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Self-Service Tech Trends in Retail, Banking, and Hospitality

Dylan Waddle, Stephen Borg, David Frei, Self Service Kiosks

Dylan Waddle, Stephen Borg, David Frei, Self Service Kiosks

Self-service kiosks are changing the way consumers interact with retailers, banks, and the hospitality industry. Consumers no longer have to wait in line to get a rich, engaging, and personalized experience.

With new technological innovations, businesses now also have an opportunity to learn more about what their consumers want and implement new multichannel strategies.

In this podcast, we explore the changing role of self-service kiosks across all industries in 2021 and beyond with Dylan Waddle, Chief Operating Officer for global provider of kiosk solutions M3 Technology Solutions (M3t); Stephen Borg, Group Chief Executive Officer for AI technology company meldCX; and David Frei, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for worldwide kiosk manufacturer Pyramid Computer.

Join us as we dive into:

  • The growing interest in kiosks
  • The impact COVID has had on adoption of kiosks
  • Current and upcoming use cases for kiosks
  • The role of machine vision to create a seamless and connected experience
  • How businesses can get the most out of the kiosk experience
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Transcript

Kenton Williston: Welcome to the IoT Chat, where we explore the trends that matter for consultants, systems integrators, and end users. I’m Kenton Williston, the editor-in-chief of insight dot tech.

Today I’m talking about self-service trends with a panel that includes Dylan Waddle, Chief Operating Officer for M3t, Stephen Borg, Group Chief Executive Officer for meldCX, and David Frei, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for Pyramid Computer.

Our guest serve a huge range of industries—everything from quick-service restaurants to banks. Across the board, they’ve seen a massive surge in demand for kiosks as COVID upended nearly every aspect of our lives.

So what’s coming next? What lessons can businesses carry forward as the world gets back to normal?

But before we get to those questions, let me introduce our guests.

So Dylan, I’ll start with you. Welcome you to the show.

Dylan Waddle: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Kenton Williston: Can you tell me a little bit about what M3T does, and your role there?

Dylan Waddle: Sure. M3T is a provider of fully integrated kiosk solutions. We started 15 years ago developing back-office management systems for banks, casinos—people that were managing a lot of physical currency. That evolved about 12 years ago into manufacturing kiosks—including software, hardware, deployment. We touch about every industry vertical. All of our customers have a unique perspective on how the kiosk plays into their infrastructure.

Kenton Williston: Excellent. So, Stephen, I’d like to welcome you to the show.

Stephen Borg: Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of meldCX. We’re a software business; we also design hardware and work with partners for these integrated experiences. Our focus is to deliver software that drives premier customer experiences using AI and Edge technologies—being kiosks—and working closely with our partners to deliver them.

We’re across multiple industry sectors. And we’ve got a base in the US, Europe, and Australia.

Kenton Williston: Wonderful. So, David, last but not least, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us. And can you tell us a little bit about Pyramid and your role there?

David Frei: Sure. Thanks for the introduction. And also having me here. I’m VP of Strategic Partnerships at Pyramid. And Pyramid is already in the market for almost 40 years. And we are an IT hardware manufacturer, with focus on security server and self-service kiosks. We are doing business in a wide range of different segments—including retail, restaurant, grocery, healthcare, but also building access control.

And we are a global supplier for many very prominent brands, including Lidl, Adidas, or McDonald’s.

Kenton Williston: So I want to get right into the topic of today’s conversation about self-service in all kinds of different industries. So I would like to hear your thoughts on what is driving the emergence of these kiosks, and why they’re so popular.

So, Dylan, let me just start with you there. One of the things I think is an obvious driver behind this is during the pandemic, of course, there was a lot of anxiety and even regulations about doing business as usual. And a real need to find more hygienic, healthy ways of serving folks. And so self-service kiosks became a huge part of that.

What I’m wondering is how you see that trend continuing as we move now into something that resembles normal.

