Category Archives: Opinion

Opinion –

Kiosk Industry is the news engine for the Kiosk Manufacturer Association or KMA which is a global, cause-based, not-for-profit organization focused on better self-service for customers and employees through kiosks and information technology (IT). Kiosk Industry Association leads efforts to optimize self-service engagements and engagement outcomes using information technology such as kiosks.

The Kiosk Industry Group acts as the professional news and marketing website for the kiosk and self-service industry. We are funded by those companies for the benefit of developers, resources and client companies interested in self-service, kiosks, thin or internet terminals and POS systems. News about the industry and by the industry that is relevant to companies looking to utilize self-service, and companies which assist in doing just that (hardware, software and application).

QSR Market Update Self-Service – Unattended Kiosks

Market updateEditor Note:  We do interviews with magazines (recently for NRN) and in those we express what we call “ad hoc” opinions based on what we have seen and heard.

For sure, QSR orders for self-service kiosks have declined in certain segments. Drive-Thru has been steady through all of this. But orders from your usual fast-casual companies serving that market and others of the world have dropped off substantially. Most places don’t allow people to come indoors so a kiosk doesn’t make sense.

There is a lot of talk that tells us there is serious pent up demand though. We think we’ll see an explosion of various kiosks as people start to re-open and look for a way to keep their costs in check.

Dealing with a machine or a phone has become primary as opposed to dealing with a person across all the verticals since the pandemic has started (healthcare for example and patient check-in).

For numbers?  

My estimate is currently 40% but that number is headed down. More like 30% for the year expected as restaurants have had to really cut expenses. The decline of self-order machines’ order has stayed steady compared to other outlays. Drive-thru even more so.

When the pandemic struck (late March/early April) for comparison things came to a complete stop.

Since then we have seen people like Sonic and Taco Bell redesign their new restaurants to accommodate more mobile and drive up and pickup as opposed to in-store dining which is still problematic.

What About Point-Of-Sale?

It’s worth looking at Point-Of-Sale (POS) opportunities as well.  In the SLED and Federal markets we see historically over $6B worth of opportunities, 6000 opportunities and an average value of 4M per opportunity.  Right now we see 261 active opportunities.  For contracts, add another $5B over 2000 contracts (1400 active).

Referenced QSR News Items

Taco Bell


Curbside Pickup at El Pollo Loco

Couchcard Circle K trialing autonomous checkout (C-Stores)

Other QSR News for September

QSR chain raises third-party delivery prices by 20%.
White Castle (1).jpg

Temperature Kiosk Commentary

Opinion – the state of temperature kiosks and the wide range of specs and solutions and claims that exist in the marketplace.

As government and corporate America develop post-COVID-19 action plans for responsibly reopening the country, some businesses are scrambling to keep up with the demand for thermal cameras, which many believe can help identify novel coronavirus cases via elevated temperature detection.

We see many RFPs from governmental agencies for temperature and thermal sensing devices.  Federal such FEMA and the Veterans Administration among them.

There are also several pitfalls and challenges with this technology when it comes to detecting somebody with an elevated body temperature. Things that can affect the accuracy of the measurement are:

  • Makeup
  • Physiological Stress
  • Sweating
  • Insufficient Camera Resolution
  • Measuring the wrong location on the face
  • Not using a reference black body for calibration
  • Using the wrong camera
  • Subject motion

Some observations:

  • The fact that the key measurement is temperature would seem to imply that the manufacturer has a superior device or at least a documented device. Does your supplier describe the sensor for you, or do they provide specifications?
  • Some solutions utilizing non-FDA-approved devices in the cause of health condition check have been withdrawn due to potential liability issues the device manufacturer might be subjected to.
  • Does the camera support a black body calibration?
  • Cameras have a NETD factor which is basically the noise floor it will factor and then read the signal. Almost like squelch discrimminators in RF radios. Being able to filter noise out from the measurement is crucial. What is the factor and spec?
  • ADA and height can be a factor — Some solutions provide AI which automatically detects the face and focuses. Others will not.
  • Reflected light impacts the measurement. In junior high I entered the Science Fair and for my project I demonstrated Albedo.  A black man or a hispanic or a white person can all measure differently.
  • Are you reading body temperature or facial temperature.

In conclusion, the most important questions to ask a potential supplier are:

  • What is the spatial resolution?
  • How long has your solution/camera been on the market?
  • Has your solution been used successfully during the SARS outbreak?
  • What is the ideal distance to subject during screening?
  • Does your camera have a 510k approval?
  • How many pixels?

Temperature Sensor Device Examples

  • Industrial infrared temperature sensors are inexpensive and used everywhere in home and industrial. Your microwave for example.  They read surface temperature if aimed properly and clean and calibrated (all sensors require cleaning and calibration)
    • The Heimann sensor is the first we encountered. The HPTA32x32 (64 pixel) “thermopile array”.
    • Melexis makes several models (all TO-39)
    • Mitsubishi, Elo and many others make these.
    • They have been adapted for reading temperatures of foreheads basically and are at the low end of the accuracy scale.
    • None of these are FDA approved or submitted.
  • Thermal Imaging Cameras
    • These are a whole magnitude higher weight-class.  Several of them are specifically designed for reading elevated body temperature.
    • FLIR is the manufacturer most used.  They have several which certified by FDA and others submitted.
    • Another option is ICI though there are some questions on FDA 510 (we cannot locate them) as well as some components used.

Post COVID Business Restructure – Opinion

The following is an editorial comment by Kiosk Industry editors on the modified current outlook for self-service in the post-COVID-19 world of customers and employees.

Self-Service (and Touchscreens) Set for Accelerated Growth

We spent an hour with Philadelphia Inquirer this morning.  The same one it turns out who wrote up the cash versus cashless policies set up in Philadelphia (and apparently mostly at the insistence of ATM lobby industry, kudos to ATMIA on that).
“I’m working on a story about the future of touchscreens in a post-pandemic world.”
Our main response points were:
  1. self-service interaction is going to jump even higher as person-to-person declines. It’s simple math.
  2. Privacy issues with credentialing and biometrics will rise in visibility. No more hotel mag card keys but a facial recognition camera built into the new door lock for example.  AntiTheft AI engines (recent Walmart screwup e.g. with its Digital Eye on checkouts scanning for theft – link)
  3. The majority of the “purchasing populace” has a very short attention span. Example might be the premature opening of states here in US with nine of those states now faced with big spikes – link to Washington Post
  4. Quarantine fatigue or “Screw it, I’ll do it” is getting closer and close to emerging.  Example premature opening of states….
  5. Majority of your multi-generational customers (teens and younger) have no fear and less confirmed bias (like old white guys like me…)
  6. In post-COVID — Retail and Hospitality and Transportation/etc must “reformat” their business platforms. They will invest in Technology, not people.

We also had a nice conversation with Brian Whitney of Appetize yesterday and got a rundown on current and future strategies of cloud-based POS provider such as Appetize. We highly recommend his webinar on Restaurants Rise last week which covered “How to enable touch-free guest experience for restaurants“.

The point we took away is that all of the avenues and techniques for customer interaction which are NOT primarily person-to-person are going to be increasing, dramatically.

Nice article on NRN with Panera Bread and Fish City Grill on how marketing is changing in the post-COVID-19 world. Article link

Making it transparent to the consumer —

“Up until now, no one wanted to know what was happening behind the curtain,” Greene-Wallace said. “Our team members were good about washing our hands, but now we put in a dining room timer that goes off every 20 minutes and everyone stops what they’re doing to wash their hands. Customers can see what’s happening live.”

Main KI Contact Form
This is xxxxx with the Philadelphia Inquirer. I’m working on a story about the future of touchscreens in a post-pandemic world. As you know, kiosks have been widely adopted at stores, banks, and airports because of their convenience and efficiency, but I suspect the high-touch surfaces will make some consumers leery, possibly forcing businesses to make changes. I’m reaching out to see if you or someone else from the kiosk manufacturing industry can talk to me today. I’m curious how your industry is handling this both in the short and long term. Is there a low-tech fix, such as nearby wipes for consumers to use? Or could bigger changes be on the way, perhaps voice or contactless technology? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. I’m speaking to banks, stores, and airports about the consumer-facing end of this, but I’d really like to get the manufacturing perspective too. Thanks, xxxxx
Related Links

Opinion – The Self Service Surge

The self-service surge:
step forward OEMs

Zebra April 2020 – The coronavirus is having a devastating financial impact across the globe. However, for OEMs building kiosks there may be a ray of light; through providing communities and companies with kiosk facilities to allow people to make transactions without any human contact.

While many businesses are suffering financially during the coronavirus outbreak, the self-service kiosk industry is experiencing a surge in demand.

