Thursday, November 30, 2006

TIO Networks Announces Fourth Quarter and Year end Financial Results for Fiscal 2006

According to this press release:
TIO Networks Corp. (TIO), owner of North America's leading automated bill payment and financial services network, today announced financial results for the fourth Quarter and the year ended July 31, 2006.

Revenue for the fourth quarter was $2,969,553, an increase of $801,126 or 37% over $2,168,427 as recorded in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2005. Transactional revenue increased by $496,648 to $2,343,660, an increase of 27% as compared with the same period last year. Gross profit for the fourth quarter was $1,302,624, an increase of $578,488 over $724,136 as recorded in the same quarter a year ago. Fourth quarter EBITDA(*) (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) was $115,000 compared to ($196,000)(xx) in Q4 2005.
After meandering about for a while and attempting multiple different business models (the company was originally a vendor of Netkey-like kiosk software), TIO Networks looks like they've really settled on a unique and (finally) profitable business model providing financial services kiosks and software primarily for use by unbanked individuals.

Tags: TIO Networks, interactive kiosks, kiosks, self-service

Monday, November 20, 2006

The case for self-service checkout lanes

Parlance tracking site Double-Tongue has flagged a new buzzword from a recent Self-Service world article on self-checkout systems. The culprit: wait-warping, as in:
“We’ve seen the results of studies where people have taken the time to measure how long it takes at a cashier versus how long it takes for a layperson scanning the items in self-checkout, and it takes longer for the layperson,” he said. “But because they’re actively involved, it seems like it takes less time.” This concept is well-known to advocates of in-store digital signage, some of whom refer to it as “wait warping,” the idea that giving the shopper something to do and/or think about gives the illusion that things are moving faster than they are.
I don't actually think that's too bad of a term, though you could certainly explain the phenomenon without having to coin a new phrase. Head over to the Double-Tongue site to leave your thoughts on the word.

Past articles on self-checkout systems include:

Self-service, for better or for worse
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: , ,

MasterCard takes PayPass to 5,000 locations

As Evan at Storefront Backtalk notes, MasterCard is throwing its weight behind its PayPass contactless payment system by deploying it to 5,000 venues (supposedly including many smart vending machines) in major markets. He notes that while MasterCard themselves are making a big deal out of this, many retailers don't seem to be particularly excited by the new technology. Whether that stems from security concerns about different contactless payment methods, a lack of perceived process or cost benefit, or simply a lack of customer demand (or perceived customer benefit), it seems as if the payment card companies are continuing to have a hard time getting traction for these new technologies.

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

National Car Rental to roll out check-in kiosks

National Car Rental has been trialling self check-in kiosks for a while now, and according to this press release they intend to begin a more widespread deployment after completing successful user testing in Dallas, Las Vegas and Jacksonville. Supposedly, the new system cuts check in time by 50% when compared to average counter check in times. By next summer, National expects to have over 70 locations set up,including Orlando, Detroit, Denver and Los Angeles. Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, Dallas, Miami, San Francisco, Atlanta and New York.

This seems like an absolute no-brainer to me, and I'll be excited when I can routinely check in using these systems. Considering how many hours I've probably saved thanks to airport check-in systems (and hotel systems to a much lesser extent), rental car check in kiosks will be a welcome addition to my travel self-service repertoire.

[UPDATE 11/14/2006] Jeremy points out that National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car are the same company, and are both deploying the kiosk solution.

Tags: National Car Rental, check-in kiosks, self-service, touch screen kiosks

Thursday, November 09, 2006

TELeasy Corp. introduces 2-square-foot DVD vending kiosk

AMonline notes:
A new compact DVD vending kiosk has been developed by TELeasy Corp., a Dallas, Texas-area company.

The kiosk takes up less than 2 square feet of floor space. It is modular and it is substantially cheaper than TELeasy's standard Quik Flik kiosk. A company spokesman said, "We wanted to go after the smaller locations like gas-stations where space is limited. Our distributors sell our kiosks to many vending machine operators that simply could not justify our standard Quik Flik DVD vending kiosk. The Mini-Quik Flik costs substantially less than the standard product. With the modular Mini Quik Flik our customers can increase their capacity in stages as their business grows and their customers increase."

The kiosk can be purchased to hold a minimum of 75 DVDs to a maximum of 300 DVDs. Upgrading the kiosk's capacity is just a matter of adding more carousels without changing the amount of floor space that the kiosk occupies.
While the 75 DVD max is much less than that offered by competitors like RedBox, the system is obviously designed to appeal to businesses with small amounts of floor space to dedicate to such a device.

