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Exhibitors take Self Service Expo to new level

Self Service Expo 2007, held in Las Vegas April 25-27 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, featured an impressive array of exhibits and products. The 2,500 plus attendees and exhibitors said they were impressed by Self Service Expo's growth since its launch 11 years ago.

 
"It seems everyone was busy with quality people with real projects, which is the goal of every visitor and exhibitor," said Lawrence Dvorchik, general manager of KioskCom.
 
Dvorchik said Self Service Expo's fall show, which runs Oct. 23-24 in New York City, is already 50 percent full. The New York show will feature a special area focused on digital signage.
 
Digital signage featured prominently at this season's show as well, with companies like KeyWest Technology touting their latest and greated innovations. KeyWest and other featured exhibitors had some downright cool stuff to show. Here's a glimpse at what those other companies and exhibitors had to offer.
 
Click here for the full show wrap-up, which includes snipits about other companies and exhibits at KioskCom.
 
Brazil's BEMATECH, a thermal-printer manufacturer, has roots on the ATM side of the house but has been reaching out into other branches of self-service for the last eight or nine years. Bematech's "8-in-1" mechanism and control board can be configured to fit custom-shaped kiosks eight different ways.

"We've designed the printer to be modular and more flexible than what other printer companies offer," Bematech's Chris Bergmann said. "Kiosks don't just come in box shapes anymore, so we've adjusted to meet the needs of the market."

COIN ACCEPTORS INC., which also operates under the names Coin Co. and Money Controls (in the United Kingdom), is all about the nickels and dimes. The company manufactures coin acceptors and dispensers as well as cash acceptors.

During Self Service Expo, Coin Acceptors introduced a six-tube coin acceptor, the Guardian 6000. Richard Murphy, the company's specialty-markets account manager, touted the 6000 for being the industry's first six-tube acceptor. The Guardian also doubles as a coin recycler. The company also showed off its ArdacElite, a hopper dispenser, simply meaning it can hold a reserve of coins.

COMARK CORP., based in Medfield, Mass., custom builds kiosks. During the show, the Multi·Touch outdoor kiosk and ThinSign digital media system and Wide·Touch digital-signage system were the highlights. All of the systems can run on a Windows or Linux operating system.

From left: Patrick Wallace, Tom Giuliano and Steve Schott of Comark.
The Multi·Touch unit, introduced last year, can be built to include multiple options, including cash and card acceptance. ThinSign, which was introduced during the show, is an all-in-one solution that provides all the advantages of an interactive kiosk in a compact touchscreen display that can be mounted on the wall. And the Wide·Touch system, which made its debut at the fall Self-Service & Kiosk Show in San Antonio, is a complete digital-media system, with the company's standard 19-inch screen and the option to integrate a printer and/or scanner, depending on the desired deployment. Comark's Patrick Wallace said the 30-year-old information-systems company is targeting a range of markets, including retail, food-service and tourism.

CORPORATE SAFE SPECIALISTS focused attendee attention on its closed-loop cash-management system, which CSS developed over the last two years through a partnership with Brinks. Kevin McKnight, CSS's national account manager, said the system was designed to limit the number of people that touch a retailer's cash. It's used on the company's line of safes and kiosks.

"We call it a safe-kiosk," McKnight said.

DIEBOLD PREMIER SERVICES, the servicing arm of Diebold Inc., is supporting ATM and kiosk companies by overseeing their installation and servicing needs.

"We're here at the show to let the kiosk industry know what we have to offer," said Julie Manson, Diebold's senior services marketing manager. "We're deepening our relationships in the kiosk space. We recently announced a deal with DVD Play — we're a deployment partner. We work with them, providing information that tracks how well the deployment is doing."

Manson said the deal with DVD Play is an example of how Diebold is working to branch out and offer project-management services. "We help the deployer expand its footprint, because our service reach spans a wide geographic area," she said.

Kiosk printers are the focus at EPSON AMERICA INC. Bruce Wilhelm, Epson's business manager, said attendees are interested in servicing their kiosks less, so rugged, reliable printers are playing a more prominent role in the industry.

During the show, Epson displayed some prototypes that allow deployers to print color receipts. Wilhelm said the company is just feeling the market out, to get an idea of the interest level.

"This is something we will likely offer in the future, since the market seems to be demanding it," he said.

FRANK MAYER & ASSOCIATES is a full-service kiosk company, but its primary focus is custom-built kiosk enclosures. The company has taken its 75 years of retail experience and applied it to the development of kiosks that meet niche retail needs, said Allen Buchholz, Frank Mayer's executive vice president.

"Everything we do is custom," he said. "We don't have anything in stock."

During Self Service Expo, Frank Mayer showed examples of customized enclosures and solutions it's developed for some of its customers, including Nintendo, Microsoft and Giant Foods.

