4 things to consider when starting a kiosk project

2016-11-03 15:40:22

4 things to consider when starting a kiosk project

Oct. 24, 2016 | by Ben Wheeler

Ben Wheeler consults on kiosk compliance, secure browsing, management tools, fabrication, integration and industrial design. For information, visit KioskGuy.com or contact ben@kioskguy.com or (909) 241-1492.


For almost 16 years I have watched and listened, and of course talked a lot about how to run a kiosk project. In my travels, I have come up with a few tips that I believe will help anyone trying to get a project off the ground that should actually work.

Obviously, we have to assume that you have a viable business model: you know, something crazy like selling DVDs at McDonald's or developing photographs in the customer service area of Target Stores. And, we all know that you'll also have to have money to foot the program if your idea isn't so brilliant that people throw money at you. But, if you have an idea and money, then here are the first four things you'll need to consider to make the kiosk manufacturing companies even take the time to quote your project.

1) Software is "King." Being known for being a "hardware guy," this is really hard for me to say out loud, but here goes; software is the magic that makes the card reader talk to the card, which relays the information to the processor, that relays it to the bank, that approves the transaction, that gives the response back to the hardware, that dispenses the product from the machine.

Software comes in many forms. It can be in a vending machine that does most of the transaction I just described above using very simple business logic. It can be a fully-developed GUI that informs, up-sells options and features, or it can be a lock-down browser that allows access to a specific website that performs a transaction.

Bottom-line: define the software and have this piece in place long before you call a sheet metal fabrication house.

2) Test Bench. Again, before you call the sheet metal fabricator, and after you have defined who is going to provide/develop custom application software or provide a secure browser to serve your website, you need to identify components that will meet the requirements of your application and then bring them in to write the hooks (API/SDK) that make them work and perform the transaction.

Trying to wrap sheet metal around components that have not been tested and tried before they are defined by someone other than your software team is kind of like trying to put up peaches without thoroughly washing out and heating the jar before putting the fruit in.

Bottom-line: Badly prepared jars allow fruit to quickly become poisonous if not correctly prepared. So, much like canning peaches, kiosk components that are poorly defined, without being certified as right for a solution, yield the same outcome as rotting peaches in the pantry.

3) "Conceptual, Conceptual Conceptual." Just like real-estate, you have to envision the potential value of the real-estate and how it will be subdivided to best utilize the space and get the most value from it.

Parametric design suites of software like Pro Engineer and Solidworks take the guess work out of what the end product will look like, and more importantly, will confirm if all the pieces and parts will fit into the cabinet. A well-managed industrial designer will show you what the thing will look like after it is crammed full of things, harnessed and installed.

Bottom-line: having a parametric conceptual in hand will assure you have more than a puncher’s chance of being successful in building your dream machine. A parametric conceptual represents what the product will look like and will show an exact model of what the end product will look like. Use the tools to make it more than an educated guess.

4) "Prototype, Prototype, Prototype." Although I am beginning to sound like real-estate agents who emphasizes "Location, Location, Location" three times every time they open their mouths, I can emphasize the things that are learned from building one before building many. No one wants to slow a build or miss a deadline, but the cliff of not having a kiosk solution completely defined, built and costed is like rushing into the Little Big Horn regardless of how cool you look on a cavalry horse!

Bottom-line: sometimes the reinforcements are not going to make it in time, if at all. Do you want to explain that the EMV card reader will not talk to the processor, or that no one made accommodations for fastening the kiosk to the floor in a 100- year-old train station that will not allow you to drill into the floor tiles that were laid in 1860? Don't take a chance on guessing. There is an old saying about slot machines that don't work when installed. It goes something like this, "if you get kicked out of Vegas for having a bad machine, you'll never get back into Vegas."

So have I helped or scared you into really looking at how you approach the process that will make your project successful? Either way, I am just glad that when you call me you'll know exactly where I am going to start in finding out if you have done your homework enough to help me help you be successful.