June 04, 2007

Flextronics Agrees to Buy Solectron for $3.6 Billion

June 4 (Bloomberg) -- Flextronics International Ltd., the world's second-biggest maker of electronics for other companies, will buy Solectron Corp. for $3.6 billion to narrow the sales gap with larger rival Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.



Bloomberg.com: U.S.

Shareholders of Milpitas, California-based Solectron can choose to get 0.345 share of Flextronics or $3.89 in cash for each share, the companies said in a statement today. The cash bid is 15 percent more than Solectron's closing price on June 1.

Flextronics said the deal for Solectron, the world's fifth- biggest electronics maker, will boost sales to about $30 billion annually, trailing Hon Hai's NT$1.32 trillion ($40 billion) in revenue last year. Solectron's customers include Cisco Systems Inc. and International Business Machines Corp.

The deal ``adds a couple of good customer relationships in Cisco and IBM,'' Cowen & Co. analyst Louis Miscioscia said in an interview. ``It also gives them more size and scale, which allows them to make more efficient use of their facilities.''

Shares of Solectron surged as much as 50 cents, or 15 percent, to $3.87 at 12:50 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Shares of Singapore-based Flextronics fell 19 cents to $11.51 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

``It's a bit of a surprise and doesn't offer immediate accretion, so investors will be a little bit wary,'' Miscioscia said. ``But in the end it's the right thing for the company.'' The New York-based analyst rates Flextronics ``outperform'' and Solectron ``neutral.''

Deal a `Surprise'

Solectron's shareholders will own 20 percent to 26 percent of Flextronics' outstanding shares, according to Miscioscia. As part of the agreement, Solectron has the right to nominate two individuals, approved by Flextronics, to the board of directors of the combined company.

``Solectron's strength in the high-end computing and telecom segments will be an invaluable addition,'' Flextronics Chief Executive Officer Mike McNamara said in the statement. ``The combined company will be a market leader in most product market segments.''

The combination will cut costs by as much as $200 million after taxes in the 18 to 24 months after the deal is completed, and boost earnings per share by at least 15 percent, Flextronics said. The transaction should close by the end of this year.

The company reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit tripled to $121 million as sales gained 32 percent.

Flextronics finance chief Tom Smach didn't immediately return a call seeking comment, nor did spokeswoman Renee Brotherton.

Job Cuts?

Under the offer, Flextronics will limit the proportion of Solectron's outstanding stock that will be converted into its shares to between 50 percent and 70 percent, the companies said.

Solectron said in March it may eliminate as many as 1,500 jobs as it closes some factory space in North America and Western Europe.

Last year, Flextronics bought International DisplayWorks Inc. to add liquid crystal displays for cell phones and portable MP3 music players. In August, Flextronics reached an agreement to produce digital cameras for Eastman Kodak Co.

Citigroup Inc. is the financial adviser for Flextronics, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. advises Solectron. Citigroup also agreed to provide Flextronics with a $2.5 billion, seven-year loan to help finance the purchase.

Posted by staff at 01:24 PM

March 08, 2007

KIOSKS Case Study -- Payphone approaching footnote status

BT still struggling with dying payphone. Diversion into multimedia phone (Marconi) didn't pan out as expected. It's a lesson on how quickly technology can change (or not change) and prosper (or slowly die).

From The Times
March 07, 2007
BT seeks variable pricing to save the endangered kiosk
Elizabeth Judge, Telecoms Correspondent

BT is seeking permission to charge varying tariffs in its 60,000 payphones in an attempt to save the telephone box from a lingering death.

The telecoms giant has applied to the regulator for permission to tear up a four-year agreement and charge different prices from its payphones in certain parts of the country.

The plans could see the introduction of cut-price tariffs on calls to India from payphones in cities with high Asian populations.

BT said that consent for the proposals, which it wanted to introduce for a three-year period, would help it determine the “acceptable pricing of pay-phone calls” without the commercial risk of implementing untested new prices nationally.

Ofcom was proposing to allow the plans, which it said were not “unduly discriminatory”. A spokesman said: “We propose it will benefit consumers in the long run for BT to experiment with pricing.”

However, he added that Ofcom would keep any changes under review. The regulator would have the right to withdraw consent or change the terms of the plans at any time.

Following a deal struck at the time of privatisation, BT was bound to supply certain basic services to consumers, including access to call boxes.

However, as mobile phones have grown in popularity, the number of calls made from kiosks has plummeted. Today 40,500 of its 63,795 boxes are unprofitable.

Calls from BT payphones have more than halved in the past three years and the pay-phone business’s revenue has dropped by more than 40 per cent.

The group, which last year made profits of £2.2 billion, has complained that it was saddled with a hefty annual maintenance bill. In 2005, BT tried and failed to make the rest of the telecoms industry help contribute to the boxes’ upkeep.

The commercial pressures on the group have already seen it introduce various schemes, such as combining kiosks with vending or cash machines as a way of encouraging more spending.

The requirement to offer uniform pricing was implemented by Oftel in 2003. The new proposals will enable BT to run unlimited geographic trials simultaneously on call boxes for the next three years.

Ofcom’s proposed consent for the variable pricing plan was offered on the basis that each trial, which will cover entire cities or regions, will last for no longer than 26 weeks.

Once each trial is completed, the call boxes concerned must return to the original price or BT must uniformly implement a new national price, it said.

In a letter to Ofcom, Sarah Jefferson, BT’s consumer regulation specialist, said that the proposals would not be unduly discriminatory because the “differential charging would apply to all persons using public call box servies and will only apply in the area of the trial for a limited time”.

Boxed in

— BT has sole responsibility for the upkeep of its 63,795 phone boxes. In other countries, the cost of payphones is funded through a levy on all telecoms operators

— BT’s biggest phone box rival is NWP Spectrum, which operates 8,950 kiosks

— NWP Spectrum is not under any obligation to provide the booths and can cherrypick the most profitable areas in which to place them

— The requirement for BT to offer uniform pricing across its boxes was implemented in 2003


COMMENTS FROM READERS

BT clearly can't be spending that much on the maintenance of phone boxes; most phone boxes are filthy and windowless!

Catriona, WGC, UK

This situation was inevitable, the death of the payphone has been on the cards for over a decade, the last British manufacturer died with the Marconi debacle.

