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Get Ready for the Next Generation of Hyperconvenient Self-Service Kiosks

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From remote management to AI that puts an end to the “banana trick,” the latest capabilities make self-service kiosks incredibly convenient and deliver new experiences at stores, restaurants, banks, and more.

Self-service kiosks have made it possible for retailers and quick-service restaurants (QSRs) to cater to more customers with less hands-on help from employees. They’ve also led to some surprising up-sell benefits—for example, customers are twice as likely to order dessert from a kiosk. A machine can’t pass judgment, after all.

In banking, many consumers assume that kiosks are limited to automated teller machines (ATMs), good only for cash withdrawals and checking your balance. But some banks are deploying kiosks that offer a range of banking services, including virtual teller assistance via live streaming.

As retail stores, restaurants, banks, hotels, and airports continue to deploy kiosks, a new set of capabilities will offer even greater value. We mentioned in a previous article that data can fuel more personalized and frictionless experiences at brick-and-mortar locations, all while helping businesses understand their customers in a way that previously only online channels could measure. Self-service kiosks are becoming a major touchpoint for customers. That means they can offer up new opportunities to create hyperconvenient experiences, maximize margins, optimize operations, and reduce shrinkage.

Self-service is fast and convenient

Before diving into what the next generation of self-service has to offer, let’s recap what kiosks have been able to do for businesses so far. Depending on their purpose, customers might use them to check in or check out, purchase or print tickets, find information, or ask for help.

With self-service features, everyone wins. Customers save time and get what they want right away, without having to wait in line. They also get to engage the way they want: Today, many customers prefer self-service over help from an associate. This is especially true with younger shoppers. In one recent survey, 46 percent of millennials preferred self-checkout, compared with 39 percent opting for a human cashier.

As for businesses, self-service kiosks can make it possible to reduce the rising cost of labor or redirect associates to higher-value, concierge-like tasks. Now, with the latest data collection and analytics technologies, they can also help businesses react to trends and make proactive, strategic changes.

AI-powered kiosks keep an eye on your business

Analytics has come a long way in the last few years, which means new possibilities for using video data. The latest kiosks can harness AI—specifically vision technology—to analyze video feeds, allowing kiosks to identify objects, measure customer demographics, and more.

One of the most compelling use cases for vision in kiosks is at the grocery store or any other big-box retailer that uses self-checkout kiosks. Recently, The Atlantic wrote an article about the “banana trick.” This is the trend of using self-checkout kiosks to ring up the PLU code for a cheap item, such as a banana, while actually placing a more expensive item, like a steak, in the bagging area. The same article claims that about 20 percent of customers have stolen at self-checkout at some point.

With a vision-based algorithm running on the self-checkout kiosk, the system can confirm that the item being scanned matches the PLU code entered by the customer. The same technology can also help reduce false negatives generated when the kiosk thinks the bagged item doesn’t match the item scanned so that an employee won’t need to intervene as often.

There are other exciting ways to use vision that our industry is just now exploring. For example, identifying faces to authenticate payment, recognizing gestures for touchless command, and delivering personalized messages or offers. In the near future, vision algorithms may recognize illicit activity at ATMs or measure queue times to trigger more lanes or kiosks to open during busy periods.

Of course, each of these use cases comes with its own unique hardware requirements. To make it easier to deploy vision algorithms across a wide range of hardware without having to fuss with the code each time, Intel released a software tool that streamlines vision across our portfolio. Developers can use the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit to maximize performance and get to market faster while working across CPUs, GPUs, VPUs, and FPGAs.

Remote management saves time and money

While self-service kiosks can help reduce labor costs, they do require ongoing management from your IT team. However, today’s remote management technologies make it possible for businesses to manage kiosks from a central office, cutting back on trips to the physical location.

Kiosks powered by processors on the Intel vPro platform can be managed securely, both inside and outside the corporate firewall. Your IT team can power on a kiosk, schedule updates, and see the screen remotely, even if the machine is down. We’re also making it easier to use our remote management capabilities both in band and out of band and from the cloud with our Open Active Management Technology Cloud Toolkit. The end result? Less work for your IT team and more uptime for your kiosks.

Rethinking kiosk hardware design

With kiosks offering more capabilities and features than ever, it’s critical to design them efficiently. At Intel, we’re focused on consolidating and integrating functionality so that more workloads can run on the same machine—for example, the camera creates a basket of what it “sees” while the point-of-sale system creates its own basket. The two baskets can then be compared. In another example, digital advertisements can run on a second screen powered by the same kiosk hardware. This may help lower the overall cost of the self-service kiosk while streamlining processes.

We’ve also launched the Intel DevCloud for Edge, a cloud-based sandbox that lets developers build and test their workloads on the latest Intel hardware and software. By running their applications against a variety of CPUs and accelerators, developers can identify the best hardware for their kiosk solution.

Finding solutions for the real world

Through the Intel IoT Market Ready Solutions program, businesses can find ready-to-deploy solutions for retail, banking, hospitality, and more, including next-generation self-service kiosks. These solutions have already been tested and proven in the real world, and many of them offer AI-enabled capabilities.

Self-service kiosks have changed the face of retail, and they’ll continue to do so. By adding the latest self-service capabilities to your locations, you can put more control into your customers’ hands—and give them exactly what they need to help themselves.

About the Author
General Manager of IOTG Retail Solutions Division