Kiosk technology on the rise

Self-service kiosk technology has been on the rise for years, across fast food restaurants, in cinemas and entertainment venues, in banks and across retail stores. A MarketsandMarkets report claims that the global interactive kiosk market could be worth $30.53 billion by 2023, up from $20.37 billion in 2016. It’s a huge growth opportunity for OEMs in the coming years – even more so in times like these when faced with a global pandemic; face-to-face transactions are far less popular, and the way we all make purchases is likely to have changed, forever.

It has been widely reported that many consumers have altered the way they shop due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, with more than two-thirds of consumers now using self-checkout, touchless self-checkout or frictionless micro-markets to pay for groceries .

So, while many businesses are suffering financially during the coronavirus outbreak, the self-service kiosk industry is experiencing a surge in demand. Applications are widespread: from supporting those with Personal Protective Equipment supplies to keep coronavirus at bay, to assisting customers who simply prefer to make purchases or pay their bills without any form of human contact.

Kiosks for protection

One example of the introduction of self-service kiosks in response to coronavirus can be found in Warsaw and Krakow in Poland. New vending machines have sprung up to enable people to buy personal protective equipment, such as face masks, gloves and sanitisers so they can comply with a new law requiring them to cover their nose and mouth in public places. Hundreds more of these machines could be installed in the coming weeks. Vending machines in Hong Kong are also providing free masks across 18 districts, according to a report.

Kiosks for paying bills

The Alabama Power Company in the US now provides self-service kiosks to help people pay their utility bills in cash at a time that suits them. In fact, bill payment kiosks are being introduced across the US – providing people with a way to pay their bills without having to use the internet or interact with another human being. Payments are processed automatically – just as if they would be in the Post Office or at a bank – yet without human contact and available 24/7.

87% of shoppers say they would prefer to use touchless or robust self-checkout options.

Touchless kiosks

We’re all now far more aware of the bacteria or viruses that may be present on anything we touch, particularly when we are making purchases (87% of shoppers say they would prefer to use touchless or robust self-checkout options ). Even before coronavirus, when we carried out banking activities using a kiosk, or when we checked our bags in at the airport, many of us were all too conscious of how many people had touched the device before us. This is why touchless kiosks are seeing an increase in popularity and providing a new revenue stream for OEMs. Touchless is also of great relevance in healthcare where touching any medical equipment must be kept to an absolute minimum.

Keeping it clean

Any type of device in use in the workplace will now need to be kept cleaner than ever before. The way we perceive shared workplace devices or technologies used by the public en-masse has shifted and we must all provide reassurances to users that devices are regularly disinfected and kept as clean as possible.

Seize new opportunities

In any time of financial crisis, there will be businesses that cannot survive, yet for some, a crisis brings about new opportunities. The coronavirus is having an undisputed and devastating economic effect across the globe. However, for OEMs building kiosks there may be a ray of light; through providing communities and companies with kiosk facilities to allow people to make purchases without any human contact or transmission risk.

Outside of retail, there are opportunities for OEMs to create touchless kiosk technologies for healthcare, helping to keep environments sterile. The same goes for airport bag check-in facilities. There’s now really no need to touch the technology if it’s not necessary.

OEMs must seize the opportunities presented and meet this new and heightened demand for kiosks, which is surely here to stay. Step forward OEMs, we’re on the cusp of a brand new self-service surge. Our industry-specific application briefs can help you find out more if you’re just starting out in this sector.

If you are an OEM and you are keen to make the most of the rapidly changing kiosk marketplace, talk to the team at Zebra Technologies about our range of scan engines – and our expertise – helping you get your product to market faster and more cost effectively.

Find out more

See how we lighten your workload and help take your kiosk business to the next level.

Our whitepaper:

Best Practices for Infection Prevention has been written by a nationally recognised expert in infection control. While this paper was written for the healthcare industry, the recommendations provide a solid foundation for companies in all industries to
protect the health of staff and customers.

Visit Zebra OEM page for more information

Zebra OEM Brochure

Background link references

Fast Food Kiosks Creating Jobs and Increasing Revenues – Counterpoint

fast food kiosks Fast Food Kiosks killing jobs? Current events beg the question, but the facts say otherwise

Reprinted with permission Dec. 12, 2016 | by Elliot Maras

We at the Kiosk Industry Association have seen the news media running controversial headlines and opinion pieces by CEOs and ex-CEOs decrying the minimum wage increase and attributing loss of jobs to self-order.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Here is a very nice piece from Fast Casual and Elliot Maras providing an accurate counterpoint. Thanks Elliot! — Editor

President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Andrew Pudzer as Secretary of Labor has helped push the “kiosk as restaurant job killer” theme into the nation’s consciousness. Pudzer, CEO of CKE Restaurants, is an advocate of automation.

The high-profile Pudzer nomination directs attention on automation as restaurant chains continue to introduce self-order kiosks to improve customer service. It comes on the heels of the “Fight for $15” wage campaign, which is placing unprecedented pressure on restaurants, particularly limited-service concepts.

Late last month, Ed Rensi, a former president and CEO of McDonald’s USA, penned a column in Forbes reminding readers that businesses in 2013 warned that the labor-union-led “Fight for $15” would force companies to replace full-serve employees with self-service alternatives.

Rensi’s main point was that businesses cannot absorb the higher wages that labor unions are advocating. But for people less familiar with the restaurant industry, the controversy over the $15 wage has muddled the full story about why foodservice chains are introducing self-service kiosks and what impact kiosks really have on restaurant labor.

Shortly after stories broke claiming McDonald’s was planning to roll out self-order kiosks in all of its 14,000 U.S. stores, The Gateway Pundit, a political website, carried the following headline: “Congrats Minimum Wage Protesters! McDonald’s Unveils Job-Replacing Self-Service Kiosks Nationwide.”

Both the restaurant industry and the kiosk industry now find themselves forced to defend their actions, which in reality are not killing jobs.

Kioskmarketplace in May reported that many restaurant chains were deploying kiosks before the $15-minimum wage push had gained steam. The Digital Screenmedia Association in 2011 reported that 21 percent of all QSRs were planning to introduce self-ordering kiosks. Also, in 2011, McDonald’s installed 840 kiosks across Europe with the goal of improving customer service.

Robotics researchers, restaurant executives, industrial engineers, consultants and economists have all said automation in the restaurant and fast-food sectors is not as simple as installing automatic tellers in banks or employing robots to assemble cars, according to Reuters.

Several chains are using kiosks and other technology that allow orders to be placed more rapidly and efficiently. Such efficiencies are serving to reallocate labor from the front to the back of the restaurant and in some cases, add jobs.

Labor moves to the back of the house

During McDonald’s shareholders meeting in May, company CEO Steve Easterbrook was asked if he expected to see kiosks taking the place of workers and causing people to lose their jobs. “It may change the nature of the jobs in the restaurant, because frankly technology is something that our customers are embracing,” Easterbrook said. “We can just reapportion that labor into more service orientated roles that we think the customer will benefit both ways.”

According to Panera Bread’s 2015 second quarter earnings call report, digital utilization efforts reduced order input labor but increased labor hours. Panera’s new business model, introduced in 2014, includes fast lane kiosks for dining in and ordering to go. Under this model, called Panera 2.0, the company actually added labor hours to meet the demand driven by multiple points of digital access and to ensure the ability to serve with greater accuracy in an environment where about 70 percent of orders are customized.

“This extra labor is necessary to drive a better guest experience consistent with operating clarity,” the earnings report said.

CEO Ron Shaich indicated as early as October 2014 that same-store sales from 2.0 stores outpaced traditional cafes, according to With 5 percent of all company sales placed through web, mobile or kiosk, Shaich said he was encouraged by the potential for the 2.0 model.

Saladworks, a fresh salad franchise chain that is also revamping its stores, does not expect labor hours to decline as it installs self-serve kiosks, according to Pat Sugrue, president and CEO.

“We didn’t do this for labor purposes; we did it for throughput and also capacity,” said Sugrue. “We’re going to have more people making salads. From an hours perspective, hours should go up, not go down.”

Sugrue pointed out that the kiosks could impact labor costs in a positive way for the company that is not synonymous with fewer hours worked.

Self-order kiosks change labor metrics

“If the sales go up faster than the net hours, then our labor as a percentage of sales will come down,” Sugrue said. “I think we’re going to add hours, but we should be able to increase throughput, and therefore, sales, and our labor percentage could come down.”

The objective of the kiosk is recognizing that how you want to be served and how I want to be served can be very different, Sugrue said.

“Increasingly, millennials and millennial-minded people don’t necessarily need that interaction with someone. For those who order off the kiosk, that will shorten the queue for those who don’t order off the kiosk, and it will provide better service to either group,” he said.