The business model has been in decline all over the world as the commoditisation of the mobile phone voice market has inevitably happened. Cheap mobiles are still a more attractive proposition to standing in a kiosk that is more often used as a public convenience.

I was involved in the industry at its peak and as it sought to diversify into the multimedia kiosk market. Needless to say that the same predator took that market away too, as soon as WAP, Bluetooth and 3G were available.

The 'box has had it's day.

Peter, Lancaster,

Posted by staff at 08:30 AM

February 14, 2007

Kiosks and Magazines - Europe

While in Dubai we were given a copy of the KIOSK EUROPE magazine issue for Winter 2006. It's a nice issue and has many of the kiosk market players in it providing their perspective on the industry. Magazines used to be more news-oriented and less vendor oriented but that's ok. They had a very nice article from MEI on cash acceptance and how that is working the MPOG gaming kiosks that are being produced by Zoox Station. I liked the interview with Christoph Niehus of Provisio and learned of the new Rendering group they have formed. We'll track him down in Vegas. Finally it was interesting to see the magazine announcing the formation of a new European Kiosk Association.

Posted by staff at 01:29 AM

January 19, 2007

Google getting into kiosks?

Posting on clickz with some pictures of google application for kiosks. It would make sense for Google at some point to branch out from the pure internet into the clicks & mortar space (gee, how long has it been since that phrase has been used...). Google is definitely motivated towards dominating media so it makes sense, at some point.

Google Kiosk Showing Products

Clickz columnist Ryan Naraine wrote up some of his thoughts about a Google patent application (Allocating advertising space in a network of displays) that would enable advertising upon electronic displays and billboards in shopping centers and other places, in his article Google Patent Filing Hints at Digital Billboard Ad Network.

While New Scientist wrote about the patent filing last week, and I had a writeup on it the day it was published, Ryan does a nice job of providing some context to how this electronic display network might work...

Google Kiosk Showing Mall Layout

Imagine getting directions, learning about items for sale, printing out coupons, and seeing how long the wait is at mall restaurants from a kiosk like this? I could see replacing mall "you are here" signs with kiosks providing this kind of information.

google-kiosk.jpg

To right is one of a number of screenshots shown from a kiosk software that might displayed in shopping malls, resort areas, and other commercial districts, according to Generating and/or serving dynamic promotional offers such as coupons and advertisements. Another screen might show walking directions within a mall, such as the picture below.

Google Kiosk Showing Mall Layout

Imagine getting directions, learning about items for sale, printing out coupons, and seeing how long the wait is at mall restaurants from a kiosk like this? I could see replacing mall "you are here" signs with kiosks providing this kind of information.

More:

While New Scientist wrote about the patent filing last week, and I had a writeup on it the day it was published, Ryan does a nice job of providing some context to how this electronic display network might work...

Posted by staff at 07:07 AM

January 13, 2007

Next version of 7402 terminal to be released

Sounds like NCR will be showing next version of 740x at NRF coming up. This unit which came out of the RealPOS division will no doubt compete with the anyplace terminal from IBM (born out of SurePOS). The more common thread could be considered "POS" but that's just our view...

We still don't understand the reluctance or reasoning of either of those companies or media reporting on them to call these terminals what they really are (and that is panel-pc's used in POS). They get adapted like any other panel pc sometimes into kiosk enclosures but you might as well call the Elotouch 1529 a kiosk while you are at it (or any of the other 15 panel pc's available and currently used...).

The 740x as a terminal only is not much bigger than the Anyplace as it is in lateest incarnation (7402). The difference is cost and features. No doubt the biggest difference this time will be price. You can see the Anyplace for $3120 (15" with 256M. no OS) out on shop4thai. Figure discounts/etc and it's pretty clear. Oh, and it's categorized under POS...

A basic celeron or mobile Pentium with just a few options and running something WePOS is much cheaper than a more fully featured unit. The drawbacks and benefits of panel-pc computer terminals like the Easypoint/Anyplace/EloTouch/whomever are another discussion.

Very inexpensive thin-clients with pure flash and running embedded with fanless low-power cpu's are getting better and better everyday. The almost legacy panel-pc with XP Pro and a hard drive is becoming more primitive.

Interactive Kiosk News: NCR to introduce competitor to IBM's Anyplace Kiosk

By Bill Gerba

While I can't find any news or information on NCR's website, SelfService.org has a short blurb suggesting that NCR is about to refresh their EasyPoint kiosk line with something that could be a better competitor to IBM's Anyplace Kiosk. Dubbed the EasyPoint Advantage, the unit has "a depth of less than three inches and a weight of 11 pounds," which would make it at least roughly the size of an Anyplace. Hopefully, it will also copy some of the Anyplace's hardware innovations, including a self-contained IR touchscreen, touch-based BIOS controls and integrated presence sensor.

While the Anyplace is a great unit, there certainly have been times when we've encountered customers (certain retailers in particular) who prefer not to use IBM hardware, usually because they're using POS systems supplied by other companies, like NCR. If/when the EasyPoint Advantage becomes available, it could prove to be a great alternative.

Apparently NCR will be formally introducing the Advantage at the National Retail Federation's 96th Annual Convention and Expo, Jan. 14-17, in New York (booth # 1637)

Posted by staff at 09:36 AM

November 21, 2006

Content Channels - eMusic Hits 100 Million Downloads

With all the talk about Zune and iTunes, the "no-DRM" solution from eMusic notes that they are nearing the 100 million download mark. Its worth noting the iTunes hit the Billion downloads-to-date mark recently and that the sharing services still see over a billion downloads every week. eMusic delivers its music in Open MP3 format (unlike the Windows WMA DRM or Apple's Fairplay).

Independent digital download store eMusic is nearing the 100 million-mark, a milestone that should arrive within "the next few weeks". eMusic started its download ticker on November 1st, 2003, the point at which the company moved away from an unlimited monthly download model. Ahead of the accomplishment, the company has tapped pop rock group Barenaked Ladies to pen a song for the winner, a unique digital commission. The lucky downloader will also receive a lifetime eMusic subscription, and inclusion within an upcoming print advertising campaign.

eMusic has long billed itself as the number two paid download provider behind iTunes, and the latest tally helps to validate that claim. eMusic is catered towards a targeted audience, one that prefers lesser-known indies over blockbuster artists and smash hits. Depending on the specific tier, the company offers its users a fixed number of downloads per month, part of a hybrid subscription and download model. And eMusic offers all of its tracks as open MP3s, enabling iPod compatibility. Meanwhile, Apple has crossed the 1.5 billion mark on its iTunes Store, a number that eclipses eMusic and other competing download providers. Others like Napster, MSN Music, and RealNetworks have not shared download figures.