The Nintendo Wii kiosk was a crowd pleaser. Frank Mayer manufactured 100 of the kiosks for Nintendo tour the Wii around the country when it first hit the market last year.

"We want to show, ultimately, our design capabilities," Buchholz said.

FREEDOM SHOPPING LLC had one of the show's most-interesting displays. The company's Valet solution uses RFID technology to market goods, facilitate self-checkout and reduce theft within all types of retail locations.

Mike Daily, Freedom's senior managing partner, said the Windows-based solution, which was introduced to the public in January 2007, is marketed as an "all-in-one minimarket."

"We started out by solving the problem at the checkout by eliminating the barcode and placing an RFID strip in its place," Daily said. "At the end of the checkout, the strip is detected and automatically checked."

Now in its fourth generation, the Valet incorporates a variety of payment features, including a biometrics reader for identification. The Valet also comes equipped with built-in digital signage for product promotion. When products are placed on the scanner, the RFID tag is read and promotions for that product or similar products are displayed on the screen. And should any customer try to walk off with unscanned goods, the security gate, also RFID-enabled, will set of an alarm.

The system can be remotely managed as well.

"We simplified it by making it one unit, one security piece, with one online management system," Daily said.

FUJITSU COMPONENTS AMERICA INC. displayed resistive 17-inch touchpanels and thermal printers. The 627 minikiosk printer was a highlight during this season's show as it's the newest addition to Fujitsu's 600 printer series.

HEMISPHERE WEST INTERNATIONAL spent the show marketing its line of cash dispensers and acceptors.

"We're promoting the kind of dispensers that offer super-ATM-like functions, said John Petkus, Hemisphere's president. But it's more than just dispense and accept — Hemisphere is offering all types of currency solutions, he said.

The company's LG line of cash dispensers, which hit the street about a year ago, is designed to accept and dispense damaged/street-grade notes without jamming. The dispensers/acceptors range from one to six-cassettes.

A lot was going on the IBM booth, which actually spanned the area of two booths on the showroom floor. With companies like LiveWire Kiosk Solutions, Apunix and MOD Systems, IBM is using its Anyplace Kiosk platform for a variety of market and deployment functions.

Norma Wolcott, IBM's business line executive, said IBM views self-service as a way to better help IBM clients better serve its endusers. It's not necessarily all about consumer-facing applications, she said. It's about developing solutions that meet consumer needs.

"We're trying to get better service to our clients for their customers," she said. "And that could mean the deployment of full-service or self-service, depending on what the customer requires."

IBM is working with a cross section of the industry, from airline self check-in to assisted self-service in retail.

One example of how IBM has taken its self-service knowledge and applied it in a way that benefits the client and the client's customer is the application Apunix and Nordstrom deployed for fragrances in Nordstrom. The application is built on IBM's Anyplace platform.

Jan Moran, of Crescent House Publishing LLC, provided Apunix all of the fragrance catalog information. "We had a huge database," she said, "and Nordstrom wanted to use it to help its associates and customers locate products."

The catalog is dynamic, allowing sales associates and customers — if deployed as a customer-facing solution — to search fragrances by date, country, the type of scent, color, etc.

Nordstrom has exclusive rights on the solution until the end of 2007.

INFONOX focused its attention on multifunctional kiosks and ATMs during the show. Through a partnership with Nautilus Hyosung and Elan Financial Services, Infonox is providing software solutions for bill payment and check cashing. The Pass+ ATM/kiosk line, uses Infonox's Active Payment Platform in conjunction with transaction processing from Elan. The line comes preloaded with Infonox's software.

Infonox's Ashim Banerjee said he expects deployment of the line to begin within the next 60 days.

"We plan to deploy the kiosks (that don't offer cash dispensing) in conjunction with existing ATMs in retail locations," he said.

KEYWEST TECHNOLOGY, a digital-signage company, specializes in content management. The company's software allows clients to schedule and manipulate content in real-time via the Web.

David Little, the company's director of marketing and business development, said KeyWest's broadcasting background gives it a unique perspective.
 
 
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"We approached digital signage from a video-editing frame of mind," he said. "We are layering the media, and competitors in the space have learned from our example. Early digital signs were narrow-screen deployments that allowed no customer interaction. With a layered approach, interactivity is easy."

MediaXtreme is the company's base product. It's tacked interactivity on to the offering with its I-3 line, which it showcased at KioskCom.

A custom-built drive-up kiosk called QuickServe and the thin Stealth kiosk were only two of the highlights at the KIOSK INFORMATION SYSTEMS booth. The company showed off a myriad of solutions it's customized for a range of industries, including the military.

