You are half way through your kiosk project. You have secured the budget and organizational buy-in, and have even selected kiosk hardware and devices. Now, you are trying to build a kiosk application with the capability to increase revenue and enhance the customer experience. Great! You are on the right track.
But at the same time, kiosk managers need to make sure not to overlook the hidden challenges of kiosk application development – the device management. In many cases, a kiosk system needs to control various kiosk I/O devices such as printers, magnetic card readers and barcode readers. Here is why it is so challenging:
Let's take a thermal printer as an example. There are many kiosk printer vendors that offer a diverse product lineup. Depending on the manufacturer and the model, each printer has different specifications. A kiosk application developer needs to thoroughly understand the selected printer's functionalities and API (application programming interface) defining the behaviors, sequence, control, events, exceptions and status of the device.
Complying with the API could be a tedious process but critical in kiosk application development to avoid unexpected device errors. For example, the program has to "initialize" each device by sending commands such as open, claim, check version and "finalize" by release and close commands. Without these steps, the kiosk application will not be able to function properly, which will lead to errors and malfunctions.
Monitoring and error handling
Each device needs to be monitored and any errors and exceptions have to be handled properly to minimize the impact on the kiosk performance. For example, if the printer ran out of paper, the kiosk should out-of-service mode until the kiosk operator fills paper. We will discuss this area in more detail in future posts.
Qualification of the developers
The engineers who have the capabilities and experience in POS programming are much more scarce compared with the large pool of web application developers and designers. Even if you can luckily find qualifying engineers who are experienced in this field, they may not necessarily excel at designing and implementing a user friendly application interface.
As a kiosk vendor, our approach is to provide a middleware platform that takes care of these device related challenges. When kiosk vendors provide the means to integrate kiosk applications with kiosk hardware and devices, kiosk application developers can focus on the application user interface instead of struggling with technical problems. This will increase the chance of successful kiosk rollout while reducing the costs of application development and support services.
Natsumi Nakamura is in charge of the product marketing for kiosk hardware and software solutions at PFU Systems. She has also played a critical role in hardware/software development as well as business development for several kiosk projects.