Sometimes certain stories have an obvious relevancy, so when they garner greater readership it's no surprise. Others times a story's popularity is unexpected, directing added attention to an area that otherwise might've remained overlooked. So to celebrate the year that will soon be behind us and the industry moments that captured attention, here is a look at the most-read stories from 2012:
Many of our readers have a vested interest in kiosk hardware, so it's of little surprise to find this February article in our Top 10. The article discussed the changing demand for kiosk hardware and the need for physical keyboards, pointing out the significant industry shift toward new technologies.
The rise of the touchscreen is decreasing the need for all kiosks to come equipped with hardware keyboards, according to industry experts in the article. On the flip side, while it's true that developments in software now require less typing of information and on-screen keyboards are often more user friendly than hardware keyboards, some kiosks still benefit from them. Deployers looking to use physical keyboards should look for a few specific features to ensure that they are state-of-the-art. They should be rugged, easy to assemble and comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Post office convenience is not only a concern in the U.S., but around the world as well, as evidenced by this May article on a 24-hour Portuguese post office and the kiosk system utilized in the deployment.
The Postal Services of Portugal (CTT Correios de Portugal) enlisted in its solution plan the Escher Group Limited, a company that supplies technology for kiosks and POS and device-to-device communication. Escher Group's peripheral-friendly RiposteKiosk software helped to create one machine that could provide all the services it needed to maintain, including mail services, pricing, label printing, bill payment and financial services.
A September article on the contentious tablet vs. traditional kiosk debate posed the following question: "When deciding on a self-service solution, is a traditional kiosk the best choice?"
Increasingly, that has been the question put to tablet manufacturers and kiosk companies that want to stay atop the latest technologies and deployers, as the low cost and high functionality of the iPad and iPad aspirants make them a potential competitor to the tried-and-true computer in a box.
A close look at the lineup of tablet options in the article revealed that not all devices hit the mark in offering a viable alternative to traditional kiosk and self-service solutions.
A story about Olea Kiosk's Bon-Ton Stores deployment in June made the list, discussing how the Pennsylvania-based department store installed more than 100 kiosks equipped with endless aisle, loyalty program, wayfinding and product-lookup applications. The kiosks by Olea featured a 32-inch touchscreen from Elo Touch, a dual-sided thermal printer from NCR and a barcode scanner and credit card reader.
A few of the machines first appeared throughout Bon-Ton stores last summer during a testing phase. After deeming it successful, the chain finished deploying the second round of kiosks and expects to expand the project to the remaining retail stores as ROI permits, said Frank Olea, CEO of Olea Kiosks.
It's been a busy year for Redbox parent company Coinstar. Plenty of news has been made since an article in March highlighted its experiments with new kiosk concepts to broaden its portfolio. The article discussed how Coinstar was vetting its viability in markets like coffee, gadgets, recycling and health care.
The March article hinted at the impending coffee kiosk that was revealed later this year as Rubi, a Seattle's Best-dispensing automated barista. Coinstar also invested in the EcoATM, an automated mobile phone-recycling kiosk that has seen continuous success in 2012.
In June we ran an article discussing the growing trend in combining vending machines and interactive kiosks and the integration of those vending kiosks with newer technologies such as digital signage and mobile payments.
The next generation of intelligent vending kiosks could use digital signage to attract more buyers to purchase the products within the machines, the article discussed, but also bring in added revenue through third-party advertising — with the connected technology then also enabling secure credit and mobile payments, remote inventory management, demographically-targeted advertising and dynamic pricing.
This year's guests at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana, most likely used a technology mentioned in this popular April feature story. The family-owned theme park deployed a "HoliCash" kiosk system to allow visitors to enjoy the theme park without carrying cash. This year marked the second season for the kiosks manufactured by MDKS Fithco, contracted through the company's POS provider, Siriusware.
Guests purchased wrist bands at the front gate and then loaded money onto them by scanning them at kiosks throughout the park. The machines processed cash or credit cards and bands were used to pay for anything in the park from food and drinks to stroller rentals and souvenirs.
We dubbed 2012 "the year of the tablet" in a recent recap of this year's biggest trends. Tablets also made for an attention-grabbing story in February with an article discussing the ING DIRECT Café in downtown San Francisco that installed eight iPad kiosks in a kitschy combination of a coffee bar and retail bank branch.
Coffee fans can bank or make presentations while sipping lattes, thanks to the iPad kiosks. A bar serving coffee, tea, pastries, sandwiches and salads replaced the traditional teller's window, and each staff member can make lattes, assist with depositing checks and answer questions about checking accounts and mortgages.
The 17,000-square-foot, three-story café also has a built-in PA system for karaoke and iPad kiosks that control audiovisual equipment throughout the retail space. Bank customers can meet at the café for business meetings, using the equipment to provide visual aids, said Nick Ames of iPad enclosures, the company that helped to create the kiosks.
"Skyping" has become synonymous with video calls much like "Googling" has entered the common lexicon as the term for looking something up on the Internet. Since its 2003 launch, the Estonian-founded company's notoriety has skyrocketed, securing an acquisition by Microsoft and even spawning a Skype Station kiosk by AdTech featured in this July article.
The Tallinn International Airport in Estonia was one of 10 locations (as of July) testing the Skype Station to allow users to make free video calls. The kiosk also served as a digital out-of-home marketing device, showcasing video content and ads on its 23-inch touchscreen. The kiosks could also be multifunctioning, allowing deployers to provide a vareity of e-services, incluing bill-pay or phone top-up services.
In spite of plans to deploy 500 kiosks in a variety of locations ranging from hotels to universities, news on the product has remained scarce since our story.
IKEA's self-checkout debacle helped this August article top the list as the most-read story of 2012 on Kiosk Marketplace. After a rash of complaints from customers who expressed frustration with the store's fleet of self-checkout kiosks across the country, IKEA stores in the U.S. decided to yank the systems that were causing the often 20-minute-long back-ups.
While most IKEA stores housed a sprawl of checkout lanes, both self and cashier operated, typically the cashier lanes were opened only on peak shopping days. That meant that customers were funneled into a smaller group of self-checkout lanes that became clogged with shoppers trying to operate the system and manage their purchases. The NCR-manufactured kiosks were poorly implemented, with even kiosk industry vets finding the functionality poor.
What do you think were this year's interesting or noteworthy stories from Kiosk Marketplace? Sound off in the comments below!
Read more about self-service and kiosk trends.