The interactive self-service industry had no shortage of activity in the past year. Last week we mentioned the growing strength and continued success of tablet integration into the market, as well as other newsmakers like mobile apps and social media photo kiosks.
And this week we finish off with the rest of our list of noteworthy stories and trends from 2012:
Airports go DIY
The idea of airport self-service is anything but novel, since the idea has indeed been around for several years — but airports around the globe have moved at different speeds in implementing self-service offerings. This year, the pace seemed to get kicked up a notch.
We covered a geographical range of news on new airport self-service in 2012. From Poland to Portugal, London to Orlando; both airports and airlines invested in the technology as a cost reducer and customer service differentiator.
And it seems as if passengers are more open to the idea of doing things themselves at the airport. According to the 2012 SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey, 85 percent of passengers used a combination of Web, kiosk and mobile self-service to avoid human interaction at the airport — a 10 percent increase over the year prior.
Automated boarding gates, self-service baggage tagging and automated baggage drops topped the list of the survey as desirable technologies. Passengers ranked automated boarding gates as a high demand, with 89 percent voting it as their top technology. Automated baggage drop was listed as another one of passengers' top self-service offerings, with 68 percent favoring the option.
Results from the 2012 SITA/Airline Business and Airport IT Trends surveys reported that 74 percent of airlines and 60 percent of airports plan to offer automated bag-drop by 2015, so this trend is expected to stay on the upswing.
"The rise in the proportion of passengers using all three self-service channels — Web, kiosks and mobile phone — underlines the importance of a multichannel approach to self-service allowing passengers to choose the most appropriate to their individual situation on the day of travel," said Paul Houghton, SITA president for Americas, in a release with the survey.
Self-service health care
After a prosperous year of funding in 2011, the SoloHealth Station continued its successful run in 2012, securing a thumbs-up from the FDA, as well as high-profile investors, manufacturers and deployers.
In August SoloHealth announced that it would partner with Dell for support in deployments, with Dell's OEM Solutions unit agreeing to manufacture and deliver the kiosks to retailers. Then in October, the health and wellness screening kiosks began a nationwide rollout, landing prime retail real estate in Walmart and Sam's Club locations.
Even NCR joined in. The NCR Services Group announced last month that it signed a three-year agreement with SoloHealth to provide on-site repair services after the units are in place. If SoloHealth's predictions are correct, that could be more than 2,500 retail locations by mid-2013.
"This year has been tremendously successful and marked by numerous key milestones," said SoloHealth CEO Bart Foster. "We are extremely bullish on our future and fully expect 2013 to be another groundbreaking year where SoloHealth continues to help change the health care landscape."
But SoloHealth is no longer the only player in the assessment kiosk space. The company gained a competitor this year with the Ohio-based HealthSpot Station. The fully enclosed, walk-in kiosk gives acute-care patients live access to board-certified doctors, via high-definition videoconferencing and interactive digital medical devices.
The HealthSpot Station is set to showcase in January at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and could be something to watch for in the coming year.
Aside from health assessment kiosks, pharmacy kiosks also had a strong year. The ScriptCenter kiosk was approved for use in New Jersey hospitals in September and Walgreens began including the Express Rx kiosk in its updated store designs for improved pharmacy customer service.
From industry insiders
In an attempt to get a more accurate pulse on the past year, we sought comment from those in the trenches.
According to Bill Lynch, the VP of Reevex, software flexibility was a dominant theme in the provider/client dynamic, with more clients requiring applications that could be modified quickly and affordably.
"We have a client who wanted to change their product offering on a weekly basis," Lynch explained. "This included changing the graphics and the payment process. By offering them a more flexible design, they're able to make the changes without having to go through an expensive rewrite process."
Clients also have been demanding the freedom and control of an agnostic application, Lynch said, increasingly seeking solutions that are not tied to a single piece of hardware.
"We've been working with clients who want to make sure the software platform they're purchasing will work with multiple kiosks and internal components and not just one particular company offering," he said.
Others chimed in as well. Craig Keefner, manager of the Kiosk Industry Group and member of the Digital Screenmedia Association Kiosk Council, added that the "quintessential Internet kiosk" went through another redefinition and that the relative failure of NFC adoption and platform confusion were dominant themes. Craig Martin, CEO of Reality Interactive, said there's been greater interest in how to control and manage user experiences on multiple platforms.
The future of kiosks and self-service
Naming the trends of 2012 leads to the discussion of what's in store for the year ahead. Check back for our forecast for 2013 and leave any suggestions in the comments below.
(Image from YouTube.)
Read more about self-service and kiosk trends.