Kiosk System

What is an Interactive Kiosk?

An interactive kiosk is any computer-like device deployed in a public venue to give people selfservice access to products and services. Kiosks are typically placed in retail stores, airports,

libraries, company cafeterias, and other places where personal computers are not available but self-service applications can provide some benefit.

Like the PC at your home or office, a kiosk may provide internet access for web surfing and email, viewing of multimedia files, and access to various software applications. Unlike a typical PC, though, a kiosk typically performs only a few specific tasks, is designed to be used by many different people, and is often optimized for remote control and management. Popular examples of interactive kiosk applications include automated check-in systems in airports, interactive gift registries in retail stores, and pay-per-use computers in cybercafés.

Who Uses Kiosks?

Kiosks are most often deployed in situations where a problem can be solved by giving people access to self-service tools. For example, imagine a large shipping company with dozens of warehouses around the country, and hundreds of employees working in each. To find out about remaining vacation days, sick leave or pension information, each of these employees would have to contact a human resources representative, who would then have to call up the employee’s file, and send the information back by fax or phone.

This system is expensive, inefficient, and error-prone. A simple solution would be to use interactive kiosks placed on the warehouse floor to allow employees to look up answers to their own questions. Unlike additional support staff, kiosks provide immediate access to information, are available 24 hours a day, and don’t get paid overtime.

The Anatomy of a Kiosk

Interactive kiosks come in many shapes and sizes, and are often custom-built for a specific application. Thus, the aforementioned kiosk placed on the warehouse floor might be encased in an industrial-strength steel shell, while a kiosk on a cosmetics counter displaying beauty tips might come in a svelte, fashionable case. In instances where ruggedness and appearance aren’t important, kiosks may simply be regular PCs. Regardless of how they look, kiosks tend to have several features in common. Most readily apparent is the cabinet, the shell which houses the kiosk's innards. The cabinet holds a CPU, display, and any peripherals that the kiosk might need to do its job.

Kiosks often contain additional peripheral devices to provide increased functionality. For example, a library self-checkout kiosk might have a barcode reader for scanning library books and cards, while a movie ticket kiosk might have a printer and credit card reader for making transactions and printing tickets. In addition, special input devices like touchscreens and industrial trackballs are often used to make the kiosk as durable and easy-to-use as possible.

A fully-assembled kiosk with cabinet, CPU, display and peripherals is still little more than a glorified PC.

Special software is needed to turn such a system into a fully-qualified interactive kiosk. This software typically provides tamper-proofing capabilities, user interface customization, and remote management functions.