Dylan Waddle: So, yeah, absolutely. We’ve been talking with senior executives from retailers around the country. Lululemon was one of the most recent to comment, and one of the things they’re heavily focused on is what that in-store experience feels like post-COVID.

And so they’re thinking about inventory levels; what the consumer experience looks like; what happens from the time they walk into the door to the time they leave. How many employees can they have in-store? What’s going to be safe for the consumer? And I think you’re exactly right: COVID has played a major impact on the adoption of the kiosk solution.

So, pre-COVID, kiosks were seen as more of a convenience, but not necessarily something that every store had. And then, post-COVID, we feel like the retailers, banks, et cetera, are heavily focused on kiosks and the role that they’re going to play for the consumer. They’re thinking a lot about, what does a consumer-service representative do when you’re in-store? Do they help you with your transaction initially on a kiosk? And using tools we offer, like wayfinding, purchase, paying for things right there on the terminal.

It’s really a complete rethought around the consumer experience in a retail establishment. And, like I said, banks, retailers—pretty much any kind of experience—is going to begin with a kiosk. People are a lot more comfortable with interacting with a kiosk, as long as the flow is simplified and they feel like it’s a simple, easy way to conduct business and figure out what they need.

Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. And I love the points you’re bringing up there about how critical kiosks have been in the retail sector. And I totally agree with what you’re saying there. But, of course, that is not the only use case.

So, David, I’m interested to hear from your perspective what kinds of use cases you’re seeing, and how those are changing. And, for that matter, in different sectors what are the care-abouts that measure success?

David Frei: In the past few years, kiosk really had been established as one preferable digital channel  when it comes to upselling and queue busting in pioneering industries like hospitality and retail. Speaking KPIs, there are great reports available that prove upside potential, for example, of 30% basket size, and also waiting time reductions of minimum 20 seconds per session.

So, to Dylan’s point, that’s really pre-COVID. However, in the previous year, not least due to COVID, there were new use cases, and especially new value focuses arising. One of our biggest successes had been in the temperature-measurement and guest-screening environment. So this is really meant to provide a new layer of protecting visitors’ or staff’s health while entering in any kind of building.

So, no need to mention that health has become, and hopefully always had been, the most important goal and KPI in that sense.

Kenton Williston: So, Stephen, let me ask you, this all sounds lovely, but I think a big question mark in my mind is—okay, so we’ve got clearly a huge burst of interest that sounds like it’s going to keep going for a while in these kiosks. But it’s going to demand a lot, I think, in terms of new hardware, new software, new connectivity to back-end systems, and all the rest.

And I’m really curious. As a software provider, how do you see the ecosystem behind these kiosks changing? And, in particular, how you see the industry responding to demands for new technologies like machine vision.

Stephen Borg: Yes, it’s quite interesting, in that, as we started from a software platform helping customers either execute more quickly or helping partners, what we quickly found, especially around machine vision, was that the integration between software and physical-device design needed to be much more tightly integrated.

What we do is help design that service, or work with partners to do that. That’s one of the biggest changes, that when you’re going down machine-vision path or AI path, it’s a lot more precise when you come to design and lighting, and all those aspects.

But what we’re finding most of all is our customers are trying to replicate, or create, a better customer experience. It’s not just about pulling people through quicker, or line busting, or those traditional use cases. We’re finding they—usually the checklist we get is, “I want to create a richer, more engaging experience, while minimizing the amount of touches. But I want it to be more personal.” So we get this contravening checklist.

And we’re finding use cases as broad as retailers coming to us saying, “We want to take initiatives, such as reducing wastage in grocery, or reducing prepacks; how do we do that while making it a better experience in other ways they would have?”

So we’re seeing machine vision playing a really big part in those applications that make that whole process seamless. We’re seeing it in postal services, where it can be quite complex—sending a parcel and making sure you fill out your forms right—and doing that on kiosk may take longer. So we’re seeing machine vision taking key parts there and filling the gaps. So if someone’s filled it out, it does handwriting recognition and automatically detects the destination and what else we need to know, or verifies the address. So it cleans the data on the way through to ensure your parcel gets there.

