We've recently taken a look back at the year that's coming to a close, with our coverage of notable kiosk deployments of 2011. Now it's time to look forward, to take stock of what the new year could hold for the kiosk and self-service industries.
KioskMarketplace has asked industry leaders to take the pulse of self-service and predict what will be the major trends for the industry in the coming year.
What will 2012 bring? Let's take a look:
Retailers will embrace kiosks and tablets
With a strong Christmas season in their pockets, and an improving economy, major retailers will invest more heavily than ever in technology, according to Craig Keefner of KIOSK Information Systems.
Tablet usage will accelerate as more retailers give them to employees to perform on-the-floor product lookup and transactions. Their low cost will also make them a great kiosk option, and Keefner expects mobiles and handhelds to find a new purpose as companion remote controls for large-format interactive displays.
Ron Bowers of Frank Mayer & Associates, agreed with Keefner's predictions, saying that the biggest overriding trend of 2012 will be the retail industry's acceptance of kiosk solutions into the consumer experience mix.
"Mobile is the conduit that transcends all channels and allows the consumer the convenience and control they want to influence their customer experience at home, on the road and into the decision process," he said.
However, don't count out brick-and-mortar store — the consumer wants to continue the shopping experience, and self-service solutions enchance those experiences.
"They'll be designed to engage the consumer with convenience, information and truly useful experiences such as NFC in-store checkout at the shelf or assisted by the kiosk," Bowers said. Retailers will be rewarding customers for their loyalty and will continue to bring them back to the store with a convergent experience that is not just as good as the retailers' website experience but must surpass it.
Health care deployments on the rise
Given the trends in health and wellness and government's focus on improving access and lowering costs, 2012 will be the year for major health care kiosk deployments, according to Bart Foster, CEO of SoloHealth, who recently announced its plans for a 2012 nationwide of its next-generation health-and-wellness kiosks, the SoloHealth Station. It plans to replace many of the 25,000 outdated blood-pressure machines found throughout retail locations.
SoloHealth isn't the only health kiosk with big plans for the new year. Dublin-Ohio based HealthSpot, creator of the Care4 Station, is partnering with Mission Essential Personnel of Columbus to market and sell medical kiosks to the military and other government and international organizations, such as the United Nations.
The Care4 Station allows patients to enter a kiosk with a video link to either a family doctor who has a computer with a webcam or a doctor within HealthSpot's network, CEO Steve Cashman said in the story. The kiosk allows patients to measure blood pressure, heart beat, temperature, and other vital signs.
The stations should roll out in full production during the first quarter of 2012 in multiple states, but Cashman declined to say where, other than in Ohio.
Vending machines meet kiosks
KioskMarketplace.com wrote a few stories this year on new vending kiosks, including Mentor Group's candy-dispensing touchscreen kiosk and a robot-making-ice-cream kiosk designed by Robofusion. Both have major expansion plans for 2012.
Keefner expects more of these vending/kiosk hybrids to pop up over the next year. One such company already making some noise is Vigix, which created a small-footprint kiosk capable of dispensing products such as watches and pre-paid gift cards.
It has raised about $3 million in investments and has partnerships with Ideo, Flextronics for manufacturing, Kodak for installations and IBM for software.
Is this the year for eye-tracking software?
Industry insiders have been dabbling in eye-tracking software for years, but 2012 may be the year it takes off, according to Rich Bernstein of Phoenix Kiosk. He cited EyeTech Digital Systems' technology allowing users to simply gaze at an area of a screen to select or highlight the area.
"This eye-tracking technology has been used in the past to improve disabled communications and provide valuable metrics for researchers based on where users' eyes fall when using a software application or surfing the Web," he said. "As the technology continues to become more cost effective, the hope is for this technology to supplement and even replace the current interfaces we use."
What are your 2012 predictions?
Read more about trends.
Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.