Wednesday, February 22, 2006

CBS installs 75 kiosks at MGM Grand’s Television City

From the press release on their homepage, SeePoint announces that:
Four years after opening Television City, its groundbreaking television research center and entertainment venue in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand hotel, CBS has added 75 new counter top kiosks designed and manufactured by SeePoint Technology of Redondo Beach, California.

Visitors to the Television City research center participate in individual research sessions by viewing programming right from the kiosk and then reacting to the content by responding to survey questions on the kiosk. The large, vibrant and crystal clear touch LCD screens integrated with the SeePoint kiosks provide an ideal platform for displaying the content-rich television shows, movies and promotions previewed by CBS at Television City. The SeePoint systems also provide robust and responsive multimedia computing for the most dynamic interactive experience.

The market research conducted at Television City provides CBS with a source of continual interaction with and insight into its television viewing audience. By conducting individual research sessions on the large screen kiosks, visitors no longer have to wait for scheduled group sessions, and CBS can conduct more research sessions and interface with more visitors. The individual research sessions also give CBS the advantage of showing a wider array of content that is better geared to the target audience demographic of the particular programming. Additionally, each SeePoint terminal is linked to the Internet, allowing CBS executives to author and revise questionnaires as well as track viewer response from remote locations on a real time basis.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sanity unveils digital music kiosks

Australian retailer Sanity, taking a cue from Virgin, is deploying in-store CD mix-n-burn kiosks to lure tech-savvy consumers interested in building custom playlists. The kiosks will both burn CDs or download directly to your MP3 player, according to this article:
The Fast Track Kiosks will store more than 400,000 songs each. Customers will be able to create their own playlists using the kiosks, with tracks sold at AU$1.69 each or AU$16.99 for an album. The selected songs can then be burned onto a CD (incurring a further AU$2 fee) or be downloaded directly to a Windows-compatible MP3 player via a USB cable. The songs are downloaded in WMA format to MP3 players, meaning iPod users will not be able to connect to the kiosks. Up to 74 minutes of music can be burnt onto each CD.
No support for iPods you say? Instant project death, I say.

FlickStation Media to Launch DVD Kiosk

Solution provider FlickStation Media is preparing to release the (creatively named) FlickStation, a, "revolutionary DVD kiosk from FlickStation Media [that] will make it easier for users to rent, return and repeat," according to this article.

The FlickStation has a capacity of about 1,000 DVDs while retaining a footprint of only nine square feet, which certainly makes it attractive to smaller retailers whose floor space is at a premium. While DVD rental kiosks are certainly nothing new, the interesting part is that they're planning to add a burn-on-demand feature later on. Aside from legal problems (thanks to the impossibly stupid DCMA), there are probably also going to be technical and logistical challenges to solve before that happens. And then, of course, we have to ask: how long will it take to burn a DVD, how much will it cost, and how easy will the machine be to use?

Still, I'd be quite interested to see how this turns out, if for no other reason than morbid curiosity :)

Please put more kiosks at the DMV

So say many people (myself included), and now this report from FedEx. About a year ago, Tennessee's DMV asked FedEx to study the efficiency (or lack therof) of their queue-and-wait system to see where measurable improvements could be made. After a year of analysis (which tells you how badly off they actually are), FedEx has made a number of suggestions, not the least of which is to install self-service kiosks to put more power in the hands of the people. The article notes that:
The report found that at least 50% of business done at driver's license stations can be completed either online or at self-service kiosks in the stations. For instance, only 75,000 of 500,000 annual license renewal requests are done online.
I'd hope that other states follow the lead and automate as much as possible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

GM tests kiosks for trade shows

Craig Keefner posted a great article on GM's use of interactive kiosks for lead collection during trade shows. Ever hate filling out those paper forms for companies so that they can send you their marketing info? Well, the solution that GM came to involves touch screen kiosks and wireless data transfer to streamline that whole process. But as the article notes, there's more to a kiosk program than just strapping a display to a podium:
Susan Walker, GM's CRM Enterprise Data Enablement Manager, mitigated risk [associated with running an untested kiosk environment at her trade shows] by first running a quick pilot test that month, putting kiosks in five dealerships. The promotion was for an end-of-year contest.