We’re seeing machine vision used in—to connect an experience. We’re doing a retail bank right now, where through tokenization it distinguishes your skill level in using that kiosk. So it can go straight past any instructional content and get you right to the point, because that’s your expectation—once you’ve used it once or twice, you want that interaction to be quite seamless.

And then we’re seeing—we’re doing some work right now with a big bank in Australia; we’re doing some key work with the Marriott Group. And they want to create a universal premium experience, regardless of what brand, and bring that experience down to a kiosk device—not just for check-in, but check-in, valet, any services that you typically require, and you have a choice to experience that on a kiosk.

So we’re finding more and more machine vision and AI applications being brought into these environments. A perfect example is for hotel check-in: some countries or some regions, they require identity checking, or verification of COVID passport. Or, in Australia, you have actually passports or border passports between states at certain times—verifying that you have that before you check in.

So all these types of things are driving the need to tightly integrate AI or machine-vision solutions back into kiosk applications.

Kenton Williston: Really interesting to hear all these different use cases of machine vision. One that I really liked in particular was this idea of a kiosk understanding if you used it before or not to give you the pro-mode experience. That’s really, really cool. And, just across the board, I’m hearing there are a lot of really interesting use cases in how people engage with kiosks, and the kinds of interfaces that are coming to the forefront.

So, David, I’d love to hear from your perspective a little bit more how your customers are using these new technologies to create more inviting interfaces and better personalization. So, what are you seeing?

David Frei: Yeah, so Stephen made a really important point with personalization is what also our customer drives. And with respect to innovative POS interfaces that you’re referring to, we indeed field tested new technologies, including as for example, gesture control, eye tracking, and even voice interaction during the pandemic last year.

And all was in the context of drive-through, click-and-collect, and self-ordering—mostly in the restaurant environment. So, unfortunately, I have to say, none of them really established as an alternative for the touch interface, which is still the most intuitive, I would say. However, these attempts have proven to provide interesting user information, which can be leveraged to improve upselling, speed at the point of sale, and—especially—customer loyalty.

Here, as Stephen said, it is really all about personalization. As, for example, there are interesting conclusions our customers can draw if you analyze the items that a guest is looking at standing in front of the kiosk, and whether he purchases these items or not. So you then can use the data, and presenting this—so we call it items of best chance—to purchase next to all following customers with similar demographic structure, including gender or age.

Kenton Williston: One thing you did mention that I think is important there, is the question about how readily you can actually move away from a touch interface, right? That’s something that people have been very interested in, for many reasons. One of the obvious ones being health and safety—some folks are doing different things, like just taking the tack of going with antiseptic coatings for the kiosks instead as a different way of keeping them safe and healthy.

So, Stephen, I’m wondering, from your perspective, what else people are doing to make sure these high-traffic kiosks stay clean and safe to use. And if there’s any other really important trends you’re seeing in the retail space in terms of how folks are reconsidering how these things should be assessed and interfaced with.

Stephen Borg: We found similar things. The first thing we did was open our platform to a lot of different things, such as eye tracking, some finger tracking— all these things where you don’t have to physically touch the device. What we found was that the end user wasn’t quite adapted to that. And so it didn’t create the best experience.

So we found two main trends. Antimicrobial was one of them, but we found two other areas, which we found quite interesting. One was, we had demand, and we’ve made these products available to everyone, regardless of kiosk brand or type.

We created a piece of AI that allows you to heatmap touched areas on a kiosk—it uses a combination of the pressure sensor and touchscreen and if there’s any physical cameras in the touchscreen—and it allows you to create a complete digital manifest of areas that were touched. Because based on research we did and conducted with customers, they found that they were concerned about cleaning—making sure that the kiosks were cleaned, and also were cleaned for long enough in the correct areas, which is critically important.