Posted by staff at 07:18 AM

October 06, 2006

Tithing Kiosk Becomes ATM for Jesus

It was one of Stevens Creek's three "Giving Kiosks," a sleek, black pedestal topped with a computer screen, numeric keypad and magnetic-strip reader. Prompted by the on-screen instructions, Marshall performed a ritual more common in quickie marts than a house of God: He pulled out a bank card, swiped it and punched in some numbers.

  • Giving Kiosk a leap of faith for churches | Chicago Tribune

  • As seen on World News Tonight with Charles Gibson

    Giving Kiosk a leap of faith for churches
    Pastor develops an `ATM for Jesus' that takes credit, debit cards for contributions

    By Richard Fausset
    Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
    Published October 2, 2006

    Pastor Marty Baker preaches that the Bible is the eternal and inviolate word of God. On other church matters, he's willing to change with the times.

    Jeans are welcome at Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, Ga., the 1,100-member evangelical congregation Baker founded 19 years ago. Sermons are available as podcasts, and the electric house band has been known to cover Aerosmith's "Dream On." A recent men's fellowship breakfast was devoted to discussing the spiritual wages of eating at Hooters.

    It is a bid for relevance in a nation charmed by pop culture and consumerism, and it is not an uncommon one. But Baker has waded further into 21st Century commerce than most fishers of American souls, as evidenced one Wednesday night when churchgoer Josh Marshall stepped up to a curious machine in the church lobby.

    It was one of Stevens Creek's three "Giving Kiosks," a sleek, black pedestal topped with a computer screen, numeric keypad and magnetic-strip reader. Prompted by the on-screen instructions, Marshall performed a ritual more common in quickie marts than a house of God: He pulled out a bank card, swiped it and punched in some numbers.

    The machine spat out a receipt. Marshall's $400 donation was routed to church coffers before he had found his seat for worship.

    "I paid for gas today with a card and got lunch with one," said Marshall, 30. "This is really no different."

    Baker came up with the kiosk idea a couple of years ago. He had just kicked off a $3 million building drive but noticed that few people seemed to keep cash in their wallet anymore for the collection bag.

    So he began studying the electronic payment business. He designed his machine with the help of a computer programmer who attends Stevens Creek, then found ATM companies willing to assemble it for him. In early 2005, he introduced the first machine at his church.

    Since then, kiosk giving has gradually gained acceptance among his upper-middle-class flock. The three kiosks are expected to take in between $200,000 and $240,000 this year, about 15 percent of the church's total donations.

    "It's truly like an ATM for Jesus," Baker said.

    This summer, Baker and his wife, Patty, began selling the devices to other churches through their for-profit company, SecureGive. They are its only employees, but a handful of contractors help them custom-tailor the machines for churches.

    The kiosks can let donors identify their gift as a regular tithe or offering, or direct it to building or missionary funds. The machines send information about the donation to a central church computer system, which shoots donors an e-mail confirmation.

    The Bakers charge between $2,000 and $5,000 for the kiosks, which come in a variety of configurations. They also collect a monthly subscription fee of up to $49.95 for licensing and support. And a card-processing company gets 1.9 percent of each transaction. A small cut of that fee goes to SecureGive.

    So far, seven other congregations have installed or ordered the machines. All of them are Protestant, and most are in the South. If the idea takes off and makes the Bakers rich, Patty said they will thank the Lord--and give a significant sum to their church.

    The concept is in its infancy, but it is part of a broader attempt among houses of worship to boost donations using modern technology. Among the most popular are "e-tithing" systems, which allow churchgoers to set up automatic contributions from their bank accounts, much as they would their Netflix dues.

    Rest of Article

    Posted by keefner at 08:47 AM
  • September 16, 2006

    Digital Signage and Kiosks in Middle East

    MxN Middle East FZ-LLC and Aptec Kiosk Services agree to partner on Digital Signage and Kiosk Solutions

    MxN Middle East FZ-LLC and Aptec Kiosk Services agree to partner on Digital Signage and Kiosk Solutions | MxN

    MXN Middle East FZ-LLC and Aptec Kiosk Services have announced that AKS will promote MxN's Octane Media Platform and will use Octane to integrate Digital Signage into its Kiosk solutions.

    There are many underutilized opportunities for the integration of Digital Signage and Information kiosks. More and more customers are requesting overhead LCD screens to be integrated into their service kiosks to promote their products or to generate extra revenue. After extensive research, we found that MXN and their product Octane helped us to delivered a superior product to our customers' says Hazem Adel, from AKS. Aptec will highlight the Octane Media Platform in its state of the art offices opening in Dubai Internet City at the beginning of October.

    MxN Middle East will work to help Aptec integrate Digital Signage into their Kiosks and provide support services to Aptec in helping them to establish a Digital Signage arm.

    'We look forward to working with Aptec and building an increased awareness of Digital Signage and Kiosk technology' says Raad Raad, Managing Director of MxN Middle East.

    Posted by keefner at 02:01 PM

    May 04, 2006

    Opinion: Whats the Buzz on Digital Signage?

    Alex Richardson of Selling Partners offers his opinion on trend in Digital Signage. Interview by Rick Redding of KioskCom. Alex is a leading self-service kiosk consultant.

    Sourcel

    Ask Alex: What's All The Buzz About Signage?
    Richardson weighs in on the industry's hottest topic

    Alex Richardson is managing director of a consulting firm, Selling Machine Partners, which designs customer-facing strategies for cross channel retailers. Richardson has followed the fortunes of various self-service technologies for two decades, and is frequently sought out as an advisor by companies considering self-service initiatives including kiosks and digital signage.


    KioskCom: What does the next year hold for digital signage?

    Alex Richardson: It’s an overused metaphor to look to history in order to predict the future. I believe, though, we’ve learned two key points from our 50 year history with broadcast television: (1) Moving pictures create a mystical dog whistle for a consumer’s attention; and, (2) Product demonstrations on television increase the velocity of consumer sales.