Fast Food Kiosks long-term impact not known

This is not to say that some jobs won’t be eliminated in some situations. The long-term ramifications of self-order kiosks are hard to determine, given the newness of self-order restaurant kiosks. Transitioning to kiosks will require companies to continue serving those customers who still want personal service.

“During slower times, brands still need the appropriate number of counter staff because the kiosk is a customer service option, not a requirement,” said Jodi Meryl Wallace, chief marketing officer at Acrelec America, a provider of customer experience technology. The company’s European operation has been involved in numerous restaurant kiosk deployments. “There’s also the need for front-of-house team members to assist customers who are new to using the kiosks,” Wallace said. “Because of kiosks, brands have begun to offer table service delivery of orders so staff is redirected to that task as well.

Because kiosks increase the speed at which orders are taken, brands have found that there’s an increased need for back-of-house/kitchen staff during peak periods when kiosks are used, Wallace said.

“Kiosks grow revenue by increasing throughput and by providing consumers with ‘order privacy’ which results in customers adding more side items, beverages and desserts, and more frequent upsizing of menu items,” she said.

Meeting customer needs

Ultimately, restaurants must meet expectations of all their customers, and 64 percent of millennials prefer self-service, according to an MHI Global report.

“Add to that kiosks can present a menu in multiple languages…and they’re fun to use,” Wallace said. “In France, 90 percent of consumers will use the kiosk option when it’s available. “Brands have reported that the average check size at the kiosk is 30 percent higher than at the counter.”

Reducing restaurant labor has a little bit to do with it, but it’s not the driving force, said Tom Radtke, vice president of sales at Keyser Retail Solutions, a retail technology integrator.

“You’re going to continue to have that kid at the counter,” he said. “There’s a group of people who won’t go to the kiosk.”

Radtke agrees with those who predict self-order kiosks will improve restaurant sales.

“The kiosk can lead you through the process and do suggestive selling, and that kiosk does it better than a 13-year old crew kid,” said Radtke. “Typically that (kiosk) order is a higher ring than it is at the counter.”

Another factor is that consumers today, especially millennials, are more appreciative of businesses that use technology. Hence, there is a customer perception factor involved.

Is a groundswell underway?

The controversy won’t be going away soon. If McDonald’s deploys kiosks nationally, it marks one of the country’s most significant restaurant kiosk developments.

Given how long limited-service chains have been testing kiosks, one can’t assume that McDonald’s action — regardless of what’s motivating it — signals a groundswell movement, however.

“If your customer doesn’t embrace it, you’ve got a huge expenditure for something that doesn’t have much of a payback,” said Radtke. “How do you incorporate another layer of ordering, transaction processing into the inside of the restaurant?”

He noted that it took a long time for bank customers to embrace ATMs.

Some observers do think a groundswell is in the making, however.

“The QSRs are starting to understand the ROI on this,” said Charles Lewis, director of business development at Elite Manufacturing, a kiosk hardware manufacturer.

The speed and order accuracy that kiosks deliver are creating higher profit margins, Lewis said.

Opinion – Digital Is Experience, Not Technology

Digital experiences shouldn’t be about technology, they need to be about the experience itself

Acquired Digital Neil Farr
Click to visit Neil’s LinkedIn profile

By Neil Farr, Managing Director, Acquire Digital –  and the article is republished with permission from Kiosk Solutions Magazine

It’s hard to believe but when I started my working life in 1991 for an A/V company, it was ground-breaking that we moved from a bank of slide projectors to having a single computer and a projector to show presentations.

For a meeting with a client, we had to use printed maps to get there, and had to stop to ask directions or to find a telephone box to call the client to say we were lost and may be late. Videos were grainy, and VHS tape and even broadcast quality video had problems. But back then, everyone thought it was an amazing time to be alive with all of this technology available.

Later, we started using the presentations in retail stores on big old TVs, using slow 14.4Kbps dial up modems to show in-store TV that we could update remotely (albeit slowly). And then, we realised we could also use the same technology with a touchscreen on the front of the monitor in a box to provide loyalty schemes, or targeted coupon delivery and endless aisles.

Everything then changed – a thing called the World Wide Web appeared, and people could see reams of text and occasionally singing, dancing hamsters appear on their computer screens – so long bulletin boards.

People then realised that we needed a faster way to get the dancing hamsters to our screens, and the speed of the internet went up – faster and faster.

Consoles appeared, and people who didn’t sit at computer desks put them under their televisions in the lounge where the whole family discovered entertainment could be more than simply watching VHS tapes, and could actually be interactive. This led to needing faster and better Internet connections as people were demanding better multimedia and videos and didn’t like reading reams of text on the web.

Head first into digital

interactive digital Technology continued on a pace with a new solutions and features making most industries play catch-up, or trying to have a newer and better features themselves. The thing was, the public’s appetite for
this new digital age and what could be delivered could never be sated.

Then a company who had been making one of the most popular devices capable of not needing to stop at phone boxes to ask directions – Nokia – announced to the world that the Internet was now truly mobile too with their WAP-capable 7110 phone. But when people realised WAP wasn’t quite as good as their home computer at accessing well, pretty much anything. But they still liked the idea of having a handheld device that removed the need to carry around a diary, notepad, music player, games console and more. They tried device after device known as a PDA which promised to do all this. Shortly after, a company called Apple released a miniature computer, with a touchscreen that did anything you could possibly think of, including accessing the Internet wirelessly, and didn’t need a ‘geek’ to make it work, so people bought it.

In turn, Internet Service Providers made the internet faster, and able to store more information, and now also had to make it accessible wirelessly. The people who had something to put on the web could now put more videos and graphics and information there, and now the public could access that when they wanted to. All this meant that the Website owners had to contend with visitors with a shorter and shorter attention span. Also, now there was a cool place where you could keep videos, as well as ways that people could share social experiences, and links to those videos, too.

With the dancing Hamsters’ now ignored as a wealth of videos showing skiing ostriches, skilful ball trick shots and other seemingly home-created videos, using those now much more advanced mobile phones to film them, have filled the shared social media channels. People realised that the videos could be shared around like a common cold and become Viral.

With all of that technology and media and data, it wasn’t long before the owners of ‘real’ environments got worried – would people still visit their stores when they could access websites instead? So, in their bricks and mortar world, they installed screens with videos that played adverts and occasionally provided computers with Internet access so customers could still get their online appetite sated – the plan was typically to get the customer to just check out the web version of the shop they were in.

Technology has continued to advance where it’s almost impossible to keep up with the latest developments, as well as know what will be adopted, and what will become an unused quirk of technology only remembered in Wiki articles by occasional researchers in the future.

Predicting patterns in usage

Realising this, other people started getting the computers to track what people are doing in more detail and called it ‘big data’. They even built supercomputers and together with programs that adapt their own rules to learn, they use them to help with looking for trends and patterns in how people int eract with the various forms of technology.

By making technology to ensure people are tracked in the ‘real’ world, this meant that those people can try out something and almost instantly measure the reaction. The results of this can then be used along with our natural inquisitiveness to become more engaged with one thing over the millions of others they could engage with.

In the digital age, advancements in the technology as demonstrated at trade shows every year, tend to drive the Zeitgeist – go on, use the smartphone you probably own to look up what that word means – and then realise that by doing so, you have contributed to it.

Making life easier

While writing this article I intentionally chose to use generic words like ‘people’ when I could to make it appropriate for different vertical markets. The writing style and the content itself was carefully chosen. So I can now make some assumptions about the type of person you are, and how much I can sway your opinions to ones that I think are beneficial to us both.

Do you, reading this article, consider the paper or the screen technology you are viewing it on? Or the Internet that made it possible for me to write it and send it to the publisher?

The fact is that in 1991 when none of this was around and no one other than one man had considered what the Internet could be used for, yet now over 3.2 billion people are connected to it – over 50% of the world’s population – didn’t happen because of the technology. It happened because of what people do with technology. And the success will be measured by the experience of what they interact with – what the experience was like, does it make their lives easier, does it save them (precious) time? Does it become an experience they expect in future, or simply one they can live without?

Throughout the world, people like you and me are working hard to build a solution that will be a success and become part of modern life for people. We can’t control whether it will be a success or  forgotten, but by thinking of the people who will interact with it and what they experience, it’s at least more likely to be a success.

Self-Checkout Kiosk by Francie Mendelsohn

Self-Checkout Kiosks – a Look at Two

Editors Note : Article for Kiosk Industry by Francie Mendelsohn of Summit Research Associates.  Francie is highly respected industry consultant with many years of experience and we are pleased to publish a new article by her. Thanks to Richard Slawsky for serving as editor.

When Summit Research Associates began testing kiosks more than 20 years ago, many of the usability issues we encountered were attributable to the hardware available at the time. Kiosks allowing customers to create their own greeting cards, for example, depended upon pen-plotters to complete the task! (Affordable color laser printers had not yet been invented.) No wonder people got tired of waiting for their custom designs to be completed only to be exasperated by the quality of the finished card because the ink colors ran out unevenly.