So what we’ve created is an AI tool that sits in the background and keeps a manifest of everything that’s touched or interacted with. You can set thresholds at a corporate level, and it would message a local attendant, or it would even stop the kiosk being used if it hits a threshold until it’s cleaned. And then it goes ahead and creates a complete digital manifest of who cleaned it, when.

So once you put it in that mode, it shows all the heavy-usage areas, and you literally have to rub them off. So if there’s one area in a touchscreen that’s heavily used, it would literally make you rub that out. It’s like you’re rubbing an eraser—rubbing up pencil. And we found that to be hugely popular, because it gave our customers confidence that their staff on-site were cleaning appropriately. It gave them a full audit of their activity for cleaning.

And it gave some customers confidence, too, in certain areas such as airports, where you could see that: this is a high-usage kiosk—go to the next kiosk; it hasn’t been cleaned yet. And that worked really well.

Kenton Williston: That’s interesting. Yeah, that’s a good point—tracking the multiple benefits, both in terms of giving the customers a comfort level and also helping employees ensure that things are clean. That’s really cool. And I love that cleaning part—it almost sounds to me like a sort of bizarro video game.

Stephen Borg: We gamified it, right.

Kenton Williston: Yeah, exactly.

Stephen Borg: You’re rubbing it off the screen, and making sure every inch of the screen is rubbed out. And if it’s a high usage area, it will make you do that quite intensively, based on some algorithms. So we know that’s clean, right?

And that was actually started by a customer that had an outbreak in Australia that was actually regular -leaning their kiosk. But they weren’t taking attention to the other devices that are on the kiosk. So they were cleaning the screen, but they weren’t cleaning, say, the PIN pad. So this would create a process flow and say, “Clean PIN pad now,” accepted on the screen.

And then the last thing you’d clean is the actual screen. And I’ll show you where those points are. We found that’s hugely popular, and it’s been picked up by a few hospitals as well.

Kenton Williston: And a great use case, again, for machine vision there, to see what’s happening beyond the screen. So, Dylan, I want to give you a chance here talk about financial services. And one of the things that I immediately think about when I think about financial services is a relatively conservative space that has to deal with a lot of regulations. And it’s not necessarily on the forefront of technologies. But despite that, they’ve had to deal with all these same issues as everybody else had to deal with during the pandemic.

So, what are you seeing there? Are there some innovations in terms of the interfaces and user experiences people are achieving in the financial services sector?

Dylan Waddle: When I think about financial services, like you mentioned, I always think two steps behind, okay? I definitely believe that, to Stephen’s point and David’s, touchless is the future for these types of services as well. However, banks and financial credit unions are just much slower to move to the latest and greatest technology.

And so what we see from our perspective is more of a limited-touch version, right? So we reduce the number of touches per use. We also focused heavily on identity authentication. So, through the use of facial and voice recognition technology. That’s including a one-time use code that’s sent to your cell phone. We truly believe that once we authenticate your identity as part of the initial financial-services transaction, we can reduce the number of touches.

The other hurdle that comes into play is data storage, right? So, certain governments restrict the amount of data that can be stored, and then consumers have to be given the ability to decide if they want their personal data stored for use of more advanced technology. So we’ve got to give the consumer the flexibility to decide that.

We also have to deal with things like ADA compliance, right? So, Braille and things of that sort must be included, either on the physical PIN pad or on screen. We’ve seen some new technologies around that, where they actually print the Braille on the screen, so you can feel it when you’re entering your PIN code.

So there are a lot of different pieces that come into play when you think about—how do financial services take the next step? How do they move down the road? So they are anxious to advance, but at the same time they’re also extremely conservative.

Kenton Williston: And, of course, it’s not just banks, right? I mean, financial services is a lot of other things. So, I know, for example, one of the interesting applications you have is converting cashless into cash payments via a kiosk. So can you give me a little more detail about that, and give our listeners a little more detail about that?

Dylan Waddle: Yeah, so that’s a unique feature that M3T offers—is really allowing consumers to insert cash. We live in the world where we’re moving from a cash society to a more digital payment–type society. So we live right in that space.