    Leading businesses have spent billions of dollars developing content for television, radio, print and web sites that extend their catalog of products and accompanying information to the home and office. Now, they realize that the same information and product breadth should be used to keep their bricks-and-mortar investment healthy. They also realize that the less knowledge and sales capability there is at the point of sale, the more valuable their investment in digital merchandising solutions. Digital signage solutions are one of the most cost-effective ways to deliver their message directly to the consumer when and where it is needed most, at the point and time of purchase.

    A key challenge for the digital signage industry in the coming years will be how to raise their value proposition ahead of all the other retail technology initiatives. Retail technology executives face massive distractions as they button up core IT and ecommerce building blocks such as, Supply Chain Mgmt, Order Entry, CRM, Analytics, Pricing Optimization, just to name a few.

    I don’t recommend a retailer initiate an in-store digital signage solution until: a) They ensure that their customer facing channels talk seamlessly to each other and b) Their B2B and B2C channels continuously rebuild their Knowledge Base (CRM).

    KC: What is the most viable self-service application for digital signage?

    AR: The core value of a great digital merchandising solution is relevance. I recommend that you start from the consumer’s point of view; turn off your computer, go visit the store and talk to store customers and store associates.

    Every step that makes a message more relevant to the viewer, increases the likelihood of impact – that it will be seen, digested and, hopefully, acted upon.

    Relevance is derived from:

    Current business realities
    * Time/day part
    * Locations of Retail Store: Connecticut vs California

    Being Opportunistic
    * The weather changed
    * Let’s mark this product down to pressure the competition

    Legacy business systems and data
    * Supply chain, CRM, price optimization, markdown optimization, POS transaction, HR /Associate Training Assets

    Relevance is derived from the merchandising and promotional tools you use and infrastructure you build. The bottom line is that digital signage is a different medium, requiring a different set of software tools and merchandising functionality.

    So the key question that the digital merchandising must address is: What problem does my retail consumer (or associate) want to solve in those specific five square feet of retail space, at that particular moment of time of day and time of year? Answer this question and you’ll make the cash register ring.

    KC: What is the most critical role digital signage is playing/can play in various verticals?

    AR: Digital Signage was born in the transportation vertical (airline, train) as well on the factory floor for employee info. The Wal Mart (NYSE: WMT) TV network was also an early pioneer for big box stores.

    The industry seems to be moving rapidly to help leverage the growing base of kiosk POS systems designed to reduce consumer queuing. The signage prods the consumer to avoid the wait and use the self service ordering device.

    One of the most innovative digital signage applications that I’ve seen is inside an English Pub. Instead of the standard branded beer tap, the beer manufacturer put a small 2x3 digital display to show their brand, value and encourage the bartender and consumer to “notice” their beer versus the other beer vendors.

    On a worldwide basis, I believe that you’ll see North America continue to lead the digital merchandising market. Since it’s all about improving the consumer experience, many retailers will innovate in different ways. For example, in China, Kentucky Fried Chicken's Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) has four or five greeters at the door of every restaurant. The greeters help customers finds seats, help families with small children, and assist elderly customers. If money is no object, improving the quality of your retail store associates remains one of the best methods to accelerate sales and enhance customer loyalty.

    Posted by keefner at 11:38 AM

    February 22, 2006

    Open Source CD Burning Kiosks

    this kiosk merely takes blank CDRs that you insert and spits 'em back out at ya filled with open-source software goodness. What you do with 'em from there is entirely up to you.

    Welcome to the Freedom Toaster Website
    Submitted by seanwhe on Thu, 2006-02-09 14:38.

    What is the Freedom Toaster?

    The Internet has been hailed as a "great equaliser" (Brynjolfsson and Smith 2000) of developing and developed nations. There are however, "great disparities in opportunity to access the Internet, the information and the educational/business opportunities tied to this" (wikipedia.org, 07.10.05).

    Billions of people live with restrictive telecommunications environments that make it difficult and costly to access digital products such as free software and educational content. The Freedom Toaster project was started in 2004 by the Shuttleworth Foundation as a way to overcome these problems.

    Freedom Toasters are conveniently located, self-contained, computer-based, 'Bring 'n Burn' facilities. Like vending machines, preloaded to dispense confectionery, Freedom Toasters are preloaded to dispense free digital products (e.g. Linux Operating Systems and the OpenOffice.org office suite Toaster Software).

    But why do we need this?

    The Freedom Toaster project began as a means of overcoming the difficulty in obtaining Linux and Open Source software due to the restrictive telecommunications environment in South Africa, where the easy downloading of large pieces of software is just not possible.

    Benefits...

    *

    No need for Internet access
    *

    Easy-to-deploy
    *

    Easy-to-access
    *

    Easy-to-use
    *

    Screensaver cycles through content
    *

    Touch screen operation
    *

    Customisable interface options
    *

    Localizable interface texts
    *

    Capable of serving local and tailored content
    *

    Three CD/DVD writer devices
    *

    Freedom Toaster is a Free and Open Source project

    And the name? What's up with that?

    Initially the name came about directly as a result of the fact that Linux is a free Operating System and that you “toast” a CD with Linux. However, it later became apparent that, the name actually captured a meaning deeper than what was originally intended. It encapsulates the philosophy of Open Source Software, that we have the freedom to choose which software we use, that we have the freedom to change it if we like and that we have the freedom to share it with anyone, for free. Listen closely....and you'll hear violins playing in the background

    Free for all!

    In the past, most people have shied away from Open Source Software, more particularly Operating Systems. Because, unless you were already an expert on various "scary" details that accompanied them, it’s been notoriously difficult to get your hands on reliable and complete distributions that were easy to install and easy to upgrade. Not anymore, now it’s as easy as toast.

    Freedom Toasters are suitable for use by any organisation in any venue, for any purpose. Businesses, educational institutions, government departments, libraries and NGOs can all accelerate their mandates. (Educational Resources)

    Creating a list describing the purposes for which Freedom Toasters can be put to use, would stretch even the most fervent of imaginations, topical examples include the distribution of:

    *

    Information for major awareness campaigns such as HIV/AIDS, polio, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases;
    *

    Information to satisfy governmental obligations for human rights compliance such as access to information;
    *

    Skills-based, self-help, multimedia training programs on topics such as such as improving maternal health, environmental sustainability and many more health and agricultural related topics;
    *

    Distribution of free software such as free computing environments, communications software and business packages;
    *

    Distribution of educational literature for personal growth such as information pertaining to the promotion of gender equality and womans empowerment or computer training courses that improve job prospects;
    *

    Curriculum aligned content disseminated directly from Departments of Education for teachers in rural schools.