Click for full size

Today, many of those deterrents are long gone. The power of the microprocessors running the kiosks have increased exponentially, the Internet is robust and reliable, people are no longer intimidated by keyboards and—because of the widespread use of smartphones and tablets—touchscreens are second nature to almost everyone.

Self-checkout kiosks have been a long-established segment of the kiosk industry. First deployed at grocery stores, they are now a common sight at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Not all installations have been successful, though. IKEA pulled their units from all US-based stores several years ago because of constant failures, especially in the use of the hand-held scanner. This peripheral is a requirement when checking out the huge boxes containing many of the install-it-yourself products at the home furnishings chain. The tethered scanner was used to read the bar code but it was very fussy; customers either held the device too close to the bar code or too far away. The result: the item was not scanned successfully.

As a result, it was common to observe frustrated customers loading everything back into their shopping cart and finding another kiosk to use. The instructions on the touchscreen never provided even a hint as to where to place the scanner for successful “reading.”

In addition, IKEA did not give customers any choice; you either had to use the kiosks or walk away empty-handed. All the checkout lines consisted of a kiosk, with none staffed by a human being. They also had few store employees nearby to help confused customers complete their purchase.

Unfortunately, a number of kiosks deployed today continue to disappoint and frustrate users. What may look like hardware issues are actually software deficiencies. In this article we will look at two Self-Checkout kiosk deployments, illustrating one that is highly successful and one that is anything but. Because we have long seen that would-be kiosk providers and users will remember the failures far more often than the successes, we will devote the bulk of the discussion to that less-than-successful deployment.

Johns Hopkins University self-checkout vending kiosk.

Bistro Self-Order
Bistro self-order – click for full size image

The Rockville, Md., campus of Johns Hopkins University consists of three buildings and shares space and parking with the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute. A snack bar providing food such as hot and cold sandwiches, soups and beverages, chips, candy bars and other desserts was in operation for many years, but because much of the traffic flow was dependent upon the school schedule, it increasingly became a money-losing proposition and closed for good in Spring 2017.

Students and faculty were not pleased by this turn of events, complained frequently and resulted in management finally providing a solution.

Bistro self-checkout kiosk
Click for full size

In October, Baltimore-based Black Tie Services installed a series of refrigerated units and shelving in an alcove just off the communal dining area in the main building (Gilchrist Hall) to provide much of the food previously available at the snack bar. Called Bistro to Go!, it allows people to select (mostly) snack food and beverages and pay at the kiosk located near the middle of the space.   Black Tie Services is part of Accent Food Services, a national organization that primarily deploys “Micro Markets” and sells hot beverages.

The food and beverages are attractively displayed but there are no prices shown. Accent offers an App, USConnectMe™ at many of their locations that allows customers to pay for their purchases, earn points and add value with a special enrolled card similar to the popular Starbucks card. This is indicated by a square red button near the lower right corner of the touchscreen.

The developers expect customers to scan the products they are buying to determine the price. The entire success (and failure) of the kiosk depends on that scanner. Unfortunately, until customers “get the hang of it,” the scanner either does not recognize the UPC or it scans the same item repeatedly. There are no helpful hints on the large touchscreen showing customers how close they need to be to allow the scanner to read the bar code. The scenario is very similar to what prompted IKEA to remove its kiosks. Because of these scanner issues, it is common to see people waiting in line to pay for their food during busy periods.

checkout screen
Click for full size Checkout

There is a closed-circuit camera that (hopefully) keeps customers honest. Still, the struggle customers experience trying to get the scanner to recognize the items they are purchasing is likely to promote dishonesty–unless other people are waiting to pay and offer to help.

customer instructions
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The kiosk sports a large (approximately 11×16-inch) vertically-mounted touchscreen. Yet it does not include How-To instructions. Instead, the developers have placed a rugged plastic sign on the counter listing all the instructions. This is foolish. What if someone were to (deliberately or inadvertently) remove the sign? Then customers would have no idea how to proceed Furthermore, the sign is too low to the ground, making it difficult to read for anyone not in a wheelchair.

Most people will try (repeatedly) to pay for the food they have selected. They will scan their food, which then appears on the screen as a running total, just as a grocery store kiosk works. A very loud voice informs the purchaser (and everyone else nearby) the items that are being purchased. They are then asked to “Select a pay method.” This is unnecessary because the only payment method is via credit card

The customer is shown an illustration of how to insert their credit card. Now look at the photo of the credit card reader itself. Is it any wonder that people are confused?  There is an icon on the reader itself but it is low to the ground and black-on-black is hard to read.

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That aforementioned red USConnectMe button is also the cause of much customer frustration at this location. It doesn’t work but people touch it anyway. (In fairness to the customer: how do they know it doesn’t work?) Instead, a screenful of information about loading value on to the card appears which serves to further confuse students. And it dramatically adds to the time it takes for a student to complete his transaction; it is not at all easy to return to the previous screen. I personally witnessed longer (than usual) lines to pay when someone touched this button. The designers should adhere to our long-held rule: if a button is not relevant, REMOVE IT!

Click for full size CC

Finally, the customer is asked if he/she would like a receipt with large square buttons indicating Yes (green button) or No (red button). When I used the kiosk, I selected Yes, but never received the receipt. There was no way of knowing if the printer was out of paper or was simply malfunctioning.

Receipt – click for full size

Because of the many deficiencies listed, the kiosk leaves the user with an unpleasant taste (no pun intended) but if a student is hungry and has no alternative, they will put up with it and keep on trying until they are successful.

These micro-markets have the potential to resolve several problems in food services. None of the current usability issues are deal-breakers. Some common-sense software modifications should be made and will go a long way towards ensuring a successful deployment. Once the units are fine-tuned and made more user-friendly, they will achieve the desired results.

Harris-Teeter Self-Checkout Kiosks

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The self-checkout kiosks at Harris-Teeter supermarkets generally work well and shoppers frequently wait in line to use them, even when manned checkout lines are lacking any customers. The 245-store chain is a subsidiary of Kroger and has been making significant inroads in the Greater Washington, D.C. area. Even though there are no signs alerting shoppers to their presence, people enjoy the convenience and generally acceptable functionality of the devices and happily wait their turn to use one. The store features six units, with two banks of three facing each other. A full-time employee is stationed in front of one bank of units.  

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These types of kiosks will be familiar to anyone who has visited a grocery store over the past few years. They are fast, quite easy to use and do not require much in the way of instructions. The software interface is mostly self-explanatory. The scanner works exceptionally well and is infinitely more reliable than the small unit found on Bistro to Go!

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The only problem? Sometimes the prices are incorrect, sale prices have not been updated into the system, and keying in the 4-digit code for produce can sometimes result in errors.   These problems are almost always quickly resolved, thanks to the proximity of the store employee.

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Payments are made at a separate unit located a few inches from the touchscreen and the well-designed images show how to scan or insert a credit card or pay with cash. The units are outfitted with several expensive peripherals, including the high quality/super-sensitive Toledo-Mettler scales embedded in the bagging area.

The importance of using high-end components can’t be stressed enough. These types of kiosks receive a tremendous amount of use and shoddy peripherals will result in inoperable units which quickly leads to unhappy customers. Whole Foods tried self-checkout units a few years ago but they failed so frequently that frustrated customers avoided them and the project was cancelled. It remains to be seen whether new owner Amazon will try deploying them again.

History has shown that the kiosk costs are more than offset by the number of employees the retailer no longer has to employ. Furthermore, customers love them and are convinced that the process is faster than if they had used a human checker. That is not true, but to quote an adage: perception is reality.

The past few years have shown just how popular self-checkout kiosks can be. Just make sure that they work consistently and do not cause customer unhappiness or frustration. Harris-Teeter has the winning formula. Bistro to Go! at Johns Hopkins could enjoy the same results with some fairly easy modifications.

About the Author


T-Minus Forty! – ATM Armageddon and EMV

ATM EMV and Compliance


75% of ATMs not converted to EMV before deadline


Why? Well, some call it the “curse of the POS terminal,” where nearly two years after the 2015 POS liability shift, fewer than 50% of merchants have upgraded their POS terminals to EMV. For a number of reasons, many of these procrastinators have yet to be burned by chargebacks.

