Will blockchain technology benefit kiosks?
Keeping up with technology in the kiosk industry gets harder by the day. One innovation that has been making waves of late on the payments front is blockchain technology, which provides the foundation for a growing group of digital currencies known as cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain is still a fairly new technology, and most observers believe it will take at least a few more years before it becomes established, if at all. Nevertheless, major financial institutions and technology companies such as IBM, Goldman Sachs, Barclays and Citi have invested heavily in blockchain projects. The activity of these companies indicates that blockchain technology has the potential to significantly change payment practices, as well as other business functions.
Immediate impact: Payments
Blockchain technology's most apparent impact to date has been in the payments arena, having already become evident in the bitcoin ATM industry. Thousands of these nontraditional ATMs have been installed worldwide to allow consumers to purchase cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin, which is far and away the most established cryptocurrency. The largest bitcoin ATM operator in the U.S., Coinsource, operates bitcoin ATMs from coast to coast.
One of the more visible uses of blockchain-based payments in connection with self-serve kiosks is cannabis dispensers, said Bradley Cooper, editor of Blockchain Tech News, a Kiosk Marketplace sister publication. Cannabis is a rapidly growing industry, Cooper said, and dispensaries are finding a use for cryptocurrencies as a way around some of the problems they face with banks and credit card companies reluctant to support the cannabis industry. Some cannabis dispensaries are installing self-serve kiosks that accept bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain-based payments are also finding their way into more traditional self-serve kiosks.
Reis & Irvy's, which provides yogurt and ice cream machines, recently announced that its new machines will accept several types of cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash. The first of these Reis & Irvy's machines were scheduled to arrive at nearly 1,000 locations this summer.
Dawn Dickson, who developed a kiosk called PopShop for dispensing consumer products with a focus on e-commerce fulfillment, also plans to accept cryptocurrencies along with more traditional payment methods, due to what she sees as their rising popularity.
Non-payment blockchain applications emerge
Cooper doesn't expect blockchain-based payments to make inroads quickly in retail payments since demand is currently not strong — mostly due to the price volatility of crypocurrencies.
However, Cooper does see blockchain technology being applied in ways other than payments. The technology has a variety of other business uses, such as record keeping, accounting, supply chain management, voting, regulatory compliance, marketing and advertising — all of which have potential application in the kiosk industry.
Cooper sees supply chain management as the most common business use for blockchain technology at this time, noting that it is already being deployed to support supply chains in the food, insurance, health care and transportation industries. IBM is the leading blockchain technology provider for supply chain applications.
"Blockchain is currently being used to track materials across the supply chain," Cooper said. "So a company can tell where something was produced, who made it, where it went, etc." This can help ensure compliance with regulations and ensure that companies get their products from sources that meet industry-specific requirements.
"The blockchain is a decentralized ledger, which is unchangeable and fully transparent," Cooper said. "The bitcoin wiki describes it as 'a transaction database shared by all nodes participating in a system. A full copy of a currency's blockchain contains every transaction ever executed in the currency. With this information, one can find out how much value belonged to each address at any point in history.'"
This means that a blockchain acts as a public ledger on which every transaction is recorded and registered by a group of users.
Advertising and other blockchain applications
Due to the peer-to-peer nature of blockchain, it can also be used for digital media platforms that allow users to trade advertising space on digital screens, including kiosks.
MetaX, an advertising technology company, recently launched a blockchain tool called adchain, which allows users to tag a particular advertisement in order to track it. Advertisers can use adchain to discover where an advertisement ran, who saw it, how much of the budget it used, and conversion rates. It essentially uses the blockchain as a tracker to see where an advertisement goes.
Advertisers could also receive a rebate in cryptocurrency for purchasing advertising space on a particular digital screen, currency that they could then use for future advertising purchases.
As far back as November of 2016, one Kiosk Marketplace blogger noted that blockchain technology's immutable ledger can improve voting systems. Darin Stanchfield, CEO of KeepKey, a hardware wallet for storing digital assets, observed that once a vote is cast on a blockchain, it cannot be manipulated since the blockchain creates a permanent, immutable ledger. It provides an audit trail for verifying election results.
Stanchfield also noted that blockchain technology offers protection against hacking, a rising threat for all computer systems, including those used to manage voting machines. A voting system on a public blockchain would be completely decentralized with no single point of failure for attackers to target.
"I personally believe blockchain technology will take at least two to five years before it reaches any sort of wide usage, although it may take longer than that if there's a major setback, such as a big company tries to use blockchain then fails at it," Cooper said.
For more information, follow Blockchain Tech News at https://www.blockchaintechnews.com/
Companies: IBM Corporation
Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.