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The kiosk crystal ball: Predictions for 2013

As tradition has it, the month of December becomes a time to reflect on the close of another year and to think ahead for the one that will follow. We've recently compiled our own list of the top kiosk and self-service trends of 2012 and the most-read stories here on Kiosk Marketplace. Now on to 2013 — what's in store?

In last year's prediction story, industry experts foreshadowed the rise of tablet use in retail and the expansion of self-service health care deployments — both of which proved valid over the course of 2012. We once again reached out to industry experts for a glimpse of their vision for the future. Here's what they had to say:

A continuation of the tablet and mobile trend

"For next year, I am seeing devices, devices, devices," said Mike James, developer of the Kiosk Pro App for iPad and iPad2.

While 2012 saw the Apple iPad dominating the tablet-to-kiosk market, 2013 could bring in more competition, with Microsoft's latest tablet installment and the Windows 8 OS.

Craig Keefner, manager of the Kiosk Industry Group and member of the Digital Screenmedia Association Kiosk Council, envisions the Microsoft Surface finding a bigger home in retail than in the consumer market, a sentiment agreed with by James.

"Microsoft tablets are going to be enterprise machines," James said. "Windows is inviting to do anything you want to do, while Apple is so restrictive in what you can and can't do with the machine that you own."

And while tablet devices continue to push the evolution of the kiosk, so too will mobile devices and applications, according to Bill Lynch, the VP of Reevex.

"We'll see the continuing convergence of kiosks and mobile applications," Lynch said. "Kiosks will continue to be the touchpoint for transactions, while mobile allows the user to access from anywhere, with an increased emphasis on providing a consistent customer experience between the two."

Widespread familiarity and acceptance of mobile devices and digital screens could also further the interactive digital signage industry. Michael Ionescu, president of Ionescu Technologies, said he thinks the best is yet to come.

"New York City wants to do a huge interactive digital platform, and I know other cities that are going the same route," he said. "I think some of themost notable projects will come in the next year. Whether or not they succeed, time will tell."

A rocky road for the kiosk printer

With smartphone penetration already at 40 percent this year, the U.S. market is forecast to hit 70 percent smartphone penetration by the end of 2016, according to Portio Research. By end of December, there will be approximately 137 million active smartphones in the U.S., and the research forecasts that figure to reach 176 million over the course of 2013.

Along with impacting the design and functionality of kiosks, mass smartphone usage could move traditional paper receipts over to digital e-receipts.

According to Lynch, the cost of the printer is borne primarily by the deploying company and is one of the more problematic pieces of hardware in a kiosk. By eliminating the printer, it is possible to reduce the overall operating costs, he said.

"We just deployed a kiosk without a printer and are using e-receipts for the transactions," Lynch said. "Because of the remote location, we wanted to avoid the necessity of replenishing the printer paper. We give the user the option to receive a receipt by email or SMS. I see that as a growing trend. It reduces costs in the hardware, consumables and maintenance."

Restaurants (finally) invest in self-order tech

According to research in the National Restaurant Federation's 2013 Forecast, less than 2 percent of QSRs currently offer self-ordering kiosks, while less than one in 10 full-service restaurants offer the technology as an option.

But consumer studies show that the desire for such technology is there among diners. For QSRs, 44 percent of consumers say they would use self-order terminals, two in five would use smartphone apps to place orders and more than one-quarter would use mobile payment options. The same goes for full-service restaurants: Four in 10 would use tablets for menu ordering, and 50 percent would use smartphone apps for menu viewing.

Yet regardless of what consumers want, the restaurants must commit to investing in the new technology. According to the NRF, 48 percent of QSRs and 54 percent of full-service restaurants plan to invest more resources into customer-facing technologies in the next year.

If the NRF research is correct, 2013 could be a pivotal, and long-awaited, year for restaurant self-service.

What are your 2013 predictions?

Read more about self-service trends and statistics.

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