Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hooters-branded kiosks combine sports betting with good ol' Southern hospitality

Rarely do so many vices come together in the form of a kiosk, but when they do, watch out! ISI Ltd. has deployed sports wagering kiosks to the Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. The establishment, which features 696 "Hooterized Florida-casual rooms" (whatever that means), plans to use the ISI kiosks to offer bettors a, "faster, more convenient method to place sports bets." As their press release notes:

The two orange iSports Stands, which display a photo of Michelle Nunes Miss Hooters International and a blackjack dealer at Hooters Casino Hotel are the first specially designed kiosks in Las Vegas. The iSports Stands are expected to be fully operational in time for the busiest sports book day of the year Super Bowl Sunday.

Hooters is a unique, world-famous brand with a very loyal following, said Bill Stearns, president of ISI. We designed the kiosks to attract curious guests to take a look and try this new technology. Its very simple to place bets, and the kiosk can be open practically 24 hours.

Stearns compares the machines to using the ATM at a bank instead of dealing with the teller.

We believe once legal bettors experience the additional features like receiving special offers from our advertisers, checking weather during events, obtaining advice from a professional sports handicapper, booking show tickets or making golf reservations, they will prefer the kiosks, he said.

ISI co-developed the iSports Stand with AWI Manufacturing, Inc. (AWIM). Acting as a stand-alone sports book, the iSports Stand provides the same services as an in-casino sports book. Also unique is the ability for local and national businesses to advertise on the kiosks video screen, side panels and through on-screen banner ads. This is the first time companies and products outside of the casino can reach guests on the gaming floor.

Tags: kiosks, self-service, betting kiosks, Hooters, ISI

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pay By Touch introduces loyalty kiosks

Pay By Touch, the biometric payment company that let's you charge with your fingerprint, has announced that it's putting all of that personal data it collects to good use by installing loyalty kiosks at some of its supermarket clients' locations.

The system, dubbed SmartShop, provides participating shoppers with relevant discounts and promotions based on purchase history, and is being pitched as the quick and easy alternative to clipping coupons. Here's how it works (courtesy of the press release they put out):

1. When shoppers enter the store, they simply scan their finger at the SmartShop kiosk to get personalized offers based on their purchase history.[2]

2. Shoppers receive an 8 ½ x 11 print out with 12 to 16 customized offers for the products they buy most, and then head into the aisles to shop.

3. Shoppers scan their finger again at check-out to automatically redeem their offers. They do not need to bring the print out; no paper coupons are required.

The first grocer to trial the system was Green Hills Market of Syracuse, New York, who apparently found some value in it:

"The SmartShop service has been extremely popular, and shopper participation is already impacting 50 percent of store revenue," said Gary Hawkins, CEO, Hawkins Strategic and Proprietor of Green Hills Market.[3] "We have seen offer redemption rates exceeding 20 percent. Of the customers enrolled in SmartShop, who also shopped last year during the same period, their shopping visits have increased by 10% per week."

"Most importantly," Hawkins added, "SmartShop is driving a significant increase in revenue in a time of new market competition from big box stores. It has given us the tools to compete more effectively and not only retain customer loyalty, but attract new customers."

We can assume that the overall effect has been positive, since many grocers assume -- and in fact count on the fact -- that only a tiny fraction of printed coupons will be redeemed. But I'm sure that if these kiosks prove to be popular those models would be revised. Typically, though, when customers frequent your store more often and buy more product, there's a way to profit from it, even if you are giving out more discounts in the process.