Past articles on DVD kiosks include:
Tags: DVD kiosks, DVD burning, movie rental kiosks, self-service, product line extension

Monday, November 06, 2006

HBO E-voting documentary available online

Per my previous posting about the debate between HBO and Diebold over HBO's "Hacking Democracy" documentary on problems with electronic voting kiosks, HBO has put the entire thing online via google video:

(If the video doesn't show up in your RSS viewer, click here)

Tags: electronic voting, e-voting, voting kiosks, HBO, Diebold, hacking democracy

Another kiosk scam?

Craig at gokis caught an article about another possible kiosk scam, this time with DVD kiosks. The operation, based in Florida (why do they always seem to be based in Florida?), is accused of bilking investors out of $19M that was supposed to be invested in DVD kiosks placed in high-traffic venues. The article notes:
The company’s modus operandi was to advertise on infomercials, local newspapers and franchise industry publications. They sold the concept to consumers by promising them that they could work at home and the machines would generate $7,500 a month in income. If someone called in, they would overnight a sales presentation to them and would follow up in a day or two with a high pitched sale to close the deal.

When customers asked for references, they were given contact information of other sales people who were in on the scam. One rep testified that he would be paid an extra $200 for posing as a satified customer, while another BOE sales rep bragged that he had spent over $30,000 on voice distortion and satellite phones, so that it would be more difficult to track him down. In total there were 16 employees at the company, but from the legal filings it sounds like only 8 individuals may have been charged.

Once a fish was hooked, they would invite them to their office in Hollywood Florida where they would sign franchise paperwork and get the victim to wire money. The scam itself went on for about a year from 2004 - 2005 until the FTC shut down the business in their sting. In reading some of the first hand accounts on the RipOff Report, it’s heartbreaking to hear how much people lost and how important these savings were to them. While I certainly don’t blame consumers for falling for this scam, it is important to remember, for anyone considering investing in this industry, to know that it’s a high risk / high reward business and one that you shouldn’t bet the family farm on, regardless of the possibilities.
Sounds remarkably similar to a scam from a few years ago where pay-per-use Internet kiosks were advertised on late-night TV infomercials. The operators of that particular racket were guaranteeing a 12% rate of return for an initial investment that would supposedly pay for the deployment of one or more internet kiosks to public venues.

Tags: DVD kiosk, kiosk scam, consumer fraud, self-service, DVD rental kiosks

Adobe looks at interactive technology in public places

AllOfUs’s kiosk for the William Blake and John Flaxman exhibitionIt seems like the the artsy, one-off interactive kiosks and pavilions always get the coolest technology and the most media attention. Maybe it's because they're so expensive and they can't hope for solid ROI. Maybe it's because the tech they use is often still new and unproven. Or maybe it's because dragging my fingers across an illuminated sheet of glass or ringing a virtual bell doesn't translate well into a practical approach for using self-service technologies.

Whatever it is, pop culture writer Jennifer Kabat has written an interesting piece at Adobe Design Center about some of the more unique, experiential interactive projects out there right now. As she notes, "the best interactive exhibits are open-ended. They encourage visitors to be active participants in the experience rather than passive consumers of information. They take their visitors’ views seriously and break down the hierarchy of institutions. So now, 30 years after Derrida and Foucault challenged notions of who controls texts and history, these issues are trickling down to the museum through tools like iPods. Which are just what you’ll be using soon to take the various self-guided architecture tours at the Hancock Shaker Village."

Typically invoking Foucault or Derrida to talk about interactive museum exhibits would bury the needle on my BS-o-meter, but Kabat makes the excellent point: museum goers (and the average consumer) demand more from an experience these days, so once conservative groups (even the Shakers!) are turning to technology to boost the appeal of their presentations and encourage deeper learning than is possible with static displays and presentations.

Even if you don't believe (or understand) all that, you should check out her article for the cool interactive terminals she came across in her travels.

Tags: museum kiosks, interactive displays, retail experience

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Diebold demands that HBO cancel documentary on electronic voting machines

Because we're somehow a week away from Election Day 2006 and this issue still hasn't been resolved, HBO is planning to air a special on electronic voting machines, and how they can be hacked nine ways to Sunday to change votes, modify voter history, miscount votes, lose information, and so on. Since Diebold has been one of the biggest offenders in the electronic voting industry, the show features some of their devices, which obviously makes Diebold somewhat unhappy.