From Triton ATMatom with permission.

by: Daryl Cornell –Less than a month before the VISAATM liability shift deadline, you would think we would be in the midst of a frantic, last-ditch effort to upgrade or replace all remaining non-EMV ATMs. Well, you would be wrong. Instead, we hear crickets. To be clear, we are talking about another 75% of all ATM transactions which will be at risk for fraud chargebacks in less than a month (MasterCard’s 25% share of ATM transactions has been at risk for nearly a year). So why the lethargy here? Is “ATM-ageddon” real or just more fake news? Here are the latest estimates on the ground, along with some likely outcomes later this year:

Banks and IADs have largely completed their ATM EMV upgrades. While there are exceptions at the local level, banks are for the most part ready for the final ATM EMV liability shift on October 1. Of the roughly 125,000 bank ATMs in the U.S., estimates are that over 110,000 will be EMV ready this October. The remaining non-EMV ATMs are owned by banks which tend to be smaller and who don’t view themselves as fraud targets. In addition to banks, it looks like more than 75% of IAD-owned ATMs will be EMV ready by October. This equates to roughly 135,000 EMV-capable ATMs out of a total estimated IAD population of 175,000. The remaining 40,000 or so IAD ATMs will present more of a challenge. Some are not upgradeable. Many are in low-transaction or low-margin sites which may be culled. While contracts may call for merchants to bear the expense of EMV upgrade, these provisions have proven difficult to enforce. Hard decisions will need to be made by IADs on these non-EMV ATMs regarding risk assumption, upgrade in conjunction with contract renewal or outright removal. The jury is still out on the level of retail ATM contraction we will see here.

Merchant-owned ATMs are NOT EMV ready. It is the estimated 200,000 merchant-owned ATMs which are the real wild card in the looming liability shift deadline. Currently, fewer than 20% of these ATMs are estimated to be EMV capable. That leaves some 160,000 merchant-owned, non-EMV ATMs exposed to both fraud and chargebacks in little mor than a month. Why? Well, some call it the “curse of the POS terminal,” where nearly two years after the 2015 POS liability shift, fewer than 50% of merchants have upgraded their POS terminals to EMV. For a number of reasons, many of these procrastinators have yet to be burned by chargebacks. These merchants argue that it makes perfect sense to take a “wait and see approach” before upgrading or replacing ATM hardware. Plus, the gas deadline, originally scheduled for this year, has now been extended to 2020. And there’s always a chance for a last minute ATM reprieve, right? Perhaps, however we are talking about cash, combined with persistent, sophisticated criminals and mag stripe fraud totaling $ billions annually. Whether these non-EMV ATMs will be turned off or whether IADs, sponsor banks and processors allow merchants to play “liability shift Russian roulette” will ultimately determine the number of merchant ATMs still operating after October.

ATM contraction is still a likely outcome. Clearly the stakes are high when it comes to liability shift on non-EMV ATMs. Mag stripe ATMs will probably still total over 200,000 at the onset of the VISA liability shift. Unlike POS, retail ATMs and their cash are high-value targets for fraudsters. Will VISA and the other networks blink and continue to absorb fraud losses at non-EMV ATMs? Will IADs be able to rely on contract provisions to protect them from those chargebacks which do flow? Is the liability shift risk worth the reward at these generally low transaction sites? While the answers to all of these questions will determine the degree of contraction, it would appear that there will be far fewer retail ATMs in operation in the U.S. by early 2018 – as many as 40% fewer.

Finally, given the 60-90 days it takes chargebacks to wind their way through the system, we could see a fair amount of coal in merchant stockings this Christmas Season.

Does ROI Matter? Napkins, Excel & the Spruce Goose

Does ROI Matter?

Back in 2007 when Netkey was Netkey (but used to be

Customer ROI
Customer ROI

Lexitech…) Alex Richardson of Selling Machine Partners gave a talk on ROI.

Alex has been around as long as anyone and has gotten to have this conversation with hundreds of clients, each one another variation and difference from the other.

And in today’s world technology has assumed an even more prominent influence in drivers, sometimes a project being done for the sake of technology…

Alex reminds us that it is the consumer needs that matter,

Here is the talk…

Much More to ROI Than Dollars

“The best ROI calculators can be computed on the back of a napkin versus the use of complicated Excel programs.”

That was an opinion espoused by Alex Richardson, founder and executive vice president of business development for Netkey, during his speech, “Does ROI matter?” at The Kiosk Show in Long Beach, Calif., last week.

Richardson continued, “Don’t believe the companies that say they offer 20 to 100 times the return on investment. That means nothing.” He said he much prefers the philosophy of Ken Harris, CIO of retail outlet The Gap, who has said he only needs to see a doubled return on investment on projects within one to two years and wants projects implemented in under 90 days.

Richardson’s point was that the traditional measure of ROI: cost reduction plus revenue increase divided by total cost of ownership, is a good start in calculating ROI, but it’s not the final determinant.

“That traditional view of ROI ignores the quality of technology available, the impact of loyalty, the support of the implementation,” he said.

Richardson told the crowd of some 50 technology buyers that they need to make their kiosk projects a customer showcase, not a technology showcase. He said that technology is a feature of a successful kiosk project, but not the main driver. The main driver is usefulness to customers.

He offered the example of Howard Hughes’ infamous Spruce Goose, which, coincidentally, sits in the harbor in Long Beach. The airplane is stunning in its features, including a cockpit instrument panel, but the craft couldn’t get more than 50 feet above the water in its test run.

Questions that potential kiosk deployers need to ask about a project include: Does the kiosk capture my customers’ preferences? Does it leverage other customer channels, including employees? Does it offer continuous customer feedback? Does it treat employees like customers, too?

He said focus groups are important tools for judging the happiness of customers and employees with a kiosk. Employees’ happiness is a critical consideration, he said, because their attitudes and willingness can make or break a deployment.

Model markets

Richardson cited successful kiosk deployers Borders Books, CompUSA/AOL, Fleet Bank and BMW as examples of companies that look beyond dollar signs in calculating return on investment. He asked the audience to yell out ROI measures for each. In the case of Borders Title Sleuth kiosks, for instance, people offered the following as measurements of success:

  • Decrease in store labor
  • Increased length of time customers spend in store
  • Number of books ordered
  • Sales volume
  • Information capture on the types of books customers like
  • Repeat business
  • “Line busting,” or decreased wait times
  • Increased margins on books that are special orders
  • Ability of employees to flip toggle switch and go to HR applications

Asked by an audience member which industries have good potential for ROI, Richardson cited the gaming, foodservice and automotive industries. “Any time you are automating a repetitive task, like airline check-ins, there is potential,” he said.

Difficult measurements

Richardson said in the speech that it can be hard to pinpoint the different aspects of return on investment.

“The vendor and client have to agree on the elements. Everyone has to be crystal clear on the applications and what they are trying to accomplish. There may be one or two things the client thinks the customer needs. But does the customer realize that he needs it?”


Kiosk Industry Opinion – What about healthcare?

This is Craig Keefner and I think it is fair to say I’ve had (and are currently on) a fairly interesting career path.  But looking back at it critically, the one big takeaway for me has been the people I have gotten to work for (good and bad),  what “stuff” I got to learn, and what I got to learn from them.

Currently I work for Sandy Nix of CTS. Sandy began with Frank Mayer originally “way back” and after going out and starting her own business she has developed a very strong offering in

Sandy Nix Craig Keefner
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the healthcare space for patient check-in.  Hospitals like Johns Hopkins are clients.  I came to work for Sandy partly because I was ready to do something different (at age 56) and while I had always poked and pulled at the healthcare segment, I had never had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in it.  Along with the kiosk site, retail and thinclient,

It’s the first time I have worked for a woman though I have never considered that element before.  Sandy is passionate about her business and my job is to help the company execute her vision. Occasionally I might disagree and I let her know, but I support her 100%.   I think it is probably her passion that I have learned the most from.

Back in the late 90s the first big notable I worked for was Irwin
irwin jacobs L. Jacobs.  I had just finished working my biggest kiosk project ever at Gift Certificate Center and Bill Veeneman (another entrepreneur in Minnesota.  Jacobs envisioned a liquidation auction site (before ebay) for close out goods and the website provided real time auction.

Bill now doing “Go Buy Local”

The biggest kiosk project (Target Club Wedd) was headed up by Ben Kilgore in programming who is now the CTO for Blizzard.  Minnesota is an interesting place and when I first moved there I worked for Art Lazere over at Northgate (competitor to Dell and Gateway). Nice article from 1997 on Apple and Northgate.

Those experiences were invaluable and shaped my life.  I worked for some big companies too like Northwest Airlines and IBM. I learned I didn’t want to be employed by a large company I think.

Rick Malone KIS
Rick Malone

One of my longest tenures was working with Rick Malone in Denver.  A very focused individual. I  remember just prior to coming to work for him I was “tasked” at a major retail tradeshow for giving Jeff Bezos of Amazon a tour of the show floor on self service. Mr. Bezos was on a Segway trailing me while I led him around. Jeff wanted to see everything and he was very excited to see all the technology.

jeff bezos
Jeff Bezos

I was about start working for Rick so I figured a little early wouldn’t hurt and made our way over to Rick’s booth to introduce him to the up and coming Amazon man.  Rick was talking to another prospect though and I was unable to interrupt him so he could meet Bezos.  Ten years later Rick was hoping to build those lockers that Amazon uses now.  I learned more about kiosks at KIS than even I wanted to know. Thanks!

