Thursday, August 31, 2006

PS3 and Wii demo kiosks?

The Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii are both highly-anticipated products that lend themselves exceptionally well to in-store demonstration kiosks. Both companies have used such devices in the past, and Microsoft released Xbox2 kiosks prior to their product launch to let gamers get a feel for the device and its selection of game titles.

According to this post at Kotaku, it looks like Sony and Nintendo plan to continue the trend, and we may even have a glimpse of what the devices will look like (or we have some very cleverly Photoshopped images, you decide for yourself).

Tags: PS3, playstation, nintendo, wii, kiosks, self-service

Impart tries their hand at kiosks

Normally I immediately disregard press releases that throw around words like "revolutionary," "dramatic," and "empowers," and the fact that this release from Impart has all three should have killed it dead. But it's noteworthy that the digital signage company is starting to provide a kiosk offering as well, which looks remarkably similar to what we've been offering in FireCast OS for the past five years:
IQI(TM) is compatible with simple HTML based website design processes. Combined with the IQ Producer(TM) tool interface, network managers can easily create, schedule, and update small to extremely large and complex deployments of IQI(TM) based systems and content. IQI(TM) also provides complete user analysis reports, tracking the number of touches per day, as well as page views, and uptime. IQI(TM) is plug-n-play compatible with a variety of leading plasma or LCD displays and touch screen manufacturers.
Well, that certainly would have been revolutionary... in 1998. Still, I'm glad that they took the approach of using tried-and-true web technologies instead of making yet another stupid proprietary kiosk application platform.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Voting kiosk company to pay for election problems

According to this article at, touch screen voting kiosk maker Election Systems & Software will be paying the state of Indiana $245,000 to compensate for problems experienced during the May primaries, and will further provide extra hands-on and technical support this fall. In exchange, the state won't pursue formal charges against the company, and it looks like they're willing to continue using the devices in future elections (at least provided that ES&S can get their act together). From the article:
Election officials in the 27 counties that use ES&S vote counters and/or touch-screen voting machines -- including Marion and Johnson counties in Central Indiana -- criticized the company for a lack of support and technical expertise before and during the May election.

Some machines in Johnson and other counties were not set up properly, causing difficulties when it came time to open up the polls and count the ballots, election officials said.

Other jurisdictions said they were forced to miss deadlines because the company was late in delivering the final layout of ballots.
While it would be surprising to see the company correct all of its problems in one fell swoop, at least some portion was due to poor training and incorrect setup, which can be largely remedied with the proposed additional staff, as well as educational aids like instruction videos and better manuals. And while I'm still not convinced that there is a suitable reliable and tamper-proof system out there and ready to be used for e-voting, many states in the union certainly appear to believe otherwise, and have continued to aggressively pursue solutions from multiple vendors.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

DAN SHOW ticket-sales kiosks in Las Vegas

Don't have much to add to this press release, so here's the synopsis:
DAN SHOW(SM) VIP self-serve ticketing kiosks were recently deployed throughout Las Vegas tourist areas, along highways leading to Las Vegas and in areas frequented by locals, such as convenience stores. This self-serve, multi-media, touch-screen ticketing system offers a wide selection of entertainment choices, such as allowing customers to place themselves on nightclub guest lists and buy and print tickets.

Sherbondy is actively leveraging his DAN SHOW(SM) brand, which is based around his self-produced, self-hosted Las Vegas television show THE DAN SHOW: VEGAS. The motto to his show -- "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. NOT ANY MORE!"

With nine kiosks actively selling tickets, Sherbondy has plans for ninety additional locations by the end of the year. Orders through DAN SHOW(SM) VIP are fulfilled through Livewire International, Inc., a leader in interactive technology that specializes in self-service solutions including ticketing, gift cards, e-concierge, and digital signage. The company is the leading self-service ticketing provider to the U.S. ski industry. Its Colorado-based network of kiosks sells over $10M worth of lift tickets annually.
Well, if nothing else, I think this is the first time I've ever heard of a kiosk spinoff of a TV show :)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lifeclinic to demo upgraded health testing kiosk

Lifeclinic, makers of the nearly-ubiquitous blood pressure monitoring stations that you can encounter at nearly every supermarket, pharmacy and big-box retailer around, has announced that it will be showcasing an upgraded version of it self-service kiosk offering at hte upcoming National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Pharmacy & Technology Conference in San Diego.

The new kiosk will offer automated blood pressure, weight, body fat, BMI and blood oxygen tests, and glucose meter upload capability, as well as the ability to save this information to a private area at (in a supposedly HIPAA-compliant way). "Additional peripheral input ports include IR (infrared) and USB for interfacing with various personal health devices. Customers can easily navigate through the LC500’s interface of test options, health information, and a retailer’s product, coupon and discount database, via a 10.4” color LCD touch screen. Pharmacies wanting to enhance their Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program or pharmacist/patient consulting service, can take advantage of the LC500’s Internet readiness for secure, HIPAA-compliant, open source integration into most pharmacy network applications for real-time collection and management of customer data. Customers can also manage their own data from any Web browser via or the retailer’s Web site. Optional features include both a magnetic stripe and barcode reader for retail loyalty card programs."

You can find the full press release here.

Tags: ,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dressing room VoIP phones improve customer satisfaction for Japanese retailer

This is such a simple idea that I'm surprised it hasn't been tried already. As this Storefront Backtalk article notes:
Workers at the $8.5 billion retail Tokyo-based chain [Mitsukoshi] traditionally waited outside dressing rooms, listening for instructions to bring more clothes. In the new experimental system, the workers can stock shelves while waiting for their Voice-over-IP phone to ring and for the customer to ask for something.

