Sunday, October 29, 2006

Voting kiosks: a public opinion

Foxtrot takes a look at the current public debate surrounding voting kiosks:

Find the original comic strip at:

Friday, October 27, 2006

RedBox deploys remote management software for their DVD kiosk network

Considering the size and scope of the business that DVD rental kiosk firm RedBox had planned since its inception, it's amazing that they managed to deploy 150 kiosks before ever realizing that they'd need a remote management platform, but according to this press release, that's exactly what happened.

Now in their defense, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding their business model at first (renting DVDs at McDonald's and other fast food places for $1/night), so their initial efforts were probably more aligned towards proving the model than working on remote management tools, but given the plethora of software options out there, it still seems amazing that they could have placed so many units before it became apparent that remote control would be useful.

The company eventually selected Kaseya's Enterprise mangement software, "which costs about $1,000 to start, [and] uses a combination of server software hosted on servers at redbox's data center and distributed agents on each managed kiosk. Kaseya provides software updates and support for its software to redbox, which the customer received by connecting to Kaseya's data center. There is also a server-based application that allows redbox IT staff to perform Web-based management and administration tasks on all the kiosks."

Past articles on Redbox include:
Redbox DVD kiosks are now installed and operating in 27 Smith's locations
McDonald's DVD kiosks drive sales
McDonalds expands use of DVD kiosks
DVD kiosks coming to a grocer near you
More on McDonald's in-store DVD rental kiosks

Tags: RedBox, Kaseya, kiosks, DVD rental kiosks, interactive kiosks

Playable Play Station 3 kiosks launched in Japan

According to gaming site Kotaku, Sony is rolling out plasma screen laden kiosks to show off the benefits of the soon-to-be-released PS3 machines. Called PLAYSTATION TV, this new version of the kiosok, "has demos, game videos, a photo slideshow and music. Players can select what they desire by toggling through the PS3's Cross Media Bar. Trial games include Devil May Cry 4, Power Smash 3, Gran Turismo HD and Ridge Racer 7. Sony plans to put 1,000 of these kiosks around Japan by the year's end"

Here's the original posting that also contains a rendered illustration.

Tags: PS3, Playstation 3, kiosk, interactive kiosk, demo kiosk, playable demo

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bookseller uses item-level RFID and kiosks to lower costs, boost sales

RetailWire has a nice discussion of item-level RFID tagging being used by Selexyz, the largest bookseller in the Netherlands. In an effort to reduce costs and improve inventory management, the retailer is rolling out RFID technology to track every item in every store. The stores will also deploy kiosks to track items in the store and help customers locate specific books. As the article notes:

Kiosks have been designed for the retailer that track books by section and shelf location as well as the ability to order. Customers using the kiosk have increased their purchases by 50 percent compared to what they were buying prior to the technology tool being placed in stores.

Selexyz' RFID system allows the retailer to track books on an individual basis from the point where a sku leaves the distribution center to the point it is purchased. The system can even identify when a book has been placed in the wrong section of the store.

According to the bookstore chain, it has achieved an almost 100 percent accuracy rate. Errors have resulted when tags were placed in the wrong area on an item or because they fell off.

I can't imagine that a 50% increase is really sustainable (there must be some novelty factor involved), but then again, I know that I've personally gone into Barnes & Noble, looked for a book, asked for help, was continually unable to find what I was looking for, and left empty handed (usually to go home and buy what I was looking for at Amazon). The retailer says they plan to add additional features to the kiosk later, but for now the focus is entirely on the RFID systems.

I also blogged briefly on Using RFID to improve the customer experience over at In-Store & Retail Media News.

Tags: RFID, kiosks, in-store media, merchandising, self-service, product locator

Young grocery shoppers look for technology in store

IGD just completed an interesting survey of young shoppers (teenagers, specifically), and their preferences for human interaction during the shopping process. As this article from the Wise Marketer notes, it seems that for the younger generation, they want to see tomorrow's world today:
[M]ore than half (59%) of the consumers surveyed (13-19 year-olds) said they want little or no staff involvement in their shopping experience. Of this group, 66% would like to self-scan their purchases rather than wait in line to pay a checkout assistant. However, of those who still want human interaction, 57% want staff to pack their bags for them.

But, despite a strong acceptance of self-scanning, 40% still want human interaction while shopping - but they want staff to be deployed differently. The research found that, of those opting for continued staff involvement, improved customer service is required:

  • 45% of teenagers want staff to take shopping to their cars;
  • 41% want staff to get products they have forgotten while they are in line at the cash register
The most frequently cited reason for wanting self-service checkout solutions was, not surprisingly, speed. Still, the need for information plays a strong role as well. 26% of respondants said they'd be interested in "smart" shopping carts, and 22% wanted to see information kiosks placed throughout the store.