And one of the things we really specialize in is accepting cash, loading those cash funds to a digital wallet—whether it be on your phone or a physical card. We actually have the capability of issuing the physical card right at the kiosk, so you can load that card. You can also issue change, if you want to give someone change from a transaction by loading the physical card.

We see that in open-loop use cases, as well as closed loop. Closed loop being like for public transit, where the card is only used for that one specific purpose. Open loop being more like a branded card—a branded MasterCard that can be taken anywhere and used.

Our kiosks have the flexibility of allowing you to return to the kiosk, stick the card in, and remove your cash funds from that card as well. So, yeah, it’s all about consumer flexibility and driving that consumer experience for the future.

When you think about putting cash in, once the cash is inserted in the terminal, it’s almost like the sky’s the limit to the functionality. But we’re doing things like bill payment for cities, right? Like in the city of Austin you can insert cash in the kiosk, you can pay for a permit. If you’re going to build a deck on your house or something: insert cash, pay for that permit.

Other cities, like in California, they’re taking cash for paying your property taxes. Consumers want to come in paying cash for that purpose; they want to be able to give the consumer change back and/or issue change on a prepaid card. So that’s really where those kiosks live, and that market for us is growing significantly.

Kenton Williston: Well, I’ve got to say, as a California resident who actually just bought a house here in the last couple of months, the idea of paying property taxes in the amount of taxes I’m going to be paying here, in cash, blows my mind.

Dylan Waddle: Yeah. I completely agree with you. I was absolutely blown away with the amount of cash that people are spending on property taxes; it’s millions of dollars a month.

Kenton Williston: Wow. The other thing you mentioned there—this also is something that Stephen brought up—was about personal data. And something that Stephen mentioned—and this is why his name popped into my head here—was the idea of tokenization, right?

So this is something I think has been huge, huge, huge in the kiosk space, is being able to recognize repeat visitors in a way that is anonymous and doesn’t store their personal data. Is that something you are seeing in the financial services space as well?

Dylan Waddle: Yeah, absolutely. I would say they’re one of the very first industries to move toward tokenization. And the level of compliance we’re required to maintain on an ongoing basis—tokenizing the data is really the only ultra-secure way to do it. Encrypting the data was sort of like step one, storing a token using even a third-party tokenization service.

A good example of that would be like Trustly, where they provide a token so that you’re not actually storing that data. We heavily believe in that, because we’re trying to provide, in essence, another level of security for personal data.

I think the consumer is still a bit behind. They’re still trying to understand—how is this data being stored securely? And, at the end of the day, they see on television where there’s been data breaches and their information has been stolen. So people are nervous, and rightfully so, about having their data stolen. It’s always a grind between: do you want the technology to provide you ultra-convenience and let it store your data? Or do you want to go through a more manual process?

And so I think, from a financial services perspective, we’re pushing heavily in that direction. But we’re also mindful that some consumers are ultra-conservative about letting technology store data. And we certainly understand that. I think that from financial services—yeah, that’s going to be—it touches every single person’s life as we go forward.

Kenton Williston: Absolutely. So, David, I’m curious what you’re seeing with your customers. There are a couple things here I think are worth diving a little deeper. So, first—what you’re seeing in terms of tokenized or otherwise pay-by-face and loyalty programs—what are some of the big trends you’re seeing?

David Frei: Well, obviously, loyalty programs are a huge topic for all of our customers in multiple segments, not just restaurants. There’s that golden rule: nothing new, that there’s no higher cost, and the cost for a new customer acquisition, right?

So when a customer asked me, “How do we get our existing customers back to our store?” Well, then I only can answer that the best way is you having a fundamental multichannel strategy and the knowledge about your customers preferences, which you then can trigger through multiple channels, right? And what would be the easiest way to remember your customer on-site.

Some of our clients, we would say face identity. So putting the whole tokenization and GDPR topic by sight, facial recognition, is an incredible, interesting application field, where we already also tested pay-by-face, where you have biometric match. One, first identifying process, and then you’ll always be remembered, not only in front of the kiosk, but also, for example, with digital signage.