Cheryl Madeson, KIOSK's marketing manager, said the company is working with a variety of provider to enhance kiosk deployments. A case in point is the work KIOSK is doing with Sprint to perfect wireless kiosk connectivity. During Self Service Expo, Sprint and KIOSK showed some kiosk solutions that run via wireless connectivity provided by Sprint.

"This offers an opportunity for the client to have a deployment that is truly mobile," said Kevin Pettis, a Sprint account manager. "It gives them more customer options, and allows them to install kiosks in places that would otherwise be difficult or expensive (where installing phone lines is concerned). We're trying to come up with a standards-based solution for the industry."

KODAK SERVICE & SUPPORT isn't just a camera shop; it's a global service company that's working to change its image. From repair, training and diagnostic services to system integration and logistics, Kodak is working with a range of companies, including those in the kiosk space, to improve operational efficiencies.

NANONATION showed a variety of solutions, from an interactive video wall developed for Umpqua Bank to a 65-inch touchscreen developed for Royal Caribbean. Nanonation is a software company that drives interactive marketing, said Brian Ardinger, the company's senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

The Royal Caribbean virtual-marketing campaign on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas cruise ship, launched in January. Nanonation developed the content, which is promoted outside the ship's spa and fitness center.

Ardinger said the solution took between 60 and 90 days to develop.

"We customize our offerings, but we have one core platform to deliver a variety of experiences," he said.

PARABIT SYSTEMS, a known player in the ATM-security space, doubles as a turnkey kiosk manufacturer. The company does customized work for a variety of industries, including banking. Kiosk enclosures, security-access panels, and on-site and remote technical support are big parts of Parabit's business, said company president Rob Leiponis.

"We work with our customers on prototyping and mass production," he said.

PRACTICAL AUTOMATION provides thermal printers for a variety of uses, including bridal registry and hotel check in. Its wide-format printer, the ITK38 series, is one of the company's flagship printers. The wide format is ideal for retail, hospitality and human-resource deployment, said Fred Proscino, the company's sales engineer.

SANKYO AMERICA CORP. is a Japan-based card-reader and card-writer manufacturer. The company specializes in dip and swipe readers, but at Self Service Expo it touted its gift-card dispenser, which prints/writes gift cards right on the spot.

"Our gift-card dispenser can hold between 150 and 300 cards per cassette," said Toshiyuki Kobayashi, Sankyo's deputy general manager.

Sankyo also showed its contactless card readers and passport scanner — products that are currently garnering more attention in other markets.

SEEPOINT KIOSK TECHNOLOGY specializes in touchscreen deployments. During Self Service Expo, SeePoint showed off its new VantagePoint kiosk, which comes equipped with an LCD that ranges from 15 inches to 19 inches in width.

DisplayPoint, another new SeePoint product, is a 40-inch LCD used primarily for digital signage. SeePoint designed DisplayPoint for Bank of America, but it's now promoting the product to other customers.

ST. CLAIR INTERACTIVE COMMUNICATIONS INC., a 25-year-old innovator in the kiosk realm, introduced the next generation of its real-time 3-D kiosk application — the world's first of its kind, said St. Clair's project manager, Chris Peter.

"We introduced the 3-D application at the last kiosk show (in San Antonio), but we're introducing a new version of it here," he said.

With maps laid beneath object textures on the screen, St. Clair's system tracks user selections and can change paths through the application, based on user choices. The application also can be displayed as video on live surfaces. The company's self-service templates package common functions, providing a framework for easy deployment of touchscreen programs, Peter said. And St. Clair's Command & Control network-management program monitors the operating status of deployed units, updates content and tracks user stats.

Also highlighted during the show was the company's customizable DVD application, which allows users to burn DVDs with a variety of programs, from movies to workout videos, in six to eight minutes. "It's customization on the fly," Peter said.

Kevin Judd demonstrated StacoSwitch's waterproof keyboard.
STACOSWITCH INC. is incorporating tactile feedback into its hardware, enhancing the consumer experience, said Tim Reilly, the company's senior product manager. The company introduced the hardware foundation last year.

"We don't have any off-the-shelf solutions," Reilly said. "We go out and talk to the customer and see what they want and then we design it."

StacoSwitch is working to become more of a project management company than simply a manufacturer.

STAR MICRONICS AMERICA INC. displayed its TCM 300 thermal printer — a rewriteable unit that allows deployers to rewrite cards. When tied to loyalty programs, the printer can actually read customer data saved on the magnetic-stripe and then print loyalty rewards on the card. Each time the loyalty customer puts the card into the reader the old message is erased and a new message or discount offer is printed on the card. Each card can be rewritten between 300 and 500 times.

TELSOURCE CORP. showed off its LVS interactive display, a small form-factor unit that is powered via Ethernet or VoIP.

"Our focus is on enhancing the network," said Telsource's Kent Pifher. "We're not really focused on the applications themselves. We work with our customers to make sure everything communicates."

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