    Freedom Toasters transcend the gaps that cause the "digital divide" by acting as low-tech digital gateways between the "haves" and "have nots" of the world.

    How do I use the Toaster?

    Obviously the first thing to do is find out where the closest Freedom Toaster is (Toaster Locations) , and then get yourself there. The way to obtain a product from the Toaster is as simple as 1, 2, 3:

    1.

    Bring writable CD or DVD media to the Freedom Toaster
    2.

    Insert into the Freedom Toasters' CD/DVD drive
    3.

    Select the product to duplicate

    On-screen information tells you more about the software you have selected, including how many CDs you will need. The Freedom Toasters also contain a host of on-screen information to teach people a little more about the world of Free and Open software. Touch the screen, browse and explore!

    Unlike the vending machine, where people pay to obtain perishable consumable products. Freedom Toasters dispense new information, communication technologies, software and content that act as a catalyst for increasing people’s choice and are directly translatable into knowledge, leading to greater freedom.

    Whilst a chocolate bar is consumed by one person, Freedom Toaster wares carry no restrictions. In fact, people are encouraged to make further copies and to distribute them, enabling the whole community to benefit.


    Source

    Posted by keefner at 09:18 AM

    January 15, 2006

    Dell Success Story with Kiosks

    In a published case study, we learn how Dell hardware and the Dell OEM Industry Solutions Group help KIOSK Information Systems customers help themselves.

    Think inside the box

    Dell hardware and the Dell OEM Industry Solutions Group help KIOSK InformationSystems customers help themselves

    They help you buy tickets, print photos, check e-mail, and pay bills. And better yet, they never talk back. They are kiosks, and the self-service booths made by KIOSK InformationSystems (KIOSK) help whisk customers through lines at airports, amusements parks, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. In fact, the KIOSK kiosks do much more, including supporting human resource functions, offering quick ticketing, accelerating order entry, providing store directories and retail advice, facilitating bill payments, serving up directions, and aiding security at checkpointsall of which have helped propel KIOSK to the top of the kiosk industry.

    With a customer roster that includes Pepsi- Cola, McDonalds, FedEx, Wal-Mart, Citibank, Disney, Sony, Borders, Mercedes-Benz, and the United States Postal Service, it is no exaggeration to say that the Louisville, Coloradobased company has become the king of kiosks.

    KIOSK now enjoys a significant market sharedespite the fact that the company competes against formidable industry stalwarts IBM and NCR. When asked to describe the success of KIOSK in an industry replete with behemoth competitors, Tom Weaver, vice president of sales and marketing, says, Our competitors tend to rely on the Henry Ford philosophy: customers can have anything they wantas long as it is black. By contrast, we design kiosks based upon what our customers really need. We build everything from the inside out. Typically, we meet with customers, talk to them about functionality, and then give them multiple options for how a kiosk might perform and what it might look like.

    Download kiosk case study pdf


    Posted by keefner at 04:23 PM

    July 24, 2005

    USB and Self-service Kiosks and Kiosk Terminals

    It used to be give me a COM port and a Parallel Port and we'll have a self-service kiosk for you. Not anymore...

    Commentary on Self-Service Kiosk Technology:

    The decline of legacy ports like good old COM1 and RS232/LPT1 have seen their day, and seen it pass.

    Nowadays its less a matter of COM1 than rather its 2.0 USB as opposed to 1.1 USB. Kiosks have more and more devices available for input and gathering information and given the finite number of serial ports it has just been a matter of time before almost all the devices are USB.

    That has problematic issues with some versions of Windows be they W2K or XP. Managing these devices (and sometime a variable amount) raises simple requirements that can result in complex issues.

    We now have credit card readers that are USB that for purposes of bi-directional communication present themselves as virtual com-ports. Good for security, not so good for application programmers.

    More modern iterations of past systems such as the IBM Anyplace do not have support for parallel ports opting instead for just USB. Technically they are to be congratulated in one sense. In another its "dang, another brand new world..." platform. The usual suspects are not in the mix.

    Consider a digital media system where given Compact Flash and Memory Sticks and 7 other formats, the mappings for the USB drives now takes on new significance.

    And what about USB and bi-directional communications? Isn't that a new pathway for hackers to exploit? We never used to download user files and now we are making transfers a part of the paid process.

    It has always been a nice option to use a HID driver for credit card reader, but doesn't that just read it as keyboard input (and thus expose it to illegitimate capture)?

    How fast is that Bluetooth transfer, and how much faster will it be with the new Bluetooth specification to be approved/implemented?

    How secure?

    How well does the O/S handle USB devices and under what conditions?

    My touchscreen used to be RS232. Linux likes that, but, everybody else likes USB.

    Do I cover OPOS and/or JavaPOS or what? What requirement do I have driving my business. Business is requirements driven after all.

    Does my cash acceptor or printer need to be Wi-Fi enabled or at least Ethernet enabled. How far has the network dug into the infrastructure?

    These are all valid questions and ones that will impact kiosk deployment.

    More to come in next installment on self-service kiosk technology.

    Commentary by Craig Keefner, applications engineer for Kiosk Information Systems

    Posted by keefner at 03:19 AM

    June 23, 2005

    French Photo Company Staging Turnaround

    Noted : new information on the turnaround of the French photo company Photo-Me. The Independent out the UK issued the information and notes new manufacturing of kiosks in China. Competitors listed are Fujifilm and Noritsu. Read more

    Posted by keefner at 04:14 PM

    Mars Sues JCM For Patent Infringement In U.S. District Court

    Noted -- MARS and JCM in litigation. The two patents in question are in relation to the Cashflow SC bill acceptor. read more

    Posted by keefner at 04:10 PM

    May 21, 2005

    Internet Kiosk in Vietnam

    Ho Chi Minh City currently has 2,017 Internet service kiosks, announced the municipal Culture and Information Department on May 18.