Sometimes you can be too focused and you can miss the opportunities which are right there in front of you ready to meet you.

I’ve been extremely fortunate and dare I say a bit lucky.  I have worked for people that I learned things “not to do” but fortunately they have been the exception.

When you get the opportunity to work with exceptional people, take the time to study them. Forget your ego for a minute and concentrate on learning.

James Bickers, longtime industry reporter, dies- Obituary

James Bickers, known to many readers of this site as the former editor for, died after a long illness on Sept. 29, 2016, in Louisville, Ky.

The journalist, who also was a local celebrity for his work in radio, was 45 years old. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and three school-age children, Miles, Lucy and Ellery.
James Bickers
Click for full size image

Bickers began his career at Networld Media Group in 2005 as the editor of Later, as he watched self-service technology increasingly be deployed alongside flatscreens with bespoke content, he pitched to Networld the idea for a site that would cover display technology and its new and varied uses. The resulting site,, quickly became one of the best trafficked and most profitable sites for the tech publisher. Ever the entrepreneur, he used his broadcasting gifts to create a strong webinar program for Networld sites, created a research department that produced high-end reports for site readers, and developed and launched another Networld property,

In addition to his work behind the keyboard and the microphone, Bickers frequently attended tradeshows and hosted several summits for Networld before leaving to take what he referred to his as his “dream job,” morning host of the local NPR affiliate, WFPL.
“James was one the most creative, talented people I’ve ever worked with,” said Joseph Grove, the former executive editor of Networld Media Group, who hired Bickers in 2005 after being impressed with his freelance work.
“Not only that, he was also among the kindest,” said Grove, who now works in marketing for Olea Kiosks “There were many, many days when he was swamped with reporting duties, webinar assignments and research deadlines. But he’d still drop everything to volunteer to help a co-worker. I came to value him as a friend, and his death is a huge blow to me and to the thousands of people who read his work or listened to him on air.”

From the Kiosk Industry Group on LinkedIn

Opinion – The Coming Tech Backlash

job automation Forget foreign scapegoats. Tech innovation is what’s killing jobs. And the revolt after Trump will resemble the real Luddite movement.

The tech industry played an influential role in the outcome of the US Presidential election. Not just in providing the medium for fake news and propaganda. The root cause is job destruction by automation , which drove a base of dissatisfied Rust Belt voters to support Trump. Job destruction is accelerating — and if tech doesn’t get ahead of this problem there will be a significant populist backlash against the industry and its ability to progress.

This post was inspired by Bianca Al-Shamari, who is writing an article on job automation and the impact on future generations.

Link to article on LinkedIn

Job Automation Opinion Excerpts:

A recent study found 50% of occupations today will be gone by 2020, and a 2013 Oxford study forecasted that 47% of jobs will be automated by 2034. A Ball State study found that only 13% of manufacturing job losses were due to trade, the rest from automation. A McKinsey study suggests 45% of knowledge work activity can be automated.

The canary in the coal mine is trucking. Truck driver is the No. 1 job in the US of A. Driving a truck is a respectable job that pays well enough to provide for a family without a lot of education. It’s in trouble. The autonomous Uber Freight is taking orders, powered by Otto. Uber’s $680M acquisition of Otto’s 91 employees equals an effective valuation of $7.5M per employee. Or you could say $200 per US trucking job killed.

Being a Luddite in modern terms has been broadly defined as “people not adopting technology.” Like people that didn’t “get blogging.” But the term comes from the people who destroyed labor-saving devices in the British textile industry during the industrial revolution. They acted on orders from a mythical general Ned Ludd to rebel against the technology that was destroying their jobs.

Followup from Contributor

Yesterday I posted The Coming Tech Backlash, on how my industry is due for a reckoning with the job destruction caused by automation. The key question people asked, and hopefully of themselves, is what can I do about it? As a small startup founding CEO, here’s my answer.

I signed an entrepreneur pledge to safeguard civil liberties and advance new economy jobs.

I’m leaning my product towards augmentation and job creation. And supporting emerging communities. These points are admittedly self-serving, but are therefore sustainable.

  • Pingpad is already collaboration software that augments the abilities of teams. We fall on the side of Augmentation from the Doug Engelbart lineage in the Automation vs. Augmentation debate.
  • There are hundreds of use cases for a bot-augmented wiki knowledge base. We are prioritizing those that drive job creation — customer success. Focusing on how Customer Success Teams can onboard new customers faster, resolve customer issues faster and ultimately drive more revenue through people working together. This enables customers to grow and create more jobs.
  • Pingpad is free for up to 100 Notes, ample enough not just for many business use cases, but great for communities organizing on Slack.

I’m also looking for opportunities to advance education for the disaffected. My particular interest is enabling junior colleges (I went to Foothill and gave a commencement speech there), which are best positioned to solve these problems, but need resources, technology and knowledge.

I’m going to keep bringing attention to the issue within the industry. And I’m looking for even better ideas that require a range of resources.

Industry Insight – Paying For Performance

kiosk person Instead of taking away jobs, self-service technology is opening up a host of new opportunities. A look at how self-service adds employees and also an internal look at compensation for people in the self-service industry.

By Richard Slawsky contributor

Nearly everyone who’s been involved with the self-service technology industry for any length of time has heard the refrain. Applications such as self-order kiosks, patient check-in tablets and similar technologies are allowing evil corporations to replace employees with machines, putting people out of work and eliminating entry-level opportunities.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Deploying kiosks to handle mundane tasks such as taking orders or filling out patient forms is helping to increase business for companies that deploy those devices. And far from being a job-killer, the development of self-service technology is creating a host of new job opportunities

Show me the money

While restaurant franchisees tend to view self-service initiatives as an unnecessary expense and employees view them as a threat, in practice the opposite appears to be true.

Sales at Panera Bread’s nearly 500 company-owned stores, for example, were up 6.2 percent in Q1 thanks to the ongoing deployment of Panera 2.0, a suite of technologies designed to improve the customer experience. Those technologies are centered around tablet-based self-order kiosks.

Panera kiosk
Tablets are made by LILITAB

“The consumer-facing technology results in labor savings for Panera; these hours are redeployed in the café,” Panera Chief Transformation & Growth Officer Blaine Hurst told Business Insider. “In fact, in most cases, Panera increases the number of associate hours in our cafes; and they see increases in overall guest satisfaction.

Probably the biggest explosion in job growth, though, is taking place in the kiosk industry itself. Although studies that purport to put a dollar value on the size of the kiosk industry vary from one to the next, they all agree on one thing: The market is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future.

Transparency Market Research, for example, pegged the global kiosk market at $12.2 billion in 2015, with that market expected to grow at a 10.9 percent clip over the next eight years, reaching $30.8 billion by 2024.

That growth means tremendous opportunities for people with skills in design, engineering, software creation and sales, to name a few. And in many cases, pay for those positions is well above what other industries are offering.

“Engineering talent is the most critical and hard to fill,” said Pete Snyder, who served as VP of sales and co-owner KIOSK Information Systems for nine years, later founding Middle East Kiosks.

“You want mechanical engineers with experience.,” Snyder said. “Mechanical engineering in the kiosk industry is very specialized.  You want to keep experienced mechanical engineers at all costs.”

Factory floor people are important too, Snyder said.

“You want to keep these guys since it takes about eight months for a factory floor guy to become experienced enough to be productive,” Snyder said.  And today, software is such a consideration that hiring software developers has added a whole new pay tier. A kiosk deployer can easily spend several million dollars in setting up a software department.

kiosk commission Sales positions are a bit easier to fill, but the kiosk salesperson has to understand lots of components and the engineering aspects of the various kiosk models being offered by the company. While compensation plans are obviously an uncomfortable topic, and every company has their own practices when it comes to pay for the sales staff, there are some commonalities across the kiosk industry.

“For me, it was set up in the fashion of a medium-size base with a lot of back-end commission,” said Eric Olmsted, who did an 18-month stint as VP of Kiosk Information Systems.

“It was kind of a ‘what have you done for me lately’ model,” he said. “Some of the deployments we did were multimillion-dollar deals, so it was very lucrative to get those. You could also make a lot of money on higher-margin deals for deployments of five or six kiosks.”

Commissions were paid once the purchase order was paid, with deployments taking place over months or years paying as the various stages were completed. And in Olmsted’s case, at least, items such as software or service plans provided the opportunity to make higher commissions.