Past articles on self-checkout systems include:

Storefront Backtalk: Reports differ on self-checkout value
Self-checkout impacting impulse purchases?
Consumers expected to spend $475 Billion at self-service kiosks
Thieves steal using Tesco self-checkout systems
Self-service picking up in the UK

Tags: self-service, self-checkout, retail kiosks, kiosks

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nokia shows off using interactive furniture

I'm not sure if this one should get chalked up as a kiosk project or a digital signage project, since there are definitely interactive elements, but the device looks more like a digital sign. Regardless, AdAge is running a story on what they say is the, "world's first interactive street-furniture installation," a project advertising the Nokia N-90 phone. As the article notes:
[T]he moment it detects a pedestrian it springs into life. The monolith-like installation first swivels either right or left to ensure that the creative message is directly in front of the consumer. It then snaps a photograph of the person and displays it on a screen.
What would be really clever is if the device could somehow interact with the user's current cellphone -- perhaps by sending an SMS or a Bluetooth message -- but there's no word on what the display actually does, aside from follow you around.

Unrelated (though from the same article), we now have a new front-runner for dumbest advertising-related statement: "The technology inside mobile phones is now so complex that it deserves an advertising medium that reflects that processing power." Yes, AdAge, that's it. What people have been crying out for is a way to better harness the power of their cellphones so they can be advertised to.

Tags: Nokia, interactive furniture, kiosk, digital signage, airport signage, airport advertising

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Impart to power digital media networks for Microsoft

Hot on the heels of their announcement to change business models, Impart also claims to be working with Microsoft on their interactive retail displays for the Zune media player and Windows Vista OS. From the release: "[t]he merchandising system employs an LCD touch screen and is based on the Microsoft XP Embedded(TM) platform -- delivering a rich media experience to the consumer -- at the point-of-sale. The robust system was designed to be mass scalable and allows for future expansion, including networking."

So it looks like the first incarnation of this system won't be networked, but there's certainly room for that upgrade later on. Considering how much flexibility and improved availability remote monitoring and content management provides, I'd expect to see this come in sooner rather than later, provided of course that the systems actually provide some benefit in-store.

Tags: Microsoft, Impart, Zune, merchandising, retail media, kiosks

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Storefront Backtalk: Reports differ on self-checkout value

Evan at Storefront Backtalk speculates that an upcoming report from IHL Consulting Group will somewhat contradict another report from Aberdeen Group about the efficacy of self-service checkout systems. As his blog notes, "the reports on their own do not directlty contradict each other, in that the IHL report simply says a lot of retailers will move to self-checkout and the Aberdeen report doesn't dispute the intended purchases, but merely the wisdom of it." Still, it seems pretty clear that we have a case where differently-defined goals and metrics have lead to different conclusions, even though I'd be willing to bet that their test methodology and data are fairly similar.

In any event, the writeup is quite good, so you should go here to read about it.

Tags: Self-checkout, kiosks, retail kiosks, IHL self-checkout study, Aberdeen self-checkout study

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Walgreens to trial DVD rental kiosks

Redbox, the DVD rental kiosk company, has scored a trial with Walgreens, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune. The trial, which began in September is currently running in 38 stores in the Chicago and Houston metro areas, and carries the same $1/night fee as the Redbox machines that have been deployed to various McDonald's restaurants. Just as in the past, the kiosk serves a dual-purpose of both making revenue from rentals and also giving people a reason to return to the same retail locations multiple times in a row:
"The whole concept is to get the purchase intent in the way of the consumer so they almost trip over it," said Paul Schlossberg, president of D/FW Consulting, a Goshen, N.Y.-based firm that specializes in the food and vending industries. "If you walk into McDonald's and you can rent a movie for a buck a night, that means you're going to come back."
I've seen more and more DVD rental stations (both Redbox and other-branded) in my own shopping excursions recently, so it certainly seems like the industry is making some positive gains (either that, or a lot of people are going to lose money on it). The ultimate solution, of course, would be to make all of the machines compatible, so I can rent a movie from a Redbox kiosk at a McDonald's but then return it to somebody else's kiosk at another location.

Past articles about Redbox:

Redbox signs Smith's Food & Drug
McDonald's DVD kiosks drive sales
McDonalds expands use of DVD kiosks

Tags: Wallgreens, DVD rental kiosk, DVD kiosk, Redbox

Pitney Bowes and NCR partner to deliver self-service shipping kiosk

Taking a page from the USPS's self-service mailing kiosks, NCR and Pitney Bowes are working together to produce a resellable kiosk for businesses wanting to implement self-service shipping. From the press release:
The self-shipping kiosk – which combines the self-service experience of NCR with the mailstream expertise of Pitney Bowes – will be marketed globally to postal authorities, retailers, package delivery and express transportation firms and other businesses....

With the self-shipping kiosk, consumers can readily complete shipping and mailing activities such as weighing packages or envelopes, selecting the class of service desired and printing postage or shipping labels.

Because the kiosk prints “on demand” variable denomination secure stamps, it helps eliminate the costly printing, distribution, accounting and ultimately destruction of unused stamps. The technology also helps ensure that dispensed postage is secure and trackable, assuring postal revenues.
This is a pretty cool application, and I could certainly see retailers picking them up to help harried customers find and ship that last-minute Christmas present or belated birthday gift.

