What is a kiosk?

By | March 28, 2023
ticketing kiosk

What is a Kiosk?

not a kiosk

Not a real kiosk though it says it is. Small business is constantly taken advantage of with the “Ok to go cheap” singsong

Kiosks are easy to define but also confusing. Round structures in Turkey where village notices were published is the origin.

And then came computers and electronic kiosks.

You’ll note that we often use the phrase “kiosk kiosks”. That indicates that whatever is being called a kiosk, is actually a kiosk.  Many will call a collection of components scattered on a table, connected to touchscreen a kiosk. It is not.

Definition of Kiosks – A Long Catalog of Attempts

  • From Cambridge — a small building where things such as candy, drinks, or newspapers are sold through an open window
  • Oxford — a small shop, open at the front, where newspapers, drinks, etc. are sold. In some countries kiosks also sell food and things used in the home.
  • Etymology — 1620s, “kind of open pavilion” (made of light wood, etc., often supported by pillars), from French kiosque (17c.), which is (along with German and Polish kiosk) from Turkish koshk, kiöshk “pavilion, summer house,” from Persian kushk “palace, villa; pavilion, portico.” They were introduced in Western Europe 17c. as ornaments in gardens and parks. Later of street newsstands (1865), on some resemblance of shape, a sense perhaps originally in French. Modern sense has been influenced by British telephone kiosk (1928).
  • 1472 – Mehmed II the Conqueror built the Tiled Kiosk [see Wikipedia]
A real kiosk

A real kiosk! KIOSK in Colorado makes this one for Amazon and Whole Foods it appears to us. Click for full size…

The closest “kiosks” to those might be modern-day RMUs or Remote Merchandising Units.  Digital signage displays (airport departure and arrival times) centered in airport terminals are variations of the “informational kiosk”

Definition of Kiosks in Today’s World

Here is a collection of “definitions” which have been proffered, attempted by various entities. Public computer systems by Los Alamos has held up pretty well for 30 years.

  • From Los Alamos Report 1994 –

    Until recently, it was a small, rugged standalone structure often used as a newsstand, bandstand, or other commercial enterprise. The definition is evolving to include computer systems found in public places. These public computer systems are designed to provide an alternative avenue to reach information and services. The user is presented with an attractive structure that has been designed to provide a simple, friendly interface to novice computer users. It performs an easily automated task, freeing personnel from boring, tedious labor. Link

    • Types of Kiosks According To Los Alamos Report
      • They are being used as a primary tool to improve the effectiveness of limited personnel and provide easy and convenient access to a wide range of services. Most of these kiosks are built to perform one of the following functions:
        • To advertise a commercial product.
        • To collect or dispense specific information.
        • To exchange information, funds, and/or services.
  • ChatGPT 2023

    — It is a small, free-standing physical structure used for displaying information or selling products or services. It typically includes an interactive screen or touchpad for users to access information or complete transactions. They are commonly found in public places such as airports, shopping malls, and train stations.

  • Kiosk Industry

    • A self-service kiosk or computer kiosk (some like an electronic kiosk) is a standalone terminal used by customers and employees to provide a self-service channel for general transactions. They can be informational (a wayfinding provides directions, for example), or they can be transactional (e.g., Verizon bill pay).
  • Investopedia

    • Refers to a small, temporary, stand-alone booth used in high-traffic areas for marketing purposes.It is usually manned by one or two individuals who help attract attention to the booth to get new customers. Retail locations are frequently located in shopping malls or on busy city streets with significant foot traffic and provide owners with a low-cost alternative to market their products or services.
  • KioskMarketplace 2023 Census

    • “An interactive, self-serve device provided by a venue, not the user, that helps the user do something that is informational and/or transactional that streamlines, automates or eliminates wait or cost.”

Here is a “Shady Kiosk” from a Dollar General store. Is this a kiosk kiosk? Nope. It is desktop monitor stuck on a table.  Apparently this kiosk “cost” a dollar to make.

What They Are NOT

  • For purposes of market research they are not SCOs at Krogers or Walmart. Those are hybrid POS checkouts.
  • Again, for purposes of market research they are NOT ATMs, though there are now Bitcoin ATMs and those are built by kiosk manufacturers.
  • Those nice Verizon RMUs at airports?  They are not kiosks.
  • Digital signage?  The DS industry likes to insert the word “Interactive” but that is irrelevant for purposes of digital signage.
  • EV Chargers — that gets complicated as there are multiple models and some qualify as a kiosk and some do not.
  • Smart City?  that’s borderline…



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Author: Staff Writer

Craig Keefner is the editor and author for Kiosk Association and kiosk industry. With over 30 years in the industry and experience in large and small kiosk solutions, Craig is widely considered to be an expert in the field. Major kiosk projects for him include Verizon Bill Pay kiosk and hundreds of others.