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My company has been experimenting with iPad kiosks for about a year now, because we wanted to test the feasibility of using them for streamlined kiosk projects that, if successful, could pave the way for an easy to replace all-in-one kiosk solution. For those that are unaware, let me explain: A new trend has been spreading in the industry which involves putting iPads in secure enclosures, whether they be freestanding or wall-mounted, and using them as a self-service kiosk solution.

On the outset it seems like a great idea, but using ipads as an all-in-one kiosk has proven to be an unreasonable solution at best, and at worst, a half-hearted attempt to implement a self-service network at a cheap cost. For those of you who have regularly read my blogs, my top focus is on high quality and reliability of the product, simply because digital kiosks are primarily for public use. Because public interaction is so high, each day that a poorly executed kiosk sits out there hurts consumer confidence. And the iPad as a kiosk fails in many of the quality and reliability issues which I will outline below.

Touchscreen: The iPad is not a commercial device, and its screen was not meant to be on and used in a public setting 24/7. It was meant to be used intermittently and then turned off. After some time of extended use, the screen eventually becomes unresponsive and needs to be reset.

App freezing: As reliable as Apple's focus on quality has become, apps freezing on the machine are a norm for the product. Even on my own personal iPad, I do not think I have had a single app that hasn't at one point in time frozen and needed some sort of reset. For our own personal devices this is fine, because we either do a soft reset of the machine or do a quick double tap on the main button to quit and restart the app. This process becomes difficult on an iPad kiosk because it now requires someone to be regularly checking in on the unit for freezes, thus defeating the whole principle of a self-service automated network.

Lack of wired Internet: The iPad can only utilize a wireless Internet connection, and for the common consumer it is pretty convenient. Hooking up to a wireless Internet is pretty much a painless process for most people. The problem really is that no wireless Internet connection is anywhere near 100 percent reliable and will eventually have hiccups especially heavily traficked public hotspots. Sometimes this disconnect from the Internet isn't a problem as the iPad can reconnect, but that disconnection can cause other problems, like frozen apps.

These problems aren't necessarily difficult to fix, but when it comes to self-service kiosks that are open to the public, every little problem adds another layer ofcomplexity, which leads to more money and time spent fixing problems instead of presenting information in a useful way.

What about other people out there? Has anyone else experimented with using iPads as a kiosk solution?

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Saisiva Balasubramanian
    57009456
    may i add the cumbersome process of creating an app and downloading into an IPad and syncing

    also considering the wireless internet unreliability in many places and also the size of the touchscreen it becomes more of a pain than convinience
  • Jibber Jabber
    56997199
    This, and more has been nicely summed up in the RedDotNet's whitepaper "Tablet Computers as Kiosks: The Challenges" available on this site: http://www.kioskmarketplace.com/whitepapers/4389/

    I work in finance (credits) and am currently researching possibility of using tablets (definitely not iPads) as kiosks solutions and am growing less fond of the idea by the day. Upper echelons however still think it is a viable idea.

    Are there any data points or forecasts that analyze the business model in detail available out there?
  • Mike James
    56987264
    Your article is about poor implementation. The iPad and other tablets are the best shot in the arm our industry has seen in years.

    My company is the developer of the Kiosk Pro series of apps for iPad kiosks. I agree, the iPad has a problem with memory leaks when run 24/7.

    Our apps check for the amount of remaining memory, and when the memory is at less than 10%, it waits until the program has returned to its homepage and then restarts the program, freeing the lost memory.

    With 30+ years in the kiosk industry, I thought that a 10" screen would be ridiculously small two years ago. I was wrong. With today's popularity of tablets and the ubiquity of touching tablets and phones, people feel a new type of relationship with small screens and are drawn to them.

    Another advantage is that small screens help protect customer's entering private information.

