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Kiosk hardware providers often find that by expanding into software, they retain more control over the execution of their projects, which can help them complete projects faster. When Kiosk Marketplace queried hardware providers in late August, this was cited as a driving force — but not the only one — behind their expansion into software.

In the interest of documenting the extent to which kiosk hardware providers have expanded into kiosk software, Kiosk Marketplace 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, as noted in part one of this two-part series.

With software engineers on staff, it is possible to develop software capabilities in a matter of weeks instead of months, depending on the project, said Brian Horsley, software director at SlabbKiosks. “You can make changes quickly,” he said. “We can come up with a kiosk application in a few weeks. You don’t have to go through lot of other people.”

Horsley, whose company offers proximity detection, surveys, money transfer, mobile payment, e-commerce management, cryptocurrency acceptance and artificial intelligence, also expects that kiosk hardware companies will continue to add more software features because of the increasing demand for software in kiosk deployments.

A recurring revenue model

“Most [clients] don’t focus on the software until after the fact,” Horsley said.

Oftentimes, a customer doesn’t fully understand which specific functions will be needed when they order a kiosk. Hence, the kiosk provider ends up having to make late-stage changes to the software. These changes can be made much faster if the company providing the hardware is responsible for writing the software, Horsley said.

Offering software also gives a hardware provider more opportunities to capitalize on their customer relationships, said Steve Latham, president of Banyan Hills Technologies Inc., which offers e-commerce management among its basket of software offerings. “This recurring revenue model is very attractive,” he said.

Latham pointed to artificial intelligence — which is not among the features commonly offered, and is not currently offered by Latham’s company — as having the greatest potential for the industry.

He said that kiosks can collect massive amounts of data that can provide major insights into user needs. “That’s the promise of big data. [But] there’s so much ‘noise’ in that data that you can’t expect anyone to derive meaningful conclusions without tremendous effort. That’s where AI comes in.”

Artificial intelligence can enable a kiosk to recognize individual features in users, enabling the deployer to send targeted product and service messages, said Marcos Fugulin, president of Apek International. Apek is one of the few companies offering AI among its software features, which also include proximity detection, virtual reality, voice commands, wayfinding, directory services and predictive analytics.

Some contracts specify software

Ross Tocher, president of Qwick Media, said that some customer contracts now ask for a lot of information about software, including antivirus protection, browsers supported and lockdown capabilities.

While the demand for self-serve kiosks is expanding rapidly, not all software requests make sense, according to Tocher, who believes that every feature must reward the customer in some way if it’s going to be used.

Tocher’s company offers social media hosting, directory services, wayfinding, surveys, proximity detection, predictive analytics and e-commerce management in addition to the more common features. It takes a great deal of time to develop software to support these features, Tocher observed.

Meridian Kiosks has been offering software since 2010 and has expanded into directory services, wayfinding, proximity detection and voice commands, in addition to most of the more common software features often provided by hardware vendors. According to marketing manager Stephanie Merwherter, Meridian developed its directory services and wayfinding features about two years ago as “out of the box” solutions for Clear Channel airports.

An extensive software offering allows the company to serve diverse customer verticals, Merwherter said. For instance, while directory services software was initially developed for airports, the functionality has seen the most use in corporate environments.

Additionally, she said, interactive wayfinding has seen success in “smart city” applications geared to smaller towns whose content management systems are easier to use than those of larger cities that require integration with extensive transit systems. For projects in the growing smart city vertical, Meridian Kiosks has partnered with Smart City Media LLC, which deploys informational Wi-Fi kiosks in U.S. cities.

Meridian Kiosks most commonly uses outside software developers for projects in the smart city and QSR segments, Merwherter said. QSR kiosks often need to integrate with a number of QSR-specific functions, and smart city kiosks in larger metros can require integration with numerous transit systems and multiple external information ports.

Zivelo LLC recently introduced an operating system that allows clients to develop applications using common web-based frameworks and a software development kit, according to Zivelo Chief Business Development Officer Kris Bartel. The company introduced the offering after acquiring Oak Lab in May.

Zivelo also offers voice command software, which has application in retail endless aisle and banking projects, Bartel said. The company is also testing a cryptocurrency ATM kiosk.

Software expansion to continue

“I only see [the software] aspect of our business growing,” said Margo Bowie, marketing manager at Advanced Kiosks. The company’s most recently added software offering is video streaming, which clients find useful for video conferencing. This software has also proven popular with self-storage companies as it allows them to monitor multiple locations.

Another recently added feature for Advanced Kiosks is haptic technology, which has application in kiosks designed for the disabled, Bowie said.

Directory services software, which Advanced Kiosks also offers, has proven popular with companies managing special events like memorial dedications.

Several of the experts Kiosk Marketplace interviewed said that McDonald’s national rollout of self-serve kiosks has strengthened the demand for kiosks, not only among restaurants, but also for a wide range of other industries. Business owners familiar with the McDonald’s rollout are more motivated than ever to consider the benefits of self-service kiosks.

One thing is certain: As the demand for self-serve kiosks expands, providers will be called upon increasingly to offer software.

Posted with permission from www.KioskMarketplace.com
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com
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