And then also personalized menu adjustments. So if you don’t want to give your full set of data, it’s also enough that the system knows your demographics to adjust the whole menu board and make it more relevant for you, and also easier to do the whole checkout process. And what we also tried in the past, which is very efficient, is mood detection. So depending on the mood of the user we can then offer the most relevant products.

Kenton Williston: How would that work in practice? Can you give me an example?

David Frei: We tested a software which basically detects very significant moods, like if the customer is smiling, if he’s not smiling, if he’s a group of people, or a single person. And then, depending also on some other information—such as the weather outside, et cetera—there’s an algorithm which pretends to give the best offers to those special conditions.

Kenton Williston: Got it. That makes sense. And of course, Stephen, as you’ve already pointed out, the interfacing with the customer is not the only use case for things like machine vision and AI more broadly. Can you tell me a little bit more about the way you see your customers are using machine vision for these sort of applications?

Stephen Borg: So, we’re finding that there’s really three areas to use AI on a kiosk. That’s one: keeping the kiosk operational, and I guess we’ll discuss that later. And the other two really, as the other guests are talking about, is customer identification. So we do what we call anonymous. So even though it’s tokenized, it’s still anonymous—we process on the Edge.

So we work closely with Intel to extract any personalized data at the Edge before it goes to the cloud. And we do some unique things because of that. So, if a customer comes up to the kiosk, we’re using not only detection so we can create a token—we don’t typically use face; we don’t want to store that data—we use a whole lot of different things to create a manifest, right down to—we have a customer that wants to detect the type of handbags females are holding when they’re interacting with their devices. So they know what is their spending capacity, which is really interesting.

So that’s in a shopping center. So they’ll know: Do I arrange in a Gucci into this shopping center? Or is it a Coach? So they’re the type of things that we’re starting to look at.

And, more interestingly, are you talking about product recognition. We’re seeing more and more customers, especially in grocery—we’ve been seeing in other areas where they want to reduce waste, they want to be more conscious, not only wasting packaging, but people only taking the portions they need, right down to food or soaps or coffee, or all different things.

We even have a customer that’s doing it for nuts and bolts. So we all use some deep learning, detect the device or detect the object that’s in there—even through bags—and let the kiosk know what that is.

So the customer has a very seamless experience; the customer doesn’t need to enter a PLU code or a barcode or scan anything, they just put the object on there, and it’s remarkably quick. We’re finding that being a key area, and then overlaying that with different forms of recognition.

So, recognizing labels as well, to make sure there’s certain compliance—we’re finding that on deli and meat products. We’ve got a customer that will make sure a client doesn’t leave with something that’s out of date, or very close to near date. All those type of things you’re starting to see come through to make that shopping experience more convenient, but have other goals—either being environmental or waste or food safety.

Kenton Williston: So, a lot to unpack there, but one thing that did stick out to me that I would like to revisit with the rest of our guests. You mentioned the way that you’re working with Intel—and I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that insight.tech, the program in this podcast, is produced by Intel.

But, Dylan, I wanted to put this question to you, building on that thought about the Intel technology that I know all of you are using inside of your kiosks. One of the things I think that’s important about that is how it can enable your kiosks to be good citizens from a corporate IT perspective.

So I’d love to hear your thoughts as businesses are thinking—How can I get the most out of my kiosk? That is not just what the kiosk does by itself, but how it resides within the larger IT infrastructure. What do you think are some of the most critical considerations there?

Dylan Waddle: Yeah, so when you really think about how a kiosk lives in a corporate IT infrastructure, most of that discussion is around monitoring, maintaining, applying patches correctly. From an Intel perspective, the OpenVINO tool is a pretty amazing tool for supplementing a remote-connection tool to allow you complete access to the BIOS and give you the complete flexibility to even restart the computer when it’s down.