    I understand that tablets are not the answer for everything, especially with iPad's lack of ports. Stay tuned for Windows-based tablets to take on a large share of this niche.
  • Brent Brookler
    56986027
    You should check out Appafolio at http://appafolio.com. For 'brochure' or 'presentation' or 'catalog' type kiosk information without dynamic content, we have solved the internet issue as all content, photos, videos, everything is cached to the device. You load up all the content and don't need an internet connection. Appafolio is super reliable and super easy to use. It's a free app or you can upgrade for non-branded and your own app distributed via the Apple AppStore.
  • Debra Eicher
    56978691
    Like Mike said, sounds like a problem with your app and the implementation. Well designed apps intentionally created for commercial use and in particular for a "single-purpose” do not freeze or crash. We've been running a test in a large retailer for just over 2 months. Crash rate is .001%. The devices are in the front of the store for the most part, so gets medium - heavy use per day. Our biggest problem has been power spikes overnight, and the worst that happens is the device "goes into sleep". The wake up routine is cake; a couple taps and you're up again. Associates do it because they actually embrace the tool. No service calls required. And, one enhancement to MDM services would fix having to have anyone at the site have to do anything ever again...come on Apple! www.fastrakretail.com
  • Bryan Mccormick
    56962269
    what's missing from this is, and something we hear often from customers, is the whole idea of device theft (beyond data theft), which is conveniently ignored here simply by a referencing secure enclosures. It's still an issue. While it's completely self-serving, because we at Landel provide easy to use simple data capture kiosks, our perspective is still very simple: keep it simple. Using an iPad (or any other complex multi-tasking system) in order to accomplish a simple and singular task (as data capture and many kiosk objectives are), is overkill. Too many of us are quick to use a Swiss Army Knife (because we can), when all we need is a bottle opener.
  • Tyler Cline
    56954267
    While the iPad and other tablets are in their infancy in the kiosk world, they are providing an experience that no kiosk has offered to date. The upper echelons want it because the masses want it. The masses want it because, as Mike James stated, they relate to it providing greater confidence, familiarity, and intuitive ease of use.

    Touchscreen: What makes the tablet so appealing is its ability to utilize push technology via the cloud for settings such as brightness and sleep mode. Screens don't have to be on 100% of the time. Active Kiosk coupled with Moki Manage is one set among many apps allows for a user to define when a screen is on and when it is sleeping. Time out options are also manageable. Apps can time out to video loops and wake up with a touch of a finger.

    App freezing: Moble Management allows for real time health updates. If a device is having a problem, which all kiosks do sometimes, a staff is notified and the problem can be fixed quickly.

    Lack of wired Internet: While a lack of a cable port for the internet does prevent very occasional problems, never before has a kiosk been the perfect solution where a wire is not an option. Trade Shows, Marathons, and Taxi Cabs have all succeeded with 3G and 4G when a wire can't even give the option. Nosh List and Carreer builder use 3G and 4G as a secure line for their mobile kiosk solutions. Further, a traditional kiosk can not be carried in ones hand and provide the mobility of a tablet. I walked into a Verizon Wireless store the other week. Staff was able to approach me anywhere in the store, take my information and address my problem with no lines and no hassle. This enhanced style of interface between business, consumer and kiosk is personal and innovative. A wire connection will never provide the mobility wireless and data plans do.

    Web Based App: Another benefit to the wireless option of a tablet is the reduced price of development for web apps compared to native apps. Web apps have very similar functionality at a fraction of the cost to develop a native app. It is easy to set up a tablet in a business, tap into the wireless and give people a great experience with minimal install hardware. Power is the only connection needed.

    Traditional Kiosks have their place. A 10 inch consumer touch screen tablet is not the solution for everything. This article doesn't look forward and fails to recognize the vast opportunity a relatively inexpensive, personal, mobile kiosk has to change our kiosk experience for the better.

    ArmorACTIVE/iPadenclosures.com
  • Marian Healy
    56818989
    if i could give my 2 penny's worth
    we are a green tec kiosk manufacturer and we have looked at the ipad and other tablet systems for the low power and cost and we have found that it is better to run with a low power p.c and good management system as with our stand alone solar kiosks as you can imagine power and reliability is key. the point being an ipad is for one thing a good kiosk is totally different mater
  • Peter McManus
    56817557
    As a kiosk manufacturer for over 15 years i have seen trends come and go. The ipad kiosk will go. That said developing any new type of kiosk is vital in developing systems for existing users and new users coming on board. we looked at the ipad along with other tablet systems for our solar powered outdoor kiosk and low powered indoor system apart from the obvious problems of screen size and robustness not to mention memory leaks we found we could do better with a low power 12v p.c along with a power manager system we developed that can run a full win7 + 20" monitor on just 200w solar panels in Ireland (not too much sun) so as mentioned new ideas are grate to jump on a fad but i think developing for the green market for the future of kiosks regardless what they need to do is more important.
    Check out what we have managed to do quite interesting
    Google: outdoor solar kiosks
    www.ecotechcomputers.ie
  • Charlie Miller
    56796570
    It can be done! Here's a recent success story:
    http://blog.controlgroup.com/2012/06/07/ipads-at-the-gate-a-new-airport-experience/