“Those margins were a lot higher because we already had the software in-house,” he said. “Obviously each individual’s going to have different needs and wants, and that’s going to affect commissions.”

kiosk pay scale
Click to expand

The accompanying sidebar gives a rough estimate of what the various positions in a large kiosk manufacturer might pay. Obviously, compensation is likely to be much less in a smaller company, and in many cases one person might hold multiple positions. In addition, salaries depend on factors including the cost of living in a particular community, the value of a particular employee and how long they have been with that company.

Riding the cycle

Staffing a kiosk manufacturer can be made a bit more complicated by the cyclical nature of the kiosk industry. A major deal that keeps a company running at full steam for several months may be followed by a period where the only business is a few five- or six-kiosk deployments. It’s critical, though, to keep those workers in preparation for the next up cycle.

“You need to keep your core experience and adapt to the up-and-down cycles using temp workers,” Snyder said. “Sales and engineering is a bit more complex in that you cannot use temps for salesmen or mechanical engineers.”

It’s the same with project managers and buyers. Companies need to optimize their structure to be able to adapt to sales fluctuations.

“There’s ways to double up,” Snyder said. “An engineer could also be a project manager. You can slip and slide them in between positions that way, but you’ve got to keep a certain amount of people on the bench. Project managers, engineers and factory floor production people are hard to find. If you get one you like, you keep them.”

Complicating matters is the fact that companies are faced with the challenge of competing with other technology industries for qualified employees.

“It’s a challenge, especially when it comes to engineers,” Snyder said.

“It’s really hard to find a good mechanical engineer who has any background in the kiosk world, because it’s a whole different ball game,” he said. “You’re talking about bending metals. You’re talking about bend radiuses and metal stretching when you bend it. You’ve got to be aware of all these things. Usually, a kid coming straight out of college knows the basics but not the specifics of a kiosk operation.”

See sidebar graphic for Tips for sales compensation plans.

kiosk pay
Click to expand

As the industry continues to grow, companies can work to overcome those challenges by going out to universities and tout the opportunities the industry holds. Most engineering schools require students to do a co-op as they near graduation, so getting involved with those types of programs can help meet staffing needs as well.

“What they can do to foster it is they can go to universities and say, ‘We have openings for college kids to come in and co-op’,” Snyder said. “Obviously, you’re then going to get a better result if you give them some level of compensation. It doesn’t need to be much, but you have to give them something.”

Wrestling with Wages

The effect of recent minimum-wage increases isn’t yet clear, but increased use of automation technology is likely to be a result.

By Richard Slawsky for Kiosk Industry Group  

As California and New York each prepare to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour, operators of quick service and fast casual restaurants as well as other small businesses in those states are wondering how they will be able to cope.

And those questions aren’t likely to go away any time soon.  Seattle and several other cities have already approved a $15

Coffee Kiosk McDonalds Self Service
McDonalds Counters with Self Service coffee automation. click to expand

minimum wage, while officials in Oregon plan to increase the minimum to $14.75 an hour in cities and $12.50 in rural areas over the next six years. Other jurisdictions are likely to follow suit.

“There is no question that a $15 minimum wage would have devastating impacts on small businesses in California,” said Tom Scott, executive director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses in California. “Over 90 percent of our 22,000 small businesses across the state have told us in no uncertain terms that an increase in the minimum wage will negatively affect their ability to operate, and potentially put them at risk of closing their doors permanently.”

The increases don’t go into effect immediately; instead rising gradually over the next several years. Wages in California and New York won’t reach their peak until 2022, giving restaurant operators a bit of time to consider their options.

As such, much of the impact of an increased minimum wage remains to be seen. Although in the short term the move may put more money in the pockets of workers, in the longer term it is likely to end up in higher prices, lower profits and business closures.

Ultimately, though, rising wages are likely to prompt operators to look at automation as a way to preserve their profits.

Moving to automation

Self-service technology is already widespread in scenarios such as casino rewards, airport check-in kiosks, self-service photo booths and, of course, the ubiquitous ATM. Self-order kiosks are already gaining a foothold in the restaurant industry, and minimum wage increases are likely to increase the speed of adoption.

“The higher the compensation, the greater the incentive to

Prices go up on their own whether wages change or not?
Prices go up on their own whether wages change or not?

replace labor with capital. The other thing to figure in here is the declining cost of automation,” Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C. think tank the Brookings Institution, told the San Jose Mercury News. “Likely there will be some greater demand for automation, but meanwhile, others will likely find other solutions using the people they have.”

CKE Restaurants, operator of fast food brands Hardee’s and Carl’s Junior, began testing self-order kiosks at some of its restaurants in 2015, and CKE chief Andy Puzder has publicly said he’d be interested in developing a restaurant run entirely via self-service devices.

“They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” Puzder told Business Insider.

Panera Tablet Kiosk
Tablet kiosks for ordering at Paneras.

Fast food giant McDonald’s is also rolling out self-order kiosks at locations throughout the United States, and fast-casual brand Panera Bread has introduced the devices as part of its “Panera 2.0” brand reinvention.

That doesn’t mean live workers are going to disappear any time soon. Although self-service technology can handle basic tasks such as order-taking or the filling of drinks, some of the more complicated procedures in the kitchen may not be so easy to automate. In many cases, the technology allows operators to redeploy labor to other areas and help speed up service.

And for operators seeking to make personal service an integral part of their business, there’s no substitute (yet) for a smiling face behind the counter.

Unintended consequences

Although many business owners have been looking at the minimum wage increase in direct terms, calculating how added labor dollars or adopting self-service technology will affect their bottom line, there are some potential consequences they haven’t considered.

First and foremost is morale and the potential for job losses beyond those prompted by cost-cutting. How is that long-term worker, who strived for years to attain a wage of $15 an hour or greater, going to cope with the fact that the person they’re training is making the same wage on their first day?

A clue to that can be found in the example of Dan Price, the CEO of Seattle-based payments processor Gravity Payments. If that name sounds familiar, it’s likely because Price made headlines in 2015 when he announced that he planned to raise the salary of everyone at his company to $70,000 a year. Price made the move, he claimed, after reading a study making the case that additional income improved the happiness of those who earn less than $75,000 a year.

Although the company was inundated with resumes after the announcement – 4,500 in the first week – it also lost two employees who felt it was unfair that that others were getting big pay raises with little additional effort, and that the value of their own skills had been diminished. And several of Gravity’s clients left, suspecting the wage increases would lead to higher costs for the company’s services. Other clients felt as if Price was making a political statement, and left for that reason.

The long-term effects of Price’s move remain to be seen, but it’s clear those effects will be a mixture of good and bad.

And while automation may be the key to managing the impact of a minimum wage increase, increasing adoption is likely to affect the cost of automation itself. Increased demand is likely to lead to price adjustments, while the push for higher wages will eventually lead to higher costs for the makers of self-service technology. In addition, widespread adoption will create a shortage of technicians to maintain those devices, in turn driving up service costs.

Self Service rising to top of modern BI. Click to Expand
Self Service rising to top of modern BI. Click to Expand

The message? Small business operators would be well-served by investigating the potential of self-service technology now and lock in long-term agreements before the floodgates open and demand skyrockets.

“Those that can invest now and keep costs low during the transition will weather the storm long enough for competition to go under because they didn’t plan ahead,” said Frank Olea of Olea Kiosks. “The cost of automation is going to rise as well if the companies making and designing automation don’t get a handle of how to automate making automation.”

Editor picks for Minimum Wage Kiosk

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PS: And then there was Josh White in 1942…

Industry Shift – the evolution of Self-Service

New opportunities continue to alter the kiosk industry landscape.
By Laura Miller, Marketing Director KioWare

Reprinted with permission from Kiosk Solutions magazine Issue #1.


Interactive kiosks are not a new concept. In fact, companies have been deploying them for more than 35 years. Kiosks have long been a tool used primarily by large organisations with multiple locations, large staffs and extensive budgets. As technology has evolved, new markets and opportunities continue to emerge, creating a broader definition of what a kiosk looks like, what it can do and who it can help. This evolution varies by geographic location and mature markets look significantly different when compared to nascent markets.


Like many nascent technological tools from this generation, kiosks have seen a complete re-imagining from their original form. The changes that have occurred have shifted the landscape of the kiosk industry significantly. Like much of the technology of the past 50 years, kiosks continue to become less expensive and more accessible, appealing to a broader group of organisations and potential deployers.

Kiosks are built using computing devices. Those computing devices have significantly dropped in price since their inception, with initial costs exceeding £5,200 and sizes that required large metal enclosures to protect from theft or damage. Those enclosures could also be costly and difficult to build. Add on the cost of developing a custom software application or a custom website, plus software to secure that application or website (now known as kiosk software), and the initial cost of one kiosk was quite prohibitive for most organisations.


