This is a post in a series exploring the use of Android tablets and the iPad as kiosks. The kick-off post can be found here.
It’s easy to see how tablet kiosks can be used for customer self-service, sales assistance, signage, scheduling, customer satisfaction and more. Tablets are designed to be appealing consumer devices, and people just love thin, well-designed mobile devices. The challenge is to present the device in a way that protects it without detracting from that great design.
Following are four different approaches for mounting your kiosk:
The most important thing to keep in mind is to make sure you put the kiosk where the action needs to take place, not where it might be more convenient. It doesn’t make sense to place a kiosk on a counter back in a dark corner of the room if no one goes there anyway.
A pedestal kiosk, also referred to as the “floor stand” configuration, mounts the tablet at a convenient height for a user in a standing position. A good height for this sort of a solution is about 48 inches (1.2 meters). The pedestal is great for large, open areas, like automobile or boat showrooms (see our example of a sales assistance kiosk at Taylor’s Boats). Unlike older versions of the free-standing kiosk, these new solutions are elegant and unobtrusive. A pedestal with a small base and narrow pillar can hold a 10-inch tablet just fine. Because a pedestal kiosk is simple and affordable, there’s more flexibility in deploying many more of them than would have been possible before. For example, imagine a boat showroom with a pedestal kiosk placed conveniently by every major model. Pedestals are often made of metal, with a variety of finishes, and cost about $800 and up. Sometimes traditional signage is combined with pedestal to catch more attention.
If there’s a natural amount of traffic around a counter area, it makes sense to improve the experience with a counter kiosk. Counter kiosks are less expensive than pedestals, costing around $500. Some of these look like mini-pedestals, while others are simple transparent enclosures that sit directly on the surface.
Wall mounts make sense if there’s traffic or attention on the portion of the wall in question. For the use case of meeting room schedules, a wall-mounted kiosk is the the ideal solution. There can also be cases where signage or user-self service make sense for a wall mount. Wall mounts cost in the neighborhood of $300.
The fourth approach is for the mobile kiosk — a single-purpose tablet that needs to move around. This is be useful in the assisted sales use case, and for getting customer feedback. The tablet may be completely loose, or it may have a tether to keep it in a small area. A tether attaches to the back of the tablet, and has a lock so it can be removed from the tether. Locked tethers cost about $50.
In all four approaches, the tablet needs an enclosure — something to protect and present the device in an appealing way. This is also called a bracket, or a bezel. Enclosures need to meet the following requirements:
- Enclose the tablet without detracting from the device’s elegant design.
- Fit snugly around the tablet so that it doesn’t rattle around. This means that the enclosure will be made for a specific tablet model.
- Make sure radio communications still work well. An enclosure can’t disrupt Wifi or carrier-based communications.
- If the kiosk handles transactions, provide for a card-swiping device. The most popular swipe attachment is from Square.
- Provide power to the device (optional).
- Keep the customer from navigating out of the kiosk application (optional).
Once the kiosks are in place, power and network access are part of ongoing maintenance.
Most pedestal, countertop, and wall-mount enclosures have options for power. The very best setup is to have power to the device all the time. However, it may be the case that you want to present a kiosk in an area with no power available. Because a tablet can last for 10 hours, this is possible, but it needs to be managed. Tablets low on power need to be pulled from the enclosure, recharged, and replaced by freshly charged ones. Optionally, you can add a USB battery pack into the enclosure, expanding total battery capacity beyond the built-in batteries in the tablet and they can be easier to remove and recharge.
Wireless network access is another important consideration. All tablets come with built-in Wifi radios, and high-end ones also have access to high-speed wireless carrier networks (all of the latest ones support 4G LTE). For most kiosk scenarios, the tablet needs to be connected. That means that your Wifi network needs to be up to the task of supporting those kiosks. If you haven’t already rolled out an industrial-strength Wifi network, it’s time to start.
Explosive consumer tablet adoption has led to a corresponding explosion in great kiosk vendors with a variety of options and prices for pedestals, countertops, wall mounts and tablet tethers. If you’re ready to put tablets to work serving your customers, the great news is that there’s a vigorous market available to help you present and protect your kiosk in the best possible way.