    I agree that there are challenges, but they can be overcome. Unstable software is the fault of the developer, not the device manufacturer. We have been able to get around the limitations of wireless-only networking by leveraging the 30-pin USB connection for device management. And an honest question: is there any evidence that a Gorilla Glass screen is more prone to damage than an industrial plastic screen? We've deployed over 400 iPads in heavily trafficked environments and have yet to see a shattered or scratched screen.

    Customers want to pick up iPads and play with them.... and if customers don't engage with a kiosk it doesn't matter how well designed the experience is. Apple has designed an incredible user experience, and the potential in this space is in its infancy.
  • Michael Ionescu
    56194981
    Thanks everyone for the response and input. I know I haven't responded to the comments as of yet, but I'm going to try and compile a series of responses to some of the issues and questions brought up in the comments. It should be out by tomorrow or early next week. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Thanks!
  • Michael Cruz
    55812883
    I agree with Mike James.

    This article reads like a detour from using the new kid in the block per say... The ipad kiosk market is so new and innovative that I can personally say the shortcomings are minisculed by the platforms flexibility and extensibility through both 3rd party hardware devices that are meant to plug-n-play plus the fact that the ipad as a platform is still new and maturing with every iteration and ios update. Sure any app in any kiosk can crash but to say the ipad as a kiosk is a poor concept is like saying why go mobile when you can rely more on the landline... Sticking with this thinking is good for those that want to maintain the high cost of the fridge sized kiosk and upkeep. Evolution my friend. Welcome to now. I too have 15+ years of experience in the development of UI / UX and hardware for traditional kiosks but now my focus is to show and push the boundaries of possibility with the ipad kiosk. Check us out: http://www.ipadkiosk.com

    Follow me on our facebook page for the latest stuff we are working on:
    http://www.facebook.com/billingapp
  • Kemper Barkhurst
    41856406
    An iPad is typically a good solution for temporary kiosk or lightly supervised kiosk. For example, it makes a really amazing Point-of-Sale system, employee time clock or kiosk that's on a front counter but within view of staff.

    However, through the advances of mobile device management (MDM) it is now becoming increasingly more reliable solution. These types of solutions such as MokiMobility software and specialized iPad mounts by a company like nClosures, Inc. it is becoming a very cheap and easy to quickly setup a kiosk with very little specialized knowledge.
  • Stephen Gregorie
    40119921
    I agree...I think when the commercial market finds what industrial customer have been using some of these problems will go away. You will have hard wire and wireless connectivity, more rugged construction and tougher touch screens.
  • laura steuer
    16888043
    Say it ain't so! Our iPad kiosk displays are completely reliable---beautifully designed with quality materials and superior craftsmanship, durable bead blasted stainless or cold rolled steel processing, paint processes that WILL NOT chip, metal components that will not ding, weighted bases so customers can't knock it over. Truly. Laura Steuer, marketing manager, www.istylestand.com
  • Laura Miller
    8099487
    So great to hear the conversation on this. Thanks for sharing your perspective Michael. For more on the debate, some similar and/or additional pro's and con's were mentioned in last fall's Kiosk Europe. Here's the repost on our site: http://bit.ly/1dNxTvm
  • Mike James
    8098775
    What a difference a year makes! I went to a big motorcycle show at the Washington Convention Center last weekend. Out of about 75 booths, 15-20 had kiosks, some as many as eight kiosks. With the exception of one Win8 tablet kiosk, every kiosk there was an iPad kiosk. Not a single "traditional" kiosk in sight. This only proves that iPad kiosks are a whole lot easier to transport to trade shows than the traditional style, but not even ONE traditional kiosk? Wow. BTW Look at Elo's home page. What do you see? http://www.elotouch.com
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Michael Ionescu
Since 2004, Ionescu has built a proprietary software/hardware package for state tourism and hotels. Ionescu believes successful kiosk networks are built upon ongoing collaboration between the client and provider to develop flexible systems that clients and users are happy with for years.
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