Tags: NCR, Pitney Bowes, shipping kiosk, self-service shipping, kiosk

Will Diebold voting kiosks ever work correctly?

I don't think so, and the latest round of news about the self-service voting devices doesn't improve the outlook any. First comes this story on ArsTechnica about Diebold's latest plan to fix the touchscreen machines: tell people not to touch them. That's right, touching the touchscreens is the cause of all those nasty problems according to Diebold, and to "fix" them for the upcoming Maryland elections, they're preparing to retrofit all 5,000 of them with keyboards and mice (though they acknowledged that there might be a software fix in the works). This is after a mock election demonstrated that the machines were woefully incapable of handling basic voting tasks.

But wait, it get's better. As Techdirt notes (from a story on Avi Rubin's blog), apparently there has been at least one case where a Diebold kiosk hasn't recorded any votes, "despite the fact that fifty-five people were logged voting at that machine. There was no warning or error message on the machine that would have, you know, let anyone know that the machine shouldn't be used or their votes wouldn't be recorded. While in the end, they were able to recover the votes by looking at the additional on-board memory (not the memory card) on the machine, Rubin points out all of the problems with this method, including the fact that they're reliant on Diebold to recover these votes and provide an accurate tally."

Past links to Diebold articles:
Major flaws found in Diebold electronic voting kiosks
Diebold introduces self-service coin counting solution
Diebold Reports First Quarter Financial Results

Tags: Diebold, voting kiosks, interactive kiosks, self-service voting, voting terminals

Monday, October 09, 2006

Drake Circus to add ScreenFX kiosks and signage

According to DDRMag, "ScreenFX has been contracted to design, install and manage five InfoPods [at the Drake Circus shopping center in Plymouth, UK] to become focal points of communication with visitors."

The article notes:
InfoPods are free-standing information points providing a mall directory, news and centre information service whilst also delivering a platform for brand advertising. ScreenFX, created a bespoke design for the InfoPods at Drake Circus for architect Chapman Taylor to fully integrate the system into the retail environment.

Positioned at key points on the malls, each InfoPod incorporates two 63in plasma screens mounted overhead and back to back, which will show live action advertising for local and national advertisers. Two 17in interactive touchscreens, at waist height will provide shoppers with a wayfinder directory to stores in the Centre. These touchscreens can also be 'bought into' by tenant retailers and advertisers to mount dynamic and highly engaging interactive promotions. The architects have also specified a fibreoptic network to service the network when it is installed.
ScreenFX and Avanti Screenmedia both have a hybrid business model where they own and operate networks (in different capacities given the deal), and also provide software and services like management, content production and the like.

Tags: ScreenFX, digital signage, mall kiosks, digital advertising

Friday, October 06, 2006

Embassy Suites implements self-service check-in kiosks

According to this little article at the Times Online, Embassy Suites will be installing self-service kiosks at all of its 182 hotels in the UK. The kiosks can apparently be used to not only check in/out of the hotel, but also to, "check in on any of 18 US airlines, select a seat and receive a boarding pass."

Thieves steal using Tesco self-checkout systems

A number of news outlets have been reporting on an interesting scam going on at UK Tesco stores due to the way their self-checkout systems work. In general, it seems that self-checkout has gotten a fair deal of positive press, and despite some potential conflicts (e.g. reducing impulse purchases), most people like them and tend to use them when available. According to this article from the BBC, though, there's a problem: thieves have discovered that they can use stolen creditcards in the machines with a much higher success rate than via traditional tellers and POS machines. A blurb from their story:
Tesco self-service tills suffer from an apparent "security loophole" making it easy for fraudsters to steal cash, consumer group Which? has said.

Tesco operates the check-outs at 320 stores, allowing shoppers to scan goods and pay with a debit or credit card.

But the tills do not take chip-and-pin card technology and Which? says this allows thieves to use stolen cards.

In response, Tesco said fraud levels at the tills were low and chip-and-pin technology would be in place soon.
Tesco notes that they will begin adding chip-and-PIN technology to their self-checkout lanes soon, which should significantly curtail the problem.

More sightings of touch-enabled store windows

Also at the Retail Experience blog is this article about more touch-enabled store windows (like the Polo store in NYC). While billed more as "retail theater" than a way of actually conducting off-hours transactions or anything like that, the tech certainly is noticeable and has a sufficient gimmick factor to stop many people in their tracks.

The Automat makes a comeback

For those of you who have never experienced an Automat, it's basically a system comprising one part self-service kiosk and one part short order cook(s), and the result is fast, fresh affordable food for the masses. While (sadly) all of the Automats that I've known of have since gone the way of the dodo and the Pet Rock, a company called Bamn is bringing them back to NYC, according to this Retail Experience blog post.

By automating the sales process through a glorified vending machine interface, the Automat allows cooks to focus on cooking and keeping the kitchen clean, and little else. Users simply step up to the machine, insert come money, select an item or two, and the food is dispensed from a compartment. As empty compartments rotate to the back of the machine, the cooks in the kitchen simply refill them with more fresh food.