Choosing the Right Computing Technology for Retail Kiosks
The retail environment is in an era of transition. Due to an increasing number of businesses gaining momentum on their online stores, retailers are seeking alternative methods in which to increase sales and keep their customers engaged; one of these methods is the installation of interactive kiosks.
Thanks to the ‘Google effect’, consumers no longer need to wait to access information. They are accustomed to receiving material at the drop of a hat and at the touch of their fingers, making kiosks an ideal solution to appeal to this new market.
The retail environment is an ever-changing arena that is facing increasing online competition, particularly in recent years. Because of this, retailers are looking for alternative ways to offer something that the Internet just can’t provide: a fuller experience.
Not only can interactive kiosks provide authoritative information for customers, taking them on the journey from browsing to transaction, but they are also designed to increase engagement and to generate a certain ‘enjoyment’ level that many consumers want from their shopping trips.
With technology now more advanced, kiosks are able to operate in what could be considered a harsh and high traffic environment and are built to withstand long-term practices. Of course, computer problems occur and many traditional budget desktop computers would just not cut it for the strains of the modern retail environment. For this reason, kiosks are increasingly becoming more durable, through toughened touch screens and ‘future-proof’ technologies.
Of course, for retailers who may want to make kiosks a permanent fixture, it is worth assessing other features that could later be adapted. Either through specialized add-ons or a card reader, goals and usage estimations will likely need to be evaluated prior to installation to make them feasible in the long run. However, the options and flexibility are there for tailoring in niche markets.
Apart from helping retailers better their image and appear more high-tech and informative, kiosks can empower customers, enabling them to essentially ‘help themselves’ to stock information and transactional details. What many find beneficial about online shopping is the ability to shop independently, without the hard sell and without multiple staff. Emulating this shopping experience, touch screen technology, now second nature to many, allows for easy navigation and easy access to all the information customers could need. This ensures that kiosks firmly hold a place in the future of retail.
Clearly the first advantage of an ultra-miniature PC is size, with some models we’ve seen as small as 13x9x1.5cm, meaning they are easy to hide within a kiosk enclosure or neatly mount directly on the back of a monitor. This is a truly amazing engineering achievement considering what goes into the box and all of the electrical noise and heat considerations that need to be dealt with. What’s more, many clever product designs are eliminating fans by using the body as a heat sink and by also deploying solid-state storage rather than traditional HDD technology. The leading ultra-miniature PCs have no moving parts at all, which not only minimizes power consumption but also dramatically increases reliability and robustness. By directly influencing system uptime kiosks are supporting a 24/7/365 operation without the need for on-site technical or maintenance personnel. And with many of these products supporting ‘auto-resume’ functionality, the kiosk won’t even require manual intervention to reboot systems following a power outage.
A good example of the ‘state-of-the-art’ in ultra-miniature PC technology can be found in the tiny, robust, low-power, fanless fit-PC family. These products feature scalable and long-life, industrial grade components, no moving parts, and rugged aluminum enclosures that deliver durability in the retail environment. Despite the size and reliability benefits, there is no compromising in functionality or performance. In fact, retailers can select from a range of processor options from single core CPU’s for entry level applications to 3rd generation dual-core i7 offerings, enabling a good match for far more intensive computing requirements. A single computer can power compatibility with dual kiosks or screens. Advanced communication features ensure seamless data transfer between the kiosk and on-site or off-site back office systems, and support for high-end graphics for full HD or 3D content maximizes visual impact for the retail customer.
Despite their small form factor, good kiosks have the latest class connectivity options and innovative ways to add functionality. This makes it easy to interface key retail peripherals such as printers, scanners, chip and pin readers and cameras. In the case of the fit-PC mentioned above this is taken a step further though ‘Function and Connectivity Extension’ or FACE modules – extension boards that integrate into the computer to provide custom functionality and I/O extensions giving almost unlimited interface options. For the retailer this is a significant advantage as it provides future-proofing and investment protection by providing a simplified and very low-cost route for evolving the capabilities of an existing kiosk, rather than having to purchase a completely new system. Finally, in the case of the Trim Slice and fit PC computers mentioned previously, this support for future-proofing is further enhanced by the fact that these platforms are guaranteed to be available for five to seven years, rather than the usual six months associated with consumer technologies.
About the Author:
Rob Anders can be reached via his Google Plus Profile.
About the Company:
andersDX, a division of Anders Electronics plc, is a User Interface technology specialist, dedicated to optimising the User Experience of non-consumer devices.
Uniquely combining core competencies in Display, Embedded Computing and Input Technologies, together with GUI Design & Implementation and Industrial Design, andersDX helps customers differentiate their product offerings through innovative display interface solutions which are easy and enjoyable to use.
Whether we supply you a stand-alone component, or a Total DX integrated solution, we focus our efforts on bringing an ‘ipad’ type look and feel experience to your device, enabling you to focus your resource on your core application and domain expertise.