Tags: Pay By Touch, loyalty kiosks, coupon kiosks, instant coupons

Zoom vending kiosk hacked to give out free ipods

A few months ago we mentioned that a company called Zoom Technologies was rolling out smart vending machines that dispense personal electronics like walkmen and ipods instead of the usual chips, candy or cigarettes. As some predicted at the time, these machines are now becoming the targets of crime, as hackers find a way to bypass the payment systems and have the machines spit out their high-priced items for free. Machine Tricks has the initial information (and some fun discussion) about the "hack," which basically just allows a savvy user to take advantage of Internet Explorer's weak security model to easily get into the host operating system. There are some additional details at Davis Freeberg's Digital Connection, including this insight:

Since most of the Zoom’s kiosks are either inside of a Macy’s location or in an airport, this limits the effectiveness of this hack because there are still security guards that can watch out for this, but this hack could still undermine the usefulness of kiosk technology, if you have to have physical security monitoring the machines. While I’d be surprised to find out that Zoom hasn’t already responded to this threat by making it more difficult to gain access to the file explorer window, this hack still highlights an important issue for kiosk manufactuers to consider when designing their vending solutions.

By removing an actual human from the transaction process vending can save time and money for many businesses, but without the right theft controls, it can also expose retailers to even higher levels of theft. Even with this exploit, I would still be willing to bet that retailers see significant less shrinkage with Zoom kiosks than without them, but for a technology that depends upon removing humans from the transaction process, these sorts of exploits are a significant threat to the kiosk industry.
Since most of the kiosks in use today (apart from traditional vending machines and ATMs) don't actually dispense product, this hasn't been much of an issue. But as more companies look for ways to automate the actual sale of real goods, both physical and electronic security will need to be improved and monitored.

Tags: kiosks, self-service, vending machines

Monday, January 15, 2007

Interbank Peru receives award for self service kiosks

Interbank Peru has won an award from PricewaterhouseCoopers for introducing self-service systems with an intelligent deposit function to better served the large unbanked Peruvian population. Led by Wincor Nixdorf, the project utilized 115 multifunction ATMs hooked into the bank’s IT back-end to provide check depositing and cash and bill payment. The PR notes,
"Few Peruvians have bank accounts of their own. Most people simply make cash transactions at the bank counter. It became necessary to reduce the number of counter transactions – and at the same time the endless queues associated with this personnel-intensive service. And so, in partnership with Wincor Nixdorf, the self-service project was launched. To date, 115 Wincor Nixdorf self-service systems of the ProCash 2100xe type have been installed across Peru at Interbank’s subsidiaries and at off-premise locations.

"This means improved service for the bank’s customers. Cash withdrawals, cash and check deposits, and bill payment are all now handled by ATMs. Two currencies, Peru’s Nuevo Sol and the US dollar, are accepted by the self-service system. Up to 50 bank notes per transaction can be accommodated by the machines. When payment is by check, the amount is posted instantly and a receipt printed out. Bank customers without a bank card need only press a button on the ATM to proceed with their transactions."
I love seeing self-service technology being used to genuinely improve some kind of product or service offering, and that's exactly what we have in this case. What ATMs did for the traditional banked population in the 90s (in terms of speed, efficiency and convenience), bill pay terminals are increasingly doing for the poor and unbanked. While some number of them probably take advantage of these people with high service fees and transaction charges, I think there's a very healthy middle ground where banks and others can improve service, treat customers fairly, and still make money doing it.

Tags: interactive kiosks, billpay kiosks, self-service, Wincor Nixdorf

Friday, January 12, 2007

NCR to introduce competitor to IBM's Anyplace Kiosk

While I can't find any news or information on NCR's website, SelfService.org has a short blurb suggesting that NCR is about to refresh their EasyPoint kiosk line with something that could be a better competitor to IBM's Anyplace Kiosk. Dubbed the EasyPoint Advantage, the unit has "a depth of less than three inches and a weight of 11 pounds," which would make it at least roughly the size of an Anyplace. Hopefully, it will also copy some of the Anyplace's hardware innovations, including a self-contained IR touchscreen, touch-based BIOS controls and integrated presence sensor.

While the Anyplace is a great unit, there certainly have been times when we've encountered customers (certain retailers in particular) who prefer not to use IBM hardware, usually because they're using POS systems supplied by other companies, like NCR. If/when the EasyPoint Advantage becomes available, it could prove to be a great alternative.