    To help the service develop on the right track, Ho Chi Minh City has asked these Internet booths to strictly observe the Government's 55/CP Decree and the city's Regulation No. 125 in this field.

    According to the post sector, there are now 7.2 million Internet users in Viet Nam, including 2.6 Internet subscribers
    story link

    Posted by keefner at 03:03 PM

    May 11, 2005

    KIosk and ATM Fraud

    Greg Swistak, Executive Director of the Kiosk.org Association (KOA), a trade group representing the interests of self-service providers, said the problem is not with the machines, but rather with a few of the people who sell them and create industry-wide image problems.

    "Maybe our business was really going mainstream and was being accepted by the masses." He cited actions against several other companies, including Nationwide Cyber Systems (now operating as Transnet Wireless Corp.), a Canadian company called Teleking Communications Corp. and Debit Corp. of America Inc.

    In another case, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an emergency action in Texas in July 2004 to freeze the assets of Cash Link Systems Inc. and its principal Alan Levine, charging securities fraud and alleging that the company had raised more than $10 million from 680 investors nationwide.

    Green Sheet article

    Posted by keefner at 11:45 PM

    May 08, 2005

    News Releases By Kiosk Information Systems

    Kiosk Information Systems has three new news releases posted on the site.

    Posted by keefner at 08:11 PM

    May 05, 2005

    Gates Interview with Engadget

    Terrific interview with Bill Gates by Engadget. There are some good insight on the HD-DVD and Blu-ray track (which will affect kiosks) as well as how the tablets are progressing.


    Part I

    Part II

    Posted by keefner at 02:05 PM

    March 29, 2005

    New Head Honcho at HP

    Rumor is that HP has named Mark Hurd of NCR as its new CEO.

    Posted by keefner at 07:54 PM

    March 24, 2005

    Self-Service Kiosk Industry Update

    Self-service kiosk information newsletter from Kiosk Information Systems (March edition)

    Self-Service Kiosk Industry Update
    March 22, 2005
    [picture FedEx kiosk]
    Coming up for the industry in April is the KioskCom.com 2005 Show in Las Vegas April 18-20. If you would like a guest pass just sign up with KIS. Signing up also makes you eligible for a Dell DJ that will be given away at the show.

    Our partnership with FedEx will be highlighted at the show. Pat Johnson (IT Manager, FedEx) will be discussing the details of this highly successful and complex project. This seminar is something we would encourage all of you to attend. Pat will share some very specific, "real life" principles of success that will benefit any self-service kiosk initiative.
    On To KIS News

    Here are some interesting news items from the KIS self-service kiosk world for the last 30 days we noted or are involved with. For up-to-the-minute information we recommend subscribing to the KIS RSS news service.


    read more

    Posted by Craig at 03:36 PM

    Ann All Departs Networld

    atm-symbol.jpgSorry to see this. Ann All was a tremendous observer/analyst for the ATM market. Ann All leaves ATMmarketplace.com after more than six years
    Posted by Craig at 03:22 PM

    February 01, 2005

    Radio Shack Growth CEO

    New CEO Aims for Growth

    story link

    David Edmondson, who will take over as RadioShack's CEO on May 19, wants employees to be hopeful and inspired, but aware of competition.

    New CEO aims for growth

    By Heather Landy

    Star-Telegram Staff Writer

    FORT WORTH - Working diligently behind the scenes has been David Edmondson's modus operandi at RadioShack for 10 years. That's not about to change just because he is being promoted to chief executive.

    Edmondson, who will take over as CEO on May 19, has a plan to make Fort Worth-based RadioShack a growth company again. But true to form, he prefers to accomplish his goal in small increments, periodically issuing progress reports and letting outsiders figure out his strategy on their own.

    "I know exactly where we're going to go," Edmondson said in an interview at the company's new downtown campus. He then sidestepped the obvious question: Where?

    The 45-year-old has left a trail of clues over a decade of deal-making at RadioShack, where he rose from vice president of marketing to chief operating officer. While being groomed to succeed CEO Len Roberts, Edmondson took a big role in two recent efforts: forming product development alliances with technology firms and landing deals to manage wireless phone kiosks for Sprint and Sam's Club.

    Both initiatives play up RadioShack's experience in operating small retail spaces and bringing new technology to the forefront -- legacies that Edmondson is likely to draw on as he reshapes the company to rev up sales growth.

    In each of the first three quarters of 2004, sales never rose more than 3.6 percent, lagging far behind the pace of earnings growth as the company slashed costs and geared its stores toward more profitable lines of merchandise.

    Those numbers tell a story, as numbers tend to do for Edmondson, who is known for being a relatively reserved man with a soft spot for spreadsheets.

    In the beginning

    Born in Boston, Edmondson grew up in places as varied as Germany, South Carolina and Colorado because of his father's assignments as an Army drill sergeant. When Edmondson left home at 17 to attend a small Baptist college in California, his father -- who according to Edmondson made the title character in Pat Conroy's novel The Great Santini look "like a wimp" -- was not impressed and suggested that he find a job instead.

    Edmondson did both, working his way through school. Work was nothing new to him; as a young boy, he saved up for a watch he wanted by taking out neighbors' trash.

    "I learned later the value of being able to set your own price," joked Edmondson, who still has the Timex he bought at the base PX. As a teen-ager in Colorado, he ran a lawn-mowing and snow-shoveling service and bought a bicycle shop.

    After college, where he majored in theology and psychology, Edmondson took a job at a church in Colorado and met the young teacher he would marry. Debra Edmondson had spurned an initial matchmaking attempt by a mutual acquaintance. But she changed her mind a few weeks later, when for the first time she heard the young assistant pastor at the church deliver the dismissal prayer.

    "Not listening to the words at all, I just thought, 'This guy is going somewhere,' " Debra Edmondson said. "He just always had this persona about him, that whatever he did, he put his all into it."

    Seeking financial security for his young family, David Edmondson began a career in marketing that took him from Omaha to the Northeast and then to Texas. His family now lives in Southlake, where his wife is active in local politics and serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission. They have a 16-year-old daughter and two sons, 21 and 24.

    A changing profile?

    At RadioShack, David Edmondson kept a relatively low profile while Roberts, as CEO, built a reputation for energizing employees and represented the company in civic and philanthropic endeavors. But now that he is taking over as CEO, Debra Edmondson suspects that her husband will surprise people with his skills as a motivator and communicator, which he honed as a pastor.