So, to plug Intel’s product, the OpenVINO solution is amazing for that purpose. We do that in concert with—we call it our kiosk-management system, or route-management system—providing a real-time view of all the terminals that are deployed in your network. So it really comes down to the merging of the IT initiatives with these terminals, and how that gets maintained and handled correctly.

The other piece that goes in concert with that is the encryption of the data really on card-ins, and then the tokenization of that data, so that you’re completely securing the data all the way from the terminal through the network to the processor and back.

We just feel that Intel has provided a leg up from that perspective. And we leverage as many other tools as we can. And including, as I mentioned before, tools like facial recognition, voice recognition—their real-sense solutions are absolutely incredible for those features. And they provide, from our perspective, a plug-and-play solution that we love using.

Kenton Williston: Of course, it’s not just the integration with the very broad picture IT infrastructure—there’s also, of course, whatever happens to be on-site, particularly if you’re in a retail or QSR environment, there’s going to be lots of other electronic equipment on-site. One of the things we’ve already talked about was transporting information between kiosks and digital signage, right?

So there’s a good example right there of how, even locally, in more of an Internet of Things sense, these kiosks need to play well with other devices in their local environment.

And so, David, I’d like to hear from you what you see happening in terms both of just what is the trend of kiosks integrating more with other on-site devices, and what needs to happen for that to be done effectively.

David Frei: Yeah, so integrating in existing infrastructure is definitely key. As mentioned, a kiosk is necessarily only a piece of the digital puzzle; you have the greatest effect when integrating real seamlessly into existing infrastructures. And that could be like an ERP system, which contains all article information, customer information, et cetera. Or in the restaurant environment, the existing POS, which still transfers all the, again, article data, but also the whole payment processing.

But there are also other components such as the Web, mobile, or delivery piece of the digital puzzle, which you nowadays really need to have the whole multichannel or omnichannel approach.

Also, not to mention the on-premises data processing, which simply requires a specific server infrastructure. All that is, of course, a pretty comprehensive journey.

Kenton Williston: Absolutely. And, Stephen, how about from your point of view on the software side of things? What should folks be thinking about in terms of incorporating stuff like the out-of-band management, and if there’s any other out-of-band management technologies you think should be front of mind, as well as integrations with the larger software universe and services universe? Things like Salesforce. What do you see as being the critical considerations for those elements?

Stephen Borg: We say there’s multiple layers of how to interact with the kiosk, right? So, there’s your customers that interact with your kiosk; your associates that may interact with the kiosk—they may have to refill printers or printer paper, or cards if it’s hotel check-in—right down to information that gets back to the support and help desk services.

So we’ve taken that approach. And we’ve actually worked with Intel on multiple solution-ready kits for other kiosk manufacturers. They go to the level of using AI tools at the endpoint to look for the most common areas of failure, and avoid the need to either interrupt the transaction or have support services called.

So I’ll give you an example. There’s a few legacy-payment terminal types or some merchant acquirers that might have a situation where the PIN pad gets out of sync with the kiosk software itself. In that situation, that might require a hard reboot, or for the PIN pad to wait for a timeout, which ultimately creates a bad experience for the customer. They’re in a state where they don’t know if their payment’s being processed; they don’t know how to move on.

So, in that case, we have six different layers of what we look at—AI timers, and that looks at various operations at a kiosk and automatically intervenes. And either not only just reboots the device—because we think that’s not a great experience—but might cut power to a PIN pad and re-engage that power while you’re in that transaction so you can continue on. Or it might cycle a card reader—or all those things that you would typically do when you’re calling a support desk, it does that automatically. And sometimes seamlessly.

So we’ve been heavily focused on that, because our mission is a seamless experience—not only for the customers using it, but for the customers deploying it. One of our first feedbacks we got when we surveyed customers was the operational costs of a kiosk can be quite, quite huge if they’ve made the wrong decisions or haven’t considered these aspects.

