How will the Internet of Things (IoT) impact the kiosk industry? It’s a tough question to answer since the success of much of the IoT technology will depend on how well it is executed by manufacturers, integrators and operators.
One industry veteran, however, thinks that IoT brings a lot of opportunity to the kiosk industry.
"We'll continue to see growth in the consumer sector for IoT, but stronger industrial-based IoT implementations both in B2C and B2B," said Steve Latham, CEO of Banyan Hills Technologies, a software provider, integrator and consultant focusing on the kiosk industry.
Latham, who prior to launching Banyan Hills Technologies in 2013 was chief technology officer for the entertainment division of NCR Corp., helped orchestrate a successful divestiture of the business to Redbox for $125 million. Latham recently sat down to discuss the impact of IoT on the kiosk industry. The discussion included his assessment of digital media on kiosks, the impact of IoT technology on kiosks, and new use cases for kiosks.
The following are excerpts from a Q&A with Latham.
Kiosk Marketplace: Redbox is seen by many observers as one of the most successful kiosk deployments. What did you learn while working in the DVD rental kiosk business while you were at NCR Corp.?
Latham: We had to be able to instrument a machine in a way that would tell us all the behaviors of that machine. We needed to understand how the customer was interacting with the machine, how the hardware was behaving, how the network was behaving, what the transactions and revenue looked like, and we were pulling that information all up to a central enterprise for management and operations purposes.
The software was very unique and very specific to a DVD rental use case. I started thinking early on, "What if we could build a platform that’s abstracted away from the business purpose and start managing devices for a kiosk irrespective of the business that they’re serving?" I had this idea for a platform that I wanted to build that was a device management platform that was abstracted from the business that it was supporting.
At Banyan Hills Technologies, we built the Canopy platform with that overarching understanding that we are building a solution that truly is agnostic to the machine that sits on the edge, that provides all the operational tools to the operator to manage that machine.
Kiosk Marketplace: The DVD rental business has subsided quite a bit with the advent of Netflix. What is the future for DVD rentals?
Latham: You've got a changing marketplace where digital and streaming is taking over the entertainment industry. For a long time, the studios saw digital eating into an existing revenue stream. Now that’s changing and the studios are becoming less stringent and more accommodating of the digital form factor.
I would expect that it (DVD rentals) will continue to shrink, at least in the US. There are other (international) markets, however, that are focused on DVD rentals that are blossoming.
Kiosk Marketplace: If the consumer trend is for buying direct from the studios, will that be true in other markets as well as in the US.?
Latham: It’s not a question of whether digital will happen. They (foreign DVD markets) know it will happen. They know that they eventually are going to transition that business into digital. They see kiosks as a bridge to digital. They’re transitioning away from brick and mortar.
Kiosk Marketplace: What is the future for kiosks in general if digital is the future?
Latham: Not all things are digital. You can’t digitally reproduce a hammer on a construction site. That’s a great example of where a kiosk or an automated vending experience makes sense. The economic pressures are causing operators to consider automation like they’ve never considered before.
Kiosk Marketplace: Have you looked at industrial use cases, such as industrial supplies or safety products?
Latham: Yes. Fastenal is a great example of where Canopy would provide a lot of value. They’ve got an automated marketplace solution that is very similar to vending or a kiosk like Redbox. We would deploy software on all of those kiosks that they have deployed that would monitor what’s happening at the kiosks – everything from the transactions that are occurring on the kiosks, the inventory levels, but also the health of the machine and the health of the network.
We can put that into a central enterprise that would give them a portal-based view of everything that’s happening on that machine. They would be able to see inventory, the operational efficiency of those machines, whether it’s hardware related or network related.
Panera has replaced lanes with kiosks. The purpose of that kiosk is to remove the individual that is standing behind the point of sale. They are responding to market pressures. It’s costing them more money to have those employees work in their stores.
Consumers are becoming more and more trained in how to go through an automated experience rather than to walk up to a person and interact. Kiosks are going to continue to increase.
In 2017, the velocity is really going to outpace the demand. It’s an opportunity for kiosk providers to finally start realizing the vision that they’ve had.
Kiosk Marketplace: What other verticals do you see as having great promise for kiosks?
Latham: One that I’m really excited about is health care. There are kiosks now inside of hospitals that vend scrubs and linens. The reason that hospitals are purchasing these is for inventory control and to meet health care regulations where they’re trying to demonstrate that they’re cleaning the laundry for the schedule that’s been prescribed that’s regulated.
Nurses that have to prepare rooms are now having to interact with a kiosk instead of walking to a shelf, opening a cabinet and pulling out these materials. Companies that are providing these solutions are growing very rapidly because hospitals are now able to take advantage of these cost savings and also better meet the regulatory requirements.
Other applications include dispensing medications and surgery supplies. All of that can be automated and you can remove the human error component through an appropriate deployment of technology.
Industrial IoT is one where we are starting to see more and more traction, both in terms of vending onsite for things like construction projects or in an environment that requires equipment that has to be rented or shared.
An operator of a facility that is trying to control inventory distribution of supplies is also worried about the health of the infrastructure that is deployed in that environment. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they had one central management platform that’s sitting on top of their vending solution, but it’s also sitting on top of monitoring their infrastructure?
When you’re looking at how many hammers I have out at the moment on this construction site, you’re also looking at data that tells you if you’re meeting your health and safety requirements for this particular environment. I think there’s a ton of value for an operator to be able to log into and see that type of information.
Kiosk Marketplace: We’ve heard a lot about IoT in recent years. Why do you think IoT technology is on the verge of rapid deployment?
Latham: 2017 is the year that IoT is really going to mature. Companies like Cisco have created entire divisions for IoT. There’s an IoT vice president. Intel, IBM and NCR all have the same thing. A couple of years ago I couldn’t imagine a world like that.
Another change is standardization of equipment. There will be an increase in standardization across the board in how devices communicate to each other and to the enterprise as well as standardization of security protocols and IoT architectures.
We'll see new revenue opportunities from connected devices. As new tools and technologies come to market, advertising and promotions will extend into new locations and platforms, and deliver new experiences.
/ Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and VirtualCurrencyToday.com.