    "Len definitely is a personality. But I think people will find out that David is, too," she said.

    With Roberts' blessing, David Edmondson has already started making changes. He shuffled the management team and chose four senior vice presidents as his top lieutenants: Don Carroll, head of marketing and advertising; Jim Hamilton, who was named chief merchandising officer; Stuart Asimus, who now handles store, dealership and Internet operations; and Edmond Chan, who as chief strategy officer oversees a newly created division for business development, product development, and manufacturing.

    Edmondson led a town hall-style meeting with employees this month, after it was announced that he would become the company's next CEO.

    "I really want to inspire people as to what this company can be," he said. "That's instilling them with hope. But there are a lot of competitors out there that are bigger than us and faster than us, so I also have to instill a sense of fear, that you can't stay in one place."

    That's where the company's new product development alliances and kiosk operations come in. In late 2003, RadioShack began pairing up with technology companies in hope of creating a pipeline of new products for the stores and reviving the chain's reputation for ingenuity.

    "Dave personally helped drive this," said Charlie Mollo, CEO of Arizona-based Mobility Electronics, which has been working with RadioShack to develop a line of power adapters for a range of consumer electronic devices. "It was very clear to us that they were looking at the innovation and technology part of this as a way to prove to the world that they could really drive change."

    RadioShack reported strong holiday sales of the Mobility products, which some on Wall Street interpreted as a sign that the retailer could jump-start sales in areas aside from the chain's thriving wireless phone business.

    "We are gaining confidence that management can meet its guidance to the Street for 2005 based upon a continuation of superior performance in wireless and progress in re-merchandising the rest of the store," KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Jeff Stein wrote in a note to clients this month when he raised his rating on RadioShack's shares from "hold" to "buy."

    Others on Wall Street are waiting to be convinced. For every analyst who has a "buy" or "strong buy" rating on the stock, there are two who rate it a "hold" or a "sell," according to Bloomberg data.

    Edmondson said the company has another source of sales growth that it has only begun to mine. RadioShack last year opened 55 Sprint kiosks in malls around the country and plans to have 500. The RadioShack name is not visible on the kiosks. In tests, the kiosks often attracted customers who typically would not visit a RadioShack store, Edmondson said.

    RadioShack also recently took over 550 wireless phone kiosks at Sam's Club stores.

    Edmondson sees great promise in RadioShack's ability to manage retail sites for other companies.

    Annual sales at RadioShack stores average less than $390 per square foot, but the company expects that RadioShack-operated kiosks will pull in more than $5,000 per square foot.

    "In any retail concept, that's a home run, and it's something we are uniquely capable of doing because we know how to operate small-footprint stores," Edmondson said.

    Posted by Craig at 04:36 AM

    January 14, 2005

    Cool Stuff at CES

    Catch slide show covering new products at CES. Includes Jackin Chan, 320 lb subwoofers, in-wall port systems, video telephony, optical burners (Lightscribe), 65" LCDs,

    Posted by Craig at 02:44 PM

    October 02, 2004

    Industry news

    Retail POS company NCR Buys Kinetics for 26M

    Dayton, OH, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- NCR Corp. in Dayton, Ohio, Friday acquired Kinetics Inc. in Lake Mary, Fla., for $26 million.

    Kinetics provides solutions that include airline self-check-in, hotel self-check-in/check-out, quick-serve restaurant pre-order and self-service event ticketing.

    The acquisition covers the systems, software and services developed and marketed by Kinetics. Kinetics will operate as a subsidiary of NCR, and its employees will remain with Kinetics.

    After accounting for all related costs, it is anticipated that the acquisition will be neutral to NCR's 2004 earnings.

    NCR is a global technology company helping businesses build stronger relationships with their customers. NCR employs approximately 29,000 people worldwide

    http://www.kiosknews.org/archives/000878.html
    http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20041001-121002-3392r.htm

    Posted by Craig at 03:31 PM

    September 24, 2004

    Membership Kiosk

    Steak and Ale Restaurants to roll out loyalty kiosks


    Fishbowl, a Virginia-based full-service marketing company for the hospitality industry, is rolling out its new Membership Enrolment Kiosk throughout the 64 unit Steak and Ale Restaurants chain. Fishbowl's Enrolment Kiosk enables Steak and Ale to enrol diners in its Preferred Guest List using a kiosk in each restaurant. Guests join the list by entering their contact information using a touch screen. The process is simple and takes less than a minute. The membership information is downloaded nightly via wireless data transfer to Fishbowl where it is merged with the existing Steak and Ale membership database. After sign up, members will receive the Guest Loyalty programme emails including welcome messages, special promotions and member discounts. The restaurant chain started seeing a significant increase in sign-ups immediately after deployment. Averaging fifty new names per store each week, the chain is building a list whose redemptions of up to 20% will more than pay for the chain's annual email marketing programme. Future applications for the kiosks include guest feedback, nutritional information, and job information.

    Web: http://www.fishbowl.com


    News brief: Steak and Ale Restaurants to roll out loyalty kiosks - Customer loyalty, customer retention, and customer relationship marketing daily news and information - free, unbiased news for the marketing executive or researcher.

    Posted by Craig at 09:20 PM

    September 22, 2004

    Telecomm Kiosks

    Sprint, RadioShack set new mall strategy

    Sprint Corp. said Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with RadioShack Corp. to open 500 kiosks in shopping malls across the country.

    The kiosks, which will be rolled out over the next three years, will be run by RadioShack and staffed with RadioShack employees, but operated under the Sprint brand. They will sell Sprint and Virgin Mobile wireless products and other Sprint services.

    The Virgin Mobile prepaid wireless service aims for the youth market and operates on Sprint's network.

    Sprint officials said the new retail strategy would expose Sprint's services to a greater number of customers.

    The Overland Park telephone company's services already are sold in RadioShack retail stores, many of which are in malls where kiosks will be installed. But the kiosks will reach customers who might not walk into a RadioShack store, officials said.

    We felt like we may not be capitalizing on all the traffic, said John Garcia, senior vice president for sales and distribution in Sprint's consumer division.

    The companies said they would open 90 kiosks by next spring in malls in Texas, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, Oregon, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Washington and California. Kansas City area malls will not be included in the initial rollout.