"It got us hooked. Consumers were not scared to walk up to them. So, we made a leap of faith to go wireless. We crossed our fingers."

With just three weeks left until the first big autoshow of the new year, Walker and her team, including a kiosk vendor and GM's ad agency (links to both below), scrambled to get the program up and running in time for all events in 2005. The team carefully based their tests and tactics on seven lessons learned by other kiosk users.
Read on for the list of lessons learned. There are some good ones in there :)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What's going on with McDonald's DVD burning kiosk trial?

Much has been written about McDonald's innovative DVD-on-demand kiosk project, most of it positive, which is why I was surprised to find this article at Kiosk Marketplace. According to them,
That vision of [DVD-on-demand kiosk provider] Blaze Net’s future never materialized. McDonald’s ceased the state-side testing in December ‘05 with little explanation.

McDonald’s spokesperson Lisa Howard said Blaze Net received positive feedback from customers but would be put "on the back burner." She reiterated that it was a test market project, like many others that McDonald’s frequently launches and didn’t discount a similar project in the future.

McDonald’s left the exact reasons for Blaze Net’s cancellation up to speculation. Some industry watchers blamed the stoppage on iPod’s widespread popularity and Blaze Net’s inability to download MP3s directly onto one, or to transmit data directly onto another MP3 player or PDA. DTM vice president of marketing Squire Velves said there was no Bluetooth downloading due to security concerns.

Others said a fast food restaurant was the wrong venue for music downloading and photo printing. Jokes about "Would you like fries and a photo print with that?" cropped up on blogs and Web forums.
I doubt that security concerns would have quelled a successful launch unless there was a serious problem with the technological underpinnings that would have made a secure re-work too expensive. Likewise, iPod doesn't yet compete much in the digital space (though iPod video is certainly making people comfortable with downloading and paying for clips, which I would think would help DVD burn kiosks, if anything). So my guess is that the last concern -- venue and placement -- is most likely the correct one.

Kiosk form Source Technologies says 2005 revenue were up

27%, to be exact, at least according to this PR:
Source Technologies, a leading provider of integrated solutions for managing financial transactions and other secure business processes, announced 2005 results which included adding more than 100 new customers; introducing eight products spanning both its payment solutions and self-service business divisions, and establishing industry partnerships with CheckFree, Alogent, and LRS, among others. Driven by these combined accomplishments, Source Technologies increased annual revenues by 27%.

In 2005, the company continued to strengthen its presence in banking and government, while making significant inroads in insurance and telecommunications. New customers included such companies as AAA, Cellular South, Liberty Mutual, New York Life, and Zions Bank.

Unfortunately, it doesn't say whether most of the growth were from their traditional MICR printer business, or from any of their self-service initiatives, including bill pay kiosks and their new instant credit kiosk offering.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

DVDPlay(R) Announces 200% Growth in DVD Movie Rentals for 2005

From this press release:
DVDPlay, Inc., one of the leading North American DVD rental kiosk companies, is quickly changing the method, the place, the pace and the price consumers pay for new release DVD movies. DVDPlay has rented in excess of 4 million movies, with 2005 representing an increase of 200% over 2004. DVDPlay's 200% increase in rental growth is "notable" when compared to the overall DVD rental market, which grew a respectable 14% in 2005 according to the Digital Entertainment Group (Reuters Jan 5, 2006). DVDPlay operates automated movie rental kiosks located in major grocery chains, fast food restaurants and U.S. military bases. Generally DVDPlay new release titles rent from $1.00 to $1.49 per day depending on location.

DVDPlay continues to lead the way in the rapidly emerging self service DVD rental market with its innovative and patent pending technology by providing the world's smallest rental kiosk (5.5 square feet) designed specifically to fit into major grocery chains and most other high traffic retail outlets without taking up valuable shelf space. DVDPlay Kiosks consistently maintain 99.999% reliability.