So that’s one area that we’ve been heavily focused in. And Intel’s been fantastic, giving us access to tools and getting our kits ready-to-market so others can use them. And then, further, we’ve created some universal, I guess, APIs to not only common peripherals, but over 3,000 integrations to your things like Salesforce, ServiceNow. So customers can just easily take their API token, apply it, and they’re ready to go.

So we had a recent customer that wanted to send all front-end communication—so, all communication to associates, such as a card reader stack or something that an associate can check in the middle of a transaction that’s been aborted multiple times, those types of things—it would send it to that attendant, they’d accept, and they’d go check out the kiosk.

And then, for things such as preventative failure, we’re noticing that—I don’t know, there’s a bit more drag on the card reader, or the touchscreen’s not as responsive as we would like. We send some predictive failure analysis back through, something like a ServiceNow, and automatically create a service ticket. And they can choose to close it, or they can choose to have it as an outstanding ticket when their next service personnel is in the area.

So we’ve really looked at the operational costs and the way in which it’s managed from an IT point of view, but also from an attendant point of view.

Kenton Williston:

Very good. So I see we’re getting close to the end of our time—only just scheduled time. So, Dylan, I want to give you a chance—is there anything you would like to leave as a key takeaway with our audience?

Dylan Waddle: So, I know we’ve certainly talked about a lot of different technologies and how they apply to the kiosk industry and the kiosks themselves. I would just like to say that, as you consider the future for your establishment—whether it be retail, banking, gaming, hospitality—just to please consider the crucial role that kiosks play in supplementing your organization.

And also, really, I think melding the online digital experience that consumers are having on their phones, and how those two things come together as they enter your store, your establishment of almost any type. And these things play a big part in reducing inventory, providing an overall greater customer satisfaction when they’re in the store. And really trying to simplify the content that you’re providing when they’re in the store as well.

We just believe the kiosk plays a major role as we go forward into the future. So we would just encourage people to take a look at them, consider them, think about how it works in their environment. And we’d be glad to discuss it, as I’m sure my colleagues on this phone call would be as well. We’re happy to help any way we can.

Kenton Williston: Excellent. And, Stephen, is there anything you wish I had asked you that we didn’t quite get to?

Stephen Borg: Yeah, I think the one thought I’d leave is when we talk to customers now, especially about kiosks, it’s so advanced, and there’s this perception that they’re very transactional. We really start the journey and ask our customers, “What would you like the kiosk to hear, see, and do?” Because it really is about that.

It’s about having a virtual assistant that you’re creating, and what do you want the inputs to be, beyond the functional use case? And I think when customers think that way, they think more broadly. And you see some really interesting use cases, and those manifesting into great experiences.

Kenton Williston: Perfect. And, David, I’ll give you the final word. What final thought would you like to leave with our audience?

David Frei: One thought, or one learning that I had during last year, testing all these very innovative approaches, is how valuable it can be to approach digitalization by starting from the beginning. So it’s very obvious that we are operating in a really incredible, interesting, and fast-changing world, and exciting innovations are appearing, probably every day.

And there’s a great temptation for customers to start digitalization, and having the desire to basically do everything at once. So I’m a big fan of a more conservative digitalization approach, where I see real value in simplicity by step by step—starting a very solid fundamental digital journey with proven components that already have proven, again, the return of investment, where you have comparable low risk.

Kenton Williston: Wonderful. Well, with that, I’d like to thank all of our guests for joining us. So, David, thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us.

David Frei: Thank you.

Kenton Williston: Stephen, likewise. Thanks for joining us.

Stephen Borg: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Kenton Williston: And, Dylan, you as well, of course.

Dylan Waddle: Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.

Kenton Williston: And thanks to our listeners for joining us. If you enjoyed listening, please support us by subscribing and rating us on your favorite podcast app.

This has been the IoT Chat. We’ll be back next time with more ideas from industry leaders at the forefront of IoT design.

About the Author

Kenton Williston is the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech and served as the editor of its predecessor publication, the Embedded Innovator magazine. Kenton received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2000 and has been writing about embedded computing and IoT ever since.

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