Apparently NCR will be formally introducing the Advantage at the National Retail Federation's 96th Annual Convention and Expo, Jan. 14-17, in New York (booth # 1637)

Tags: NCR, EasyPoint, IBM, Anyplace Kiosk, kiosks

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cadbury Schweppes to web-enable 5,000 vending machines

In sort-of kiosk-like news, Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages is web-enabling about 5,000 vending machines that dispense Dr. Pepper, 7 Up, Snapple and other soft drinks in several major cities to accept Internet-based credit card payments, according to Internet Retailer. The technology, supplied by USA Technologies, allows users to pay by cash or magnetic card (credit, debit, etc.), as well as contactless radio-frequency payment devices from major credit card companies, for those brave enough to use that technology right now.

The e-Port system also allows the vending machines to be remotely managed via a web interface, allowing for more accurate and efficient stocking, cash collection and servicing.

Tags: kiosks, vending machines, remote management, e-Port

US Government bars Ciber, Inc. from testing e-voting kiosks

Like many, I'm still a bit suspicious of electronic voting machines, and in particular those which don't require (or allow) the generation of a verifiable paper trail (e.g. a receipt). To help ensure that the voting kiosks are secure, reliable and tamperproof, the federal government contracts with a number of 3rd party companies whose job it is to verify that the machine works as advertised, and that they meet the different security rules and requirements. However, as the New York Times notes, one of these contractors, Ciber, Inc. has just been barred from certifying these devices after officials found that it was not, "following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests." The article notes,

Ciber, the largest tester of the nation’s voting machine software, says it is fixing its problems and expects to gain certification soon.

Experts say the deficiencies of the laboratory suggest that crucial features like the vote-counting software and security against hacking may not have been thoroughly tested on many machines now in use.

“What’s scary is that we’ve been using systems in elections that Ciber had certified, and this calls into question those systems that they tested,” said Aviel D. Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins.

I'd agree that's pretty scary. The rest of the article can be found here.

Tags: voting kiosks, e-voting, self-service

Friday, January 05, 2007

DVD burning kiosks on the way?

According to this story on Yahoo! News, it looks as if some of the major studios have agreed on a technology for letting users download video content to burn to DVD. While the story mostly covers the consumer-oriented aspects of such a deal (namely, the ability to download, burn and play any available movie title), the idea of burning kiosks does get mentioned:

The [kiosks] could hold hundreds of thousands of older films and TV shows for which studios don't see a huge market. Customers could pick a film, TV episode or an entire season's worth of shows and have them transferred to DVD on the spot.

Burning a DVD will take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes using Sonic's technology, the company said....

The initial companies participating in Qflix include Verbatim Corp., which makes blank discs, the movie download service Movielink, video-on-demand provider Akimbo Systems Inc. and the Walgreen Co. chain of drug stores.

Studios must still figure out pricing schemes that appeal to consumers and protect its lucrative retail business. Some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, have talked about starting their own online downloading services or installing kiosks to burn DVDs in the stores.

While it looks like there are still some remaining hurdles to clear, I think this idea has some merit. And the option of DVD-burning kiosks is even better than that of music-burning kiosks, since with Sonic's new technology, a computer user could download the content, but would need a new DVD burner and special DVDs to be able to record, which could make a kiosk a compelling alternative to home burning.

Tags: DVD burning kiosk, CD burning kiosk, product line extension

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Communitek kiosks encourages customer loyalty

According to this brief blurb at the Wise Marketer,
"Communitek has rolled out its Customer Enrollment Kiosk (CEK) to several US retailers including Staples, which now uses the kiosk to enrol customers into its Staples Rewards programme. The kiosk has been updated to include new features in recent months; In addition to enrolling customers into a loyalty programme, registering gift cards, and capturing customer data, the kiosk can now also be used to reward customers with targeted coupon offers in-store. The kiosk's coupon printer can generate instant coupons as incentives to enrol or register a card."
While dozens of companies have provided kiosks with similar functionality in the past, the unique part of Communitek's offering is that they also provide the stored value program that powers the back-end loyalty program as well.

Tags: customer loyalty program, stored value cards, loyalty cards, loyalty kiosks, self-service