Thursday, December 29, 2005

Doctors trial self-service kiosks

This is sort of interesting...

In some doctors offices, "[w]hen patients arrive for an appointment, they don't register at the receptionist's desk. Instead, they swipe a driver's license or credit card at a kiosk. They can verify insurance information, electronically sign consent forms and settle co-payments.

"The new concept streamlines patient registration, but it also frees up front desk personnel to tackle other tasks. And in some cases, it means fewer people are needed to run the office _ a relief to hiring managers who often have difficulty filling these positions."

As the article notes, health care is the latest business sector to get involved with the self-service kiosk craze, driven to lower costs (in my opinion) by the greedy, bloodsucking insurance rackets. Of course, this article doesn't say that, preferring to stay with an on-topic look at the different self-service kiosk and tablet options available for the healthcare industry.

Association for Retail Technology Standards releases kiosk/POS XML specifications

From the ARTS website:
The Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) is an international membership organization dedicated to reducing the costs of technology through standards. Since 1993, ARTS has been delivering application standards exclusively to the retail industry. ARTS has four standards: The Standard Relational Data Model, UnifiedPOS, IXRetail and the Standard RFPs.
They've completed the first such specification for POS devices, with the goal of unifying the POS interface, thereby facilitating the interaction between POS terminals, servers and other devices. The integration also comes as welcome news for kiosk integrators and digital signage software makers, as this simplifies the otherwise arduous task of integrating these software systems together.

KioskMarketplace has a nice article about the new standards here, which you should go read.

InfoTouch receives investment for financial kiosks

As reported here on Kiosk Marketplace, financial services kiosk maker Info Touch Technologies received a $150,000 equity investment from the Center for Financial Services Innovation, which is a for-profit organization that works to provide underbanked citizens with greater access to financial services.
According to a news release, CFSI will assist Info Touch with designing and implementing innovative methods that deliver effective bill-payment and financial services to underbanked and unbanked consumers. The services are designed to be affordable, convenient and help consumers establish credit and acquire appreciable assets.
So it sounds like the $150K will be going directly towards deploying and maintaining a network for unbanked people, perhaps in locations that InfoTouch might have avoided or would otherwise find unprofitable.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Capital concerns holding back some kiosk deployments

Not that that should come as a surprise to anybody who has ever tried to budget for an interactive kiosk project -- deploying a single system can take seven-figures, depending on the complexity of the kiosk and the type of application it will be providing.
DVD Station, founded in 2001 in San Francisco, installed its kiosks in three Barnes & Noble locations last year, but those have since closed and plans to expand into more of the chain’s stores shelved.

Meanwhile, New York-based DVDXpress, also founded in 2001, is still on track to bow 200 new machines within the next six weeks at southeast regional supermarket Bi-Low/Bruno’s. That will add to DVDXpress’ existing 100 grocery-based kiosk spots.

The start-stop nature of kiosk ventures seems tied in part to fluctuating commitments to capital expenditures at various chains.

The initial cost for one DVD kiosk is estimated at $10,000 to $30,000, so a retailer with 500 locations might have to invest up to $15 million for a major rollout.

“This category requires a lot of upfront capital,” DVD Station VP corporate development Bill Fischer said. “There’s a real perception, especially among investors, that the video rental business is dead. But we think vending can be a good solution with a greatly reduced cost structure.”

We already know that the retail sector is willing to experiment with new techniques to keep customers coming back to their locations. Unfortunately, few will be willing to spend more than $100,000 on a trial of a very new technology, and considering what some of these devices cost, that means a trial of only a few locations, which may not be a good sample to base projected results on. The whole article is quite interesting, you should go check it out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lucidiom introduces a new large LCD photo kiosk

Lucidiom has released a cool-looking new photo kiosk, according to this article at Lets Go Digital. The biggest draw is the 17" LCD touchscreen, which they claim is the largest offered on any photo kiosk. While not directly relevant to this kiosk, I thought this quote was pretty interesting:
"Lucidiom’s APMs are custom designed to help retailers capture digital profits right from the start," said Lucidiom President and CTO Steve Giordano, Jr. "Our sleek Lucidiom APM 1100 features the biggest touchscreen in our series of APM countertop models, providing retailers new options when setting up digital photo caf├ęs in their stores. Our retailer clients on average make enough profits from our Lucidiom APMs that they’ve more than paid for the Lucidiom APM within three months.
Three months is a pretty impressive time until ROI, and if true, probably represents one of the shortest interactive kiosk ROI times that I've heard of.

Friday, December 09, 2005

US Retailers To Invest In Self-Service During 2006

According to AMR Research (via this article at ePaynews), 2006 looks like it will be a good one for the self-service technology set, including those of us who make interactive kiosk software, of course. Here are some of the most interesting bits:

In 2006, US retailers’ technology budgets will increase by 3 per cent as a percentage of company revenues, up from 2.9 per cent in 2005, a new report by AMR Research predicts. Investment in self-checkouts and kiosks is tipped to be important, while hardware will take the biggest share of retail IT dollars in 2006. Before now, most retailers had extended their legacy POS hardware and software platforms, but hardware investments in 2006 will focus on core POS, payment systems and kiosks as retailers seek to reduce their operating and maintenance costs.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents also plan to upgrade their POS software, with a total of 80 per cent reporting that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is driving their IT investments. AMR Research also estimates the 2005 retail applications market at USD 6.6 billion, but projects that by 2009 this total will grow by almost USD 3 billion to USD 9.3 billion. Retailers seeking to invest in new legacy applications and to introduce more scalable, software platforms for in-store networking and multi-channel retail, will drive this expected growth in the retail applications market.

