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Self-serve kiosks have always been defined by the ability to provide an automated service, whether it was to provide information, facilitate a transaction or both. Hence, they have always deployed some type of interactive technology. Companies that provided kiosks required some level of technological expertise.

As computer software evolved, companies that built the cabinets that housed the kiosk technology relied on software specialists to allow the kiosks to perform specific tasks. Oftentimes, rather than hiring software specialists as full-time employees to perform a limited number of tasks, it made more sense for the kiosk hardware company to hire outside software specialists on an as-needed basis.

But as interactive capabilities expanded, some kiosk hardware providers began to recognize the need for full-time software specialists.

Today, the majority of companies that define themselves as kiosk providers offer both hardware and software. Rather than identifying themselves as “hardware” or “software” providers, many of these companies see themselves as “kiosk solution” providers.

As interactive technology has accelerated in recent years, the number of companies offering kiosk software has increased. The software offerings have also expanded.

Some companies continue to focus on kiosk hardware and prefer to partner with software specialists for technology.

In the interest of documenting the extent to which kiosk hardware providers have expanded into kiosk software, Kiosk Marketplace recently surveyed hardware companies to find out how many have made the expansion and what software features they are offering. Out of 31 companies surveyed, 28 (77.4 percent) are offering software.

The matrix PDF accompanying this article lists the software features for each of the 28 hardware providers who said they offer some software capability. The companies are listed in alphabetical order.

Hardware providers that have expanded into software claim they are able to meet customer needs faster. Some also claim that this capability gives them more confidence in being able to meet customers’ needs since they have more control over the entire project.

Nearly all companies offering software features said they plan to add more software features and are adding features at a faster rate.

The matrix indicates features that companies offered as of August.

While the survey documents hardware providers’ expansion into software, the charts have not been designed to indicate better quality products than those of hardware providers not included. Some of the largest hardware providers do not provide software, preferring to partner with software companies.

Juan Perez, president of Adusa Inc., a dedicated kiosk software provider, said the expansion of interactive technologies in recent years ensures the need for specialists such as his company. Perez noted that most software features that hardware providers offer fall into areas such as device management, performance measurement and machine monitoring.

Application software, Perez said, is highly effective in enhancing the guest experience, including components such as tracking of order history that expedites ordering on return trips, targeted suggested selling and integration with existing mobile apps, to name just a few.

Hardware management leads software features

Not surprisingly, the most common software capabilities that hardware providers offer are connected to hardware management. Remote machine management was the most common software function offered, as indicated on the accompanying software functions chart.

Payments ranked as the second most common software feature, as bill payment and ticketing remain significant kiosk verticals. In addition, payment platforms are used in kiosks across a wide range of industries, including retail, entertainment, hospitality, gaming, self-service car washes, financial services, restaurants and omnichannel fulfillment.

The next most common software features — EMV and PCI accommodation — are also payment functions.

Features that three or fewer companies said they offer are virtual reality, augmented reality, haptic technology, social media hosting, money transfer services and video games.

Out of 36 features mentioned in the survey, only two — holograms and visual sign language — were not offered by any of the companies.

Part two in this two-part series will explore which software capabilities are driving the greatest growth for kiosk hardware providers.

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