Ok, if that last part is true, it's reason enough for a press release. 99.999% uptime can be an extremely challenging goal for interactive kiosks in the field, considering that's less than 44 minutes of downtime a month, total. So one printer problem, paper jam, power outage, network failure, mechanical failure or anything else, and your number for the month is blown unless somebody is there to fix it very quickly.

Adoption Kiosks Simplify Pet Searches

Here's anoter instance where self-service technology for retail has been adapted into a form that I never would have thought of :)
PetArk, a developer of innovative technologies that facilitate pet adoptions, has installed touch-screen kiosks in PetSmart stores and animal shelters in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to provide online access to pets available for adoption. A large homeless pet population has always been a concern for area shelters, but the increase in number of strays due to Hurricane Katrina has intensified the problem of finding homes for pets that may otherwise lose their lives. By partnering with PetSmart and PetSmart Charities, Inc., PetArk hopes to give homeless pets a fighting chance.

"PetSmart Charities helps save pets' lives by connecting families to lost and homeless pets using the PetArk technology," said Susana Della Maddalena, Vice President and Executive Director of PetSmart Charities. "The kiosks provide potential adopters with a simple, convenient way to search for a pet. We're thrilled to have the PetArk kiosks installed in our Dallas-area stores and encourage PetSmart customers to use them to find their perfect pet."

"PetArk's kiosk worked well for us," said James and Valerie Proulx of Haslet, Texas, new pet-parents of Buddy, a rescued German Shepherd. "We have small children so we were looking for a full grown dog that was good with kids. We went to PetSmart and used their kiosk to type in our criteria, and found Buddy right away. We're thrilled with our new addition to the family!"

So there you have it. You can read the full article here.

What will Chase's Blink card do for self-service?

Have you seen Chase's new RFID subsitute for credit cards yet? The concept isn't new -- Mobil has been doing essentially the same thing with their SpeedPass system for years now -- but the implications may be:
The new Chase card contains a microchip that speeds card transactions by eliminating the need to "swipe" the card through an electronic reader at the checkout. Also, no signature or PIN is required.

Cardholders enjoy the added convenience and stores sell more products, says the bank-card giant, which has introduced the card in Orlando and six other U.S. markets.

But consumer advocates say the convenience of the Chase "blink" card -- named for the speed with which purchases are processed and approved -- comes at a steep price: greater risk of fraud.
Of course, in the article Chase asserts that the new system is secure and encrypted, but I'm not sure how I feel about a credit card that beams its information wirelessly from place to place, no matter how encrypted it is. Unless a new system can demonstrate increased security and new features to protect me against identity theft, I don't think I'd bother with it.

Kiosks replace counters at bank

Have you been to an updated Washington Mutual bank lately? Interactive kiosks have taken the place of tellers' booths, and free range bankers will help you on an a'la carte fashion. As somebody quite used to the wait-in-line style of banking a'la Wachovia and friends, I have to say that on the surface it certainly looks quite appealing. And during quiet times of the day, when the bank is nearly empty, it works quite well. But try going in at 4PM on a payday, and it's as if all hell has broken loose... at least at some of the banks around my area. But I'm not the only one with questions and concerns about this:
Customers walking into a Washington Mutual bank can expect something different, however. A smattering of computer stalls in a somewhat circular design replace the traditional counters and teller windows....

Now I like distance in life. My failed relationships are proof. So I don't mind the marble counters at most banks. At Washington Mutual, they stand right next to you while they navigate the computer screen, showing your balance and transaction – very European.

Then, a receipt pops out with a code. Walk to one of two designated cash machines, and you can type in the code. Out pops your cash after three quick counts by the machine. I can dig getting my cash quick.

After leaving the bank, I had some questions. What do they do when it's a busy lunch time and people are swarming the room? How do they help everyone out? And why didn't I take some time to play Super Mario Brothers 3 on the GameBoys hooked up to the wall in the children's waiting section?
If you've never read a first-hand account of going to the bank (and I'm guessing you haven't), check out this article. It's actually much more interesting than one would think :)