Even as an emerging technology, scalability made traditional kiosks more cost effective. Once an enclosure was designed, building additional enclosures to the same specifications became less expensive. Similarly, the computer hardware and kiosk software became less expensive when purchased in
quantity. More significantly, once an application was developed, the cost of that was negligible and benefited significantly by scaling.

Large corporations with multiple locations were able to leverage this scalability and deploy kiosks to improve customer experiences, increase sales, create brand awareness, decrease wait times and optimize staffing. Medium and small businesses continued to see little opportunity to utilize kiosks in a cost effective and affordable manner.


Then things changed. With the evolution of the computer and the creation of the tablet, both PCs and mobile devices have become more affordable to purchase and easier to enclose. As a result in the decreased size of PCs, the creation of the touch screen and the invention of the tablet, enclosure sizes can be reduced and at a lower cost. Out of the box enclosures can be purchased as a single unit or in cost saving quantities, without paying for a custom solution.

Software has also become more accessible as every business has the opportunity to create a website using an out-of-the-box content management system, easy to create online stores and low cost application development. Leveraging existing collateral, businesses can easily and inexpensively deploy one or multiple kiosks for a fraction of the cost of early kiosks.

kiosk software Industry Shift

If, as one might expect, larger organisations are a mature kiosk market (see ‘maturity’ in the above diagram) particularly in developed economies, the potential growth of that area is limited. Fortunately for the UK, in particular, there is an as yet untapped market for kiosk growth. Small and medium sized businesses make up 99.9 per cent of the UK’s private sector.

In particular, small business, sized at 49 employees or less, comprise 99.3 per cent of all private sector business in the UK.

The increased accessibility of kiosks benefits these small and medium-sized companies the most, allowing them to gain access to the technology without paying premium costs. Robust systems with external devices for payment processing can be purchased, configured and deployed for only a fraction of
previous prices, opening the door for those who need one or two devices to take advantage of the technology. The fact that the majority of small and mediumsized businesses now operate their own websites mean that an application already exists, and can be easily modified for public facing deployment on an interactive kiosk.

Emerging Markets

In established economic environments, the opportunity for growth in the kiosk market is primarily in this area. There are also many countries that may have the technology, but have not seen a coordinating economic growth. As a result, those countries are also in the high growth potential portion of the chart, rather than the mature or declining area.

While kiosks in general might be considered a mature market in certain economies, (the UK & US for example), tablet kiosks are a high growth market in every economy. Enterprise tablet adoption in general is still in a high growth phase and predictions show that the number could reach a billion worldwide by 2017. Penetration rates in developing economies will lag significantly, so tablet kiosks are at the high growth phase in established economies and are likely in the introduction stage for less established economies.

Evolving Usage

The entry of Mobile Device Management into the picture also changes the landscape, with kiosk usage being broader and expanding into new market opportunities. One such example is the Purposed Device. A Purposed Device is a more mobile kiosk – something retailers, sales reps, or employees can carry around, but still use in a specific, secured manner both with regard to kiosk software and kiosk hardware (mobile, transportable enclosures with card reader attachment and stationary docking stations). Purposed Devices, like tablet kiosks, are still nascent with regard to market penetration.


Like cars and phones, kiosks look very different from what they were 25 or 35 years ago. With continued iterations to incorporate new technologies, kiosks can become even more efficient, cost effective, mobile and useful. They can continue to evolve in saturated areas and expand into high growth markets. Kiosks have never been as affordable, scalable and accessible as they are today and they are most certainly still growing in market penetration.

For more about LGN Media visit their website.

Mobile apps are a necessity rather than a luxury

Mobile apps are a necessity rather than a luxury by David McCracken

David McCracken LivewireDigital
David McCracken LivewireDigital

Sometimes, you just have a technology moment. I was using the Open Table app on my smartphone recently to check wait times at local restaurants when the technology moment struck. This tiny device in my hand fascinated me – it connected me to the entire world with a tap on its touch screen. It provided a remote portal to other digital technologies, things like schedulers, interactive payment kiosks, digital directories, and way-finding resources, right at my fingertips.

Apps as Necessities, Not Luxuries
The reason my technology moment was so powerful is because I usually just take the connection for granted. Following along with the ideas of omni-channel networks, apps build the experience around the user and make things intuitive and effortless. So we’ve gotten spoiled to the unlimited digital world at our fingertips. Unless we’re having a technology moment, we just expect to use our phones in this way. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Mobile Apps for Smart Marketing
Modern marketers are tapping into this mindset and are providing a sense of digitalconvenience and connection for customers through apps. Here are a few interactive, self-service apps that I think are awesome:

  • Travelocity: search and book hotels and flights, while accessing additional savings and app-only deals
  • My Disney Experience: schedule experiences, save places in line, and make changes on the go (also connects with interactive kiosks in hotels and parks)
  • Evernote: store notes, images, urls, tasks lists on in one place
  • Starbucks: consolidate gift cards and make purchases using the virtual gift card

Beyond the App Store – Apps Within Your Business
Not every awesome app is available for public purchase…in fact, many of the best apps out there never reach the public eye. Forward-thinking professionals in industries like retail and sales will commission custom mobile apps to help their businesses run more smoothly. These apps incorporate intuitive design and location freedom to connect managers and employees, which ultimately makes for a more profitable business experience.

Some uses of inter-business mobile apps include:

  • monitoring staff utilization
  • managing loss prevention
  • monitoring stock
  • assisting in merchandising
  • gathering/organizing customer insight
  • establishing a secure link to senior management
  • providing snap shots of sales and profitability by department, by person, day by day, even hour by hour

What mobile apps do you find most useful? What companies are using apps in creative and effective ways?

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Healthcare Opinion – HIMSS Review Part 2 – Efficiency Patient Check-In

HIMSS Review Part 2 – Efficiency – Patient Check-In


In the last post I covered some of the issues and advances in money and payments in healthcare.  This article explores efficiencies in regard to Patient Check-In.

Cost is perspective dependent– Your opinion or benefit from a healthcare spend is relative to your position in the healthcare system and society as a whole.  His expenses are my income which is paid for by your taxes adding to ‘our’ economy that politicians and talking heads love to scream at everyone about.   Whether you consider yourself a winner or loser depends on your perspective.

Efficiency is not perspective dependent– Either process is efficient or it is not.  Building tools to make individual processes more efficient is at the core of what we do.  More is done with less.

Efficiency benefits appear perspective-dependent- Everyone cheers efficiency when improving a process saves time and space, nobody likes to waste those and there are only winners when they are saved.  When it comes to anything else, there will be positional losers.  Some tasks are  repetitive enough to be quantified and automated.  Responsibility for that task is transferred to other participants in that process.  Exceptions are still dealt with by experts, but by and large the exception to the process must be paid for or ‘earned’ by condition.

Efficiency eliminates positions not Individuals – Personal Computing eliminated the need for a dedicated secretarial pool.  The 5XB eliminated the need for switchboard operators.  Everyone reading this has benefited greatly from the elimination of those positions.  However, survivor’s guilt is not necessary.  The individuals leaving those highly skilled positions went on with their lives in most cases using the tools the rendered their old positions obsolete.

Efficiency at HIMSS – A small number exhibitors at HIMSS did showcase some efficiency – increasing, position-eliminating  technology that fit the model above.   Incremental improvements to inefficient processes were all over the place.  Being a seller not a buyer I took a look and got on my way.  I didn’t need to hear another pitch or see another show.   I already had a front row seat to the best show at HIMSS.  Over and over again I had the pleasure of  seeing the look of slack-jawed awe as PatientWay’s VP of Sales Shawn Grisim told real stories about paying customers and their experiences in implementing the PatientWay check-in solution.  These conversations were all in the present tense referring to past and present installations.  Not demo-ware, projections, or BS.  Real stories from real implementations.  Even to a casual observer the numbers are staggering:

  • 90% of all patients walking through the door are checking themselves in.
  • (250K visits) x (90% usage) x (5 minutes per check in*) => 18750 hours
  • Patients 65 and over represent the majority of users of this system.

Most visitors asked the obvious, “what about the people.”  Shawn was able to slay the boogeyman right then and there.  The individuals who had been performing these repetitive tasks have been moved to more dynamic roles within their organizations and were happier for it.  The relief washing over the faces of these people was clear.  There would be no HR nightmare, strike, or other such reaction in their future.  Just a better way to serve their customers while keeping their operation efficient enough to remain open and profitable.

Efficient CheckIn benefits the Individual, Provider, and the System –  The check-in process is not billable.  The perverse incentives that stifle much of the innovation in healthcare are not a factor when moving patients from their world into yours.   Adding efficiency to this moving process benefits every participant in this system.   PatientWay is the leader.  When people ask me why I love what I do, this is the story that I tell them.

*National all-in average is 5 employee minutes per check-in.

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