BioPay to be acquired by Pay by Touch

The Washington Post tell us:
BioPay LLC, a Herndon company that sells biometric technology that allows consumers to pay for goods by scanning their fingerprints, agreed to be acquired by San Francisco rival Pay by Touch for $82 million in cash and stock.
...
Pay by Touch will take over all of BioPay's retail customers, as well as its database of consumers and portfolio of patents. The companies say their systems offer speedier checkout lines for consumers and lower transaction fees for retailers, but some privacy-rights advocates have voiced concerns that the firms have amassed huge databanks of personal information.
What will these companies will do with that huge databank of personal information? It's a good question, but aside from having a fingerprint as a personal identifier instead of, say a credit card number, these privacy concerns are no different than ones voiced by people worried about the major credit card holders' control over personal identification information (granted a good bit of federal oversight prevents them from doing anything too nefarious).

Check out the rest of the article and then go talk to the ACLU if you're worried :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Nintendo launches new DS demo kiosk in Japan

Not a whole lot of information to go on right now, but apparently Nintendo is trialing a new form of kiosk in Japan that lets customers trial up to 30 different games for their DS game system, as well as download software trials and updates. Here's the paragraph from GameSpot:

TOKYO--Nintendo has let Japanese DS owners download game demos from special kiosks in the past, but now the company is also reaching out to those who don't yet own a DS.

The company has placed new DS demo kiosks across Japan called "Touch! Try! DS," which lets consumers try out the system and 30 games before making a purchase. Where previous demo stations merely invited DS owners to download free samples of games to their handheld, the new kiosks have actual systems to try out.

The kiosks currently offer demos of 30 games, including Mario Kart DS. A demo of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time will be available starting December 15. The list of participating stores and available games is available at Nintendo's official site.
Read the rest of it and the feedback here.

Are retailers excited about kiosks again?

InternetRetailer is carrying this interesting story about using in-store kiosks to combat Internet shopping. As they note, "Some 50% of U.S. consumers use the web at some point during the purchase, even if it’s only to research a product. Now, customers who are used to the control and level of information they have access to online are bringing those expectations into the store, sparking a return of retailers’ interest in kiosks, according to a new report from Forrester Research, 'The retail kiosk comeback.'"

Particularly interesting was this clip:
[A]ccording to Forrester’s data, 67% of consumers polled believe kiosks would be a great way to get information without talking to a sales associate. The report notes that in-store kiosks can assist sales associates as well by giving them access to information already researched by shoppers they are assisting.
If true, the industry could see a number of new and interesting applications come to the foreground, further augmenting salesperson knowledge while giving retail locations access to a greater breadth and depth of information while providing new product and service opportunities.

Walgreens to RFID-enable their POP displays

Not exactly kiosk news, not exactly digital signage news, but interesting and certainly important for our industry:

Walgreens last week said it will install RFID-enabled technology chain-wide to track the placement and effectiveness of P-O-P displays and materials.

Provided by Goliath Solutions, the system will initially track P-O-P materials from 15 consumer packaged goods manufacturers, said Walgreens, which declined to identify the participants or a timeframe for the rollout. The chain will combine the data from Goliath's system with scanner data to analyze the sales effectiveness of displays in real time. The system also will be used to direct store managers about proper execution, the company said.

Goliath has been used in a number of POPAI studies to gauge the effectiveness of POP, including in one study that feature. The complete article can be found here, at the In-store Marketing Institute.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Consumers give digital content kiosks the thumbs up

According to this article in InformationWeek:
A newly introduced unmanned kiosk that lets consumers burn movies, music, and other media onto CDs is getting huge interest, with three Fortune 500 companies about to test the kiosks and others already rolling them out.

The tremendous success of Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store is breathing life into digital kiosks in retail stores. And not just for video clips and music, but for games, movies, ring tones, and more.

"Digital movies are gaining some momentum, with McDonald's piloting DVD rental kiosks. Cell phone mobile content and DVD-based movie burning are seen as future applications," said Bennett Mason, AIDC senior analyst at Venture Development Corp. "Starbucks has already installed CD-burning kiosks in several locations."

"There is a lot of interest in this emerging application from small and large kiosk suppliers," said Bennett Mason, AIDC senior analyst at Venture Development Corp. "Many consider it a potential "killer app" with strong growth potential."
We've seen interest in burn-your-own kiosks come and go over the years. On the plus side, the access to content can be convenient, and an impulse buy of a DVD full of content can be extremely high-margin. On the down side, the kiosks have traditionally been expensive, complex, and prone to all sorts of physical and software problems. Plus, with broadband penetrating an increasingly large number of American households, one has to wonder if it wouldn't just be easier to download and burn all of that content from home.