The winter storm that walloped the northeast in February grounded hundreds of planes, but the snow arrived so quickly that many flights were cancelled between leaving the gate and reaching the end of the runway. Some jets even froze to the pavement, trapping hordes of unlucky travelers on the tarmac for 10 or more hours.
Chainsaw? Blowtorch? After more than 10 minutes at the gate, I’m ready to begin clawing my way out of an airplane, and if the claw is at the end of a hammer, so be it. Things begin to smell on a grounded airplane. The crying of children becomes more determined. The panting for nicotine from deprived smokers becomes more desperate.
Travel horror stories are as common as, well, travel horror stories. Even I tell them, but when I do, it’s to fit in with grumpy road-warriors, to mask the fact that I still love to travel. The cool travelers, it seems, do nothing but gripe about it. Me, flying to London on business makes me a big shot. Most of my family is so rural, they’re more likely to suffer from tractor lag.
One aspect of travel you don’t hear so many complaints about these days is check-in. Self-Service World has covered it a great deal where it intersects with kiosk technology, and regular readers of this magazine and its online counterpart, SelfServiceWorld.com, know we celebrate self-service airline applications as a pioneer for the whole industry. In fact, only the ATM exceeds them in terms of helping usher in a new era in customer-facing technology and the public’s willingness to use it.
After 9/11, the airlines were faced with tremendous economic challenges. Bookings were down significantly, and the cost of new security measures was enormous. Necessity, the craggy mother of all inventions, foisted upon the industry a voracious search for relief. Self-service significantly sated the appetite.
The remedy was so effective, it has helped lift the entire industry, and promises to keep airlines at the leading edge of the business-to-consumer intersection.
James Bickers, Self-Service World editor, wrote this just a few months ago in an online column:
For British Airways, self-service has been an unqualified success.
British trade publication Computing is reporting that BA saw 80 percent of its traffic go through self-service check-in. A company representative said that’s well ahead of the company’s schedule, as is the move to paperless ticketing, which is now at 90-percent customer-adoption rate.
Good news regarding airlines and self-service has been coming fast and furious in recent weeks; just a few short days ago, Air Canada announced that it was saving some major money through the use of self-service. (The company said it spends 16 cents to check in a traveler through a kiosk, versus $3 through a staffed counter.) And a recent report by SITA stated that the airline industry’s move toward self-service is saving it billions of dollars.
Another aspect of the SITA survey predicted that aviation will become the world’s first totally Internet-protocol-enabled industry.
"This year’s Airline IT Trends survey provides the clearest evidence yet that the airlines will be the world’s first fully Web-enabled industry," Paul Coby, SITA chairman, said in a release. "IP is the underlying communication technology that enables many new applications, such as online reservation systems, so it has brought a radical change to air travel, ever since SITA developed the first Internet booking engine just over 10 years ago. It is also driving the self-service business model, which is both convenient for passengers and helps airlines keep ticket prices down."
Bickers ended his piece with a question that becomes more relevant every day, and the silence meeting it becomes resoundingly loud: When will other industries, such as foodservice, step up with more self-service? The airlines have proved three things: Customers use it. Self-service saves the deployer money. And sometimes it takes a financial disaster to get a business off its keister. Let’s hope that when it comes to other consumer-driven businesses, it doesn’t take the third to reveal for them the first and second.
Monday, 15 May 2006
An easy way to compute demand is to look around for a big line of people. If the people in the line have money, and the line occurs constantly in a certain circumstance, you’ve found a good venue for the next big thing in kiosks.
That’s what made the most successful kiosk in history, the ATM, so successful: a lot of people who definitely had money (given that they all had bank accounts) were tired of standing in line, and the banks wanted to save the man hours it took to service them all.
Since then, grocers, retailers and airports have done similar things in similar situations and realized similar benefits in cost savings and service increases. We can now look at a few different verticals and see more next-big-things on the way.
Common use check-in: Airport self-check-in has become so successful, the kiosks now have long lines of their own. What’s worse, service at the airport, aggravated by security concerns, is deficient compared to other service industries. Airports themselves tend to be crowded, making space optimization a priority. Enter common use check-in kiosks. Imagine everyone in that big line diffused across every check-in kiosk in the building, each unit featuring the ability to check in a passenger on any flight from any airline there. The crowd disappears, customers are more satisfied and space is no longer wasted.
The driving force behind this concept is the International Air Travel Association, which has developed the Common Use Self-service Standard (CUSS) to facilitate integration and communication of airport check-in kiosks. The IATA has made CUSS integration one of its top priorities, with a stated goal of persuading 15 more airports to implement it in 2006. Major industry players like association-member NCR’s subsidiary Kinetics, which builds the majority of airport check-in hardware, are vying for a slice of the CUSS-compliant kiosk market.
Hotel check-in: Already, major hotel chains are deploying kiosks allowing guests to check-in from the airport instead of the front desk and print room key cards on the spot. This expedites hotel check-in, reducing lines at the front desk and freeing up hotel staff for other tasks. It’s especially useful for travelers doing a short stay, with very little luggage in tow, who can go straight to their destination (for example, the floor of a convention) without taking an extra cab ride to the hotel and standing in line to check in first. And they need not only be at the airports: on-site check-in kiosks will help alleviate lines at peak arrival times.
Medical check-in: Relieving lines for patient convenience is only part of the reason this technology will soon become widespread. It can improve patient safety by making medical records more portable. For example, after medical data is gathered by a kiosk it can be downloaded onto a USB thumb drive in a standard (i.e. XML) format that a patient can carry on a keychain or lanyard. If that person shows up at a hospital incapacitated, caregivers can quickly access his or her complete medical history.
On the back-end, these kiosks can offer complete treatment and financial tracking, including the cost and profit of treatment for different patients and illnesses.
Of course, there are enormous crowds of people who aren’t as easy to see, and finding them is a little trickier. For example, c-stores have realized that many customers often don’t use banks. About a third of American residents fit this category. Financial kiosks, offering services like billpay and money-order printing, have become widespread as they try to draw more foot traffic into stores, where the high-margin items reside, since another successful self-service solution, pay-at-the-pump, has deterred many drivers only to the gas – a low-margin item.
Now companies are catering to another big crowd of people with money: immigrant workers wanting to send money home. According to The Pew Research Center, 40 million money transfers occurred from the United States to Mexico in 2003, totaling about $16 billion. Now, financial kiosk companies are trying to capitalize on that market.
We’ll see many more next-big-things advancing rapidly as well: pay-by-phone, biometric payment and RFID, for example. For now, deployers line up to service the crowds.