According to this article at, Diebold has asked HBO to not air the program, claiming that "Hacking Democracy" (the program's name) is "replete with material examples of inaccurate reporting."

Two things strike me as odd about this: first, HBO's documentaries, while typically based on the truth, aren't necessarily held to the same journalistic standards as CNN, or any of the major networks's news programs (and we can make all the jokes we want about journalistic integrity in general), nor does HBO ever claim that they should be. This causes problems when they present material as fact and voters use this "information" to make informed conclusions. Second, despite that, Diebold is in the news a lot, and when it comes to electronic voting, the news is not usually good. Just take a look at some of the times in the past when I've complained about them, and you'll start to see that maybe HBO is doing their show for a reason:

Will Diebold voting kiosks ever work correctly?
Major flaws found in Diebold electronic voting kiosks
More Diebold voting kiosk news
Miami-Dade loses touchscreen voting information
Voting Kiosks and Super Tuesday

Tags: kiosks, electronic voting, e-voting, voting machines, Diebold, self-service

Self-service, for better or for worse

As Craig at Self-Service Kiosk Information noted, the WSJ did an article on self-service technologies, and their impact (positive and negative) on consumers. It notes that:
Over the past few years, companies have plowed billions of dollars into automated customer-service systems, from call centers to Web sites to self-checkout lines in stores and hotels. When they work properly, they can simplify a host of chores. But tiny problems can sometimes throw these systems for a loop -- leaving customers feeling cut off and frustrated.

The solution, say customer-service experts, is the human touch. Too often, companies abandon service workers altogether, or dramatically reduce their role, when installing automated systems. Companies must ensure that employees monitor and regularly update the technology to weed out glitches, keep the systems running smoothly and gauge customer satisfaction, the experts warn. Otherwise, frustrated customers may take their business elsewhere.
Most of the examples cited were telephone services that used touch-tone or voice recognition input. However, the article also reserves a section for self-service checkout and other related technologies.

Retailers and others should consider self-service tools in addition to, and not instead of, their traditional methods for satisfying the customer. What we've seen time and time again are failed projects and customer complaints over self-service systems that were installed to lower costs without any regard for customer use. The most successful kiosk projects (in my mind, at least), always seek to improve the customer experience by offering some additional service or some new way of taking advantage of an existing service.

Related articles include:
Related to self-service? Well, that's pretty much this whole blog :) Take a look at any of the articles in the past six months:
Tags: self-service, self-checkout, instant credit kiosks, kiosks, retail media, retail marketing, advertising

Instant Credit Kiosks boost credit card applications, usage and sales

Kiosk Marketplace is running a story about retail credit kiosks. While WireSpring was asked to add some information about our instant credit kiosk solution and customer success stories, we unfortunately missed the deadline by a few minutes. Here's what I would have added to the article from our end:

WireSpring works with a number of hard- and soft-goods retailers to provide instant credit services. The system itself is quite simple: we place touchscreen kiosks at strategic locations on the sales floor. Shoppers use the kiosks to enter their credit and contact info (such as name, address, and phone number), which is then sent to the issuing bank via a secure Internet connection. The bank determines creditworthiness in a matter of seconds, and instantly returns an account number and credit limit for those who are approved. The kiosk can then print a temporary paper card or permanent plastic card for immediate, same-day use.

In WireSpring's experience, credit kiosks work best in situations where the products are fairly high-margin and have a big decision factor that can be swayed by having additional credit resources. In these cases, our customers have seen an average ticket increase of 10-25%, and 7-10% increase in portion of customers using store credit, leading to a very strong ROI for the instant credit initiative (typically 100-150% net after expenses).

Employee training is extremely important for driving traffic to the kiosks. Also, one interesting caveat is that in many cases the retailer will actually see their approval rate decrease, as more people (and in particular more sub-prime candidates) will apply at the kiosk, because it's much less intimidating than giving personal information to a store clerk. However, the net amount of credit provided increases, and those who have more money to spend (in the form of store credit), will often "trade up" to a more expensive product or add other (typically high-margin) accessories to their purchases than they would have otherwise.

Past articles about instant credit kiosks include:
Instant credit kiosk makes its debut
Kiosk form Source Technologies says 2005 revenue were up

Tags: instant credit kiosks, retail kiosks, retail marketing, advertising, finance kiosks, store credit, private label credit