But those requests will most likely be quite specific. With most of Mitsukoshi's clothing already RFID-tagged, customers can scan the clothing in to quickly check inventory displayed on the RFID-reader-equipped Cisco phone's 3.38 x 4.5 in. touchscreen display. The display details the same product in various sizes and colors as well as similar products, showing inventory status of all of the choices. A customer selects a preferred item, hits a button and the phone rings with the sales associate, who instantly can see the dressing room that is calling and the particulars of the products desired.
So if, for example, you're trying on a new pair of slacks and want to see how they would go with a differnet shirt or blouse, help is just a phone call away. No more walking around the aisles in your socks, looking for a pair of pants in a slightly different size or color.

The VoIP phones, the article notes, are sophisticated enough to serve as a mini-kiosk, not only providing voice communication with the staff, but also RFID-based lookups on product inventory, pricing, etc.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friendlyway Corporation purchases Big Fish Marketing Group

According to this press release, "friendlyway Corporation (OTCBB: FDWY), a provider of self-service public access kiosks and digital signage networks, today announced the acquisition of Big Fish Marketing Group. friendlyway Corporation will acquire Colorado Springs based Big Fish Marketing in a cash and stock transaction. Big Fish Marketing will become a wholly owned subsidiary of friendlyway Corporation. The acquisition of Big Fish is a strategic move to promote growth in the development of friendlyway's kiosk and digital signage networks while providing network advertising clients a more comprehensive approach to their marketing efforts. Big Fish is a profitable and growing business and will have a positive impact on our future. Big Fish Marketing specializes in creating comprehensive marketing campaigns for its clients, supporting all facets of advertising and marketing development and implementation."

This isn't the first time that a kiosk hardware vendor has tried to take on a larger role in the development of a turn-key kiosk solution, and for the most part the arrangement makes sense to me. It's widely agreed that testing a specific hardware and software combination will lead to a more stable and reliable product, and the addition of software services will give friendlyway both additional revenue streams and stronger ties to their customers. I just hope they know what a pain software consulting can be :)

ARINC Installing 126 Passenger-Service Kiosks at Narita airport

This little new blurb tells us that ARINC, a global transportation communications and systems engineering company, is working with a number of airlines in the Star Alliance program to install universal check-in kiosks, starting with 126 of them in Tokyo's Narita new Terminal 1 South Wing, which serves All Nippon Airways, United Airlines, Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, and other Alliance members.

ARINC says that this is, "the largest single installation of CUSS (common-use self-service) check-in kiosks at any terminal in the Asia-Pacific region... [and ] is also the first installation of ARINC's next generation of its SelfServ CUSS kiosk technology, which uses a flexible new all-Java software platform."

Common use airline ticketing systems seem like a really good idea, since the functionality is virtually identical between airlines. Granted, I do think there's some branding potential that may be lost (and I'm especially thinking of the super-cute Jet Blue kiosks scattered about terminal 5 at JFK), but in this case it would seem that the benefits greatly outweigh the potential costs there.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Convenience Store Decisions thinks the time is right for kiosks, cites unrealistic deployment plans

Now I'm as much of an industry cheerleader as anybody else, but every now and again I'll run across something so blatently wrong that I have to say something. Such is the case with this article from Convenience Store Decisions. Pointing out that kiosk-based transactions have been posting strong gains over the last few years, the article lets loose with this gem:
Generally, the A-to-Z process from concept to actual rollout can happen in less than two months. In addition, a retaler can generally expect to generate paybacks on capitalemployedin two years or less.
Are you kidding me? Most kiosk hardware vendors could hardly get a reasonable quantity of equipment out the door in that time frame, and that's assuming that the customer doesn't want any custom work done.

Things are even worse on the software side. Even with a reasonable number of developers running at full tilt, it's unlikely that a company could develop, QA, user test and deploy any kind of complex kiosk application in that time span.

Throw in a few extra weeks for system testing, packaging, shipping, and installation, and it almost seems like you'd have to send the kiosks out before they were built in order to meet a two month deadline.

So unless your kiosk business model involves off-the-shelf hardware and software that has already been tested for self-service use, and you have an in-house logistics staff (or one that you've worked with extensively before) to handle shipping and receiving, I'd say that a two month start-to-finish is almost certainly an unrealistic deadline.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Major flaws found in Diebold electronic voting kiosks

Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wouldn't trust my vote to a Diebold electronic kiosk. This latest flaw in their self-service technology looks to be the most serious yet, with the potential to compromise every vote cast on the machine after just a few minutes of tinkering. according to this press release from the Open Voting Foundation (which admittedly has had Diebold in their sights for quite some time now):
“This may be the worst security flaw we have seen in touch screen voting machines,” says Open Voting Foundation president, Alan Dechert. Upon examining the inner workings of one of the most popular paperless touch screen voting machines used in public elections in the United States, it has been determined that with the flip of a single switch inside, the machine can behave in a completely different manner compared to the tested and certified version.

The most serious issue is the ability to choose between "EPROM" and "FLASH" boot configurations. Both of these memory sources are present. All of the switches in question (JP2, JP3, JP8, SW2 and SW4) are physically present on the board. It is clear that this system can ship with live boot profiles in two locations, and switching back and forth could change literally everything regarding how the machine works and counts votes. This could be done before or after the so-called "Logic And Accuracy Tests".

A third possible profile could be field-added in minutes and selected in the "external flash" memory location, the interface for which is present on the motherboard.
Now of course, an attacker would have to have physical access to the machines for some period of time, but given the relatively lax security precautions at many municipal voting locations, I don't think we need to stretch our imaginations too far to see that as a possibility.