In this series, we have been discussing why the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's Wine Kiosk project failed. In this post, we will continue to focus on the kiosk malfunctions – more than 1,000 reported issues - that served as a critical blow to the project.
The table below is the excerpt of the number and type of malfunctions at wine kiosks from June 21, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2010, published in the special performance audit conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General.
Examples of error messages (excerpt)
Kiosk not functioning
Kiosk is not responding
Out of order messages on the screen
Door and dispensing issues
Door did not unlock to dispense product
Product not dispensed once door is open
Door does not close tightly after sale
Out-of-state license not recognized
ID scanner not functioning
Not printing receipts
BrAC (breathanalyzer) issues
BrAC hardware failure / not functioning
No audio / Volume too loud
Overhead camera problem
Payment card issues
Signature pad not working
Not processing credit card
Out of stock error message
False "Out of stock" message on screen
Shelf doesn't stop blinking
Source:A special Performance Audit – Wine Kiosk Program of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (August 2011) by Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General.
As you can see, almost every single major device had a number of errors.Here are the lessons we can learn from the list of errors:
There more devices you have, the more challenging integration becomes As we mentioned in our previous post, the kiosk system was extremely complex, requiring numerous I/O devices.
Why? Ensuring that each of these devices interacts with each other in the right sequence and all out-of-bound cases are handled properly is imperative. Each device should be put through a rigorous testing process both on their own and in combination with other devices.
It is not known whether their policy and contract would have allowed, but if they had reduced the number of devices by using the resources of the grocery store there would have been a higher chance for the project to succeed. (For example, if a cashier could confirm that the customer passed the breath analysis and proved their age, he/she could have handled the checkout process. In this way, the kiosk would not have required a special display case and payment mechanism.)
Moving parts are more prone to error As we can see in the table above, the door and dispensing mechanism was one of the most problematic devices they had. The display doors and metal shields are opened, closed, locked, and unlocked many times a day. Not only is it difficult to coordinate each move, they easily wear out over time particularly if they are left in a harsh public environment.
It is risky to adopt new technologies Commonly used devices from known companies tend to be more reliable because they have been field tested to resolve all major technical issues. Alternatively, new technologies, such as the wine display and breathe analyzer, are more prone to encounter unexpected errors because they haven’t been thoroughly tested in the field.
In Summary The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board undertook a very ambitious project. Due to a lack of experience and planning, they sort of met the perfect storm of issues. Overall, anyone planning future kiosk projects of great complexity can learn from the Penn Wine Kiosk and be better prepared for the challenges they will face before, during and after deployment.
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.