    The companies have been testing the kiosks in 10 malls across the country for about six months. Garcia said the test kiosks did not appear to cannibalize customers from RadioShack's existing stores.

    As wireless services become more complicated, customers want to be able to talk to a salesperson and ask questions, Garcia said.

    Even experienced users want to have a salesperson explain things to them, he said. What we're seeing in the selling of wireless is that the consultative sale is becoming more and more important.

    Sprint also is opening more of its own retail stores. This year, the company expects to open 200 additional Sprint stores, bringing to 800 the number across the country.

    Sprint services are sold in 6,500 RadioShack stores, Garcia said. RadioShack also sells Verizon Wireless products in its retail stores.

    Sprint's stock closed Tuesday at $20.20, up 9 cents.

    Posted by Craig at 08:48 PM

    September 15, 2004

    Amazon Search Engine

    Amazon shows off its A9 baby -- Users can store bookmarks online

    A9, the tiny Palo Alto company that Amazon.com created to experiment with cutting-edge Internet search technology, took the wraps off its new Web site Tuesday evening, unveiling technology that allows users to store bookmarks and other personal information online.

    The A9 announcement suggests that major Internet players could soon embrace the concept of personal online file cabinets, where users can easily store and retrieve the bits of information they collect while traversing the Internet.

    Several smaller services have sprouted up recently that allow people to store and search bookmarks. But Amazon is the first big Internet company to publicly embrace the idea and build on it.

    ``It's not just about search,'' said Udi Manber, chief executive of A9 (www.a9.com). ``It's about managing information.''

    Speculation has swirled around Amazon's plans for Web searching ever since the company announced the formation of A9 more than a year ago. Amazon choose Manber, its top search expert and former Yahoo employee, to lead the new company. And Manber set up shop in Silicon Valley, far from Amazon's Seattle headquarters.

    Observers assumed Amazon intended to join the Internet search engine wars between Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask Jeeves. Others speculated that Amazon was more interested in perfecting a search engine for e-commerce, which could be used at the main Amazon.com Web site.

    Manber would not discuss Amazon's plan for A9 or whether it will merge the new site with Amazon's main shopping site. He characterized A9 as a ``first step.''

    For now, A9 exists as a wholly separate Web site from Amazon.com. But users log into the site with their Amazon user name and password.

    Once inside, users can simultaneously search the Web, the Internet Movie Database (which Amazon owns), Amazon's book catalog and an Israeli reference Web site called GuruNet. For now, A9's regular search results are provided by Google.

    When users find a Web page that interests them, they can create an online bookmark that A9 will store on its computers. In another section, A9 stores a history of every Web search a user has conducted through its service, theoretically creating an archive that could span years.

    Users can search their A9 bookmarks and search histories with the click of a mouse.

    ``It gives you the power to remember everything you've seen and to get access to everything you've seen,'' Manber said. ``It's not only finding things that you're looking for. It's things that maybe I didn't know I had found before.''

    To take full advantage of the A9 services, users will need to download and install a toolbar on their computers. So far, the toolbar only works with Internet Explorer for Windows. But Manber said his team is developing a cross-platform toolbar.

    Furl, Spurl and Amplify are among a host of new services and products that have emerged recently to promote a concept that some are calling the ``personal Web.'' By combining a detailed record of a person's digital footprints with a powerful search engine, the services allow users to instantly dig deep into their Internet surfing histories.

    Search-engine expert Danny Sullivan said the concept of saving search results is hardly new and the technology is not especially impressive.

    ``We're in this incremental game where companies keep adding in these features, but the search results haven't really gotten better,'' said Sullivan, who edits the Web site Search Engine Watch. ``What we're really waiting for is that thing that will make you jump up and say, `Wow!' ''

    Sullivan doubted that online bookmarks and searching would resonate with many Web users.

    Nonetheless, he predicted that companies such as Yahoo, Google and Ask Jeeves would try to match A9's features. Offering personal Web spaces could help Web sites attract and keep users. That, in turn, could drive more Internet searches, which is where those companies make most of their money.

    ``I'm sure we'll see other people add on this functionality,'' Sullivan said.
    Contact Michael Bazeley at mbazeley@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5642.


    MercuryNews.com | 09/15/2004 | Amazon shows off its A9 baby

    Posted by Craig at 10:35 PM

    September 03, 2004

    Kiosks and Audio

    CRM Daily article on why Kiosks Should Hold Their Tongues

    By Kimberly Hill
    CRM Daily
    September 2, 2004 11:10AM

    The real price of bad kiosk design is the cost savings sacrificed because customers refuse to use the self-service devices -- which were intended to offload customer service to a less-expensive channel. I know that it will be a long time before I try that self-serve checkout line at the grocery again.

    Not long ago, I decided to try the self-service checkout line at my local grocery store. Having used computers for well on 25 years now, and writing about software quite a bit, I assumed I probably could muddle my way through. I was wrong.
    After listening in vain to the crackly instructions coming out of the speaker and pushing various buttons, I eventually was summoned to the front of the store by a live person sitting at a very high desk looking over the lines -- shades of being called to the elementary school principal's office over a loudspeaker.

    Not My Fault

    In my defense, though, I will point out that Forrester Research's Paul Sonderegger says the machine never should have been talking to me in the first place. Giving voice instructions along with written cues on a screen and physical cues from other devices, such as scanners, simply overtaxes a user's ability to absorb information, he told CRM Daily.

    So, as it turns out, I was the victim of bad kiosk design, which makes me feel only a bit less humiliated, but vindicated nonetheless.

    "Spoken instructions consume a lot of cognitive horsepower on the part of the user," Sonderegger explained.

    In addition, the user may be stepping back from the machine to locate items to which the instructions are referring -- the bar-code scanner, for example, or the platform on which to lay down library books. By the time the user's attention returns to the audio portion of the kiosk presentation, the instructions have moved on.

    "What started as a high-anxiety situation to begin with gets even worse," he added.

    Driving Employees to Extremes

    In addition to embarrassing customers at library checkout lines and information centers at museums, kiosks that talk drive the employees who must listen to them all day to extreme measures. Imagine the librarian who must sit four feet away from the self-serve checkout station that bleeps cheerfully "Use Me for Faster Service" six times per minute.

    In discussions with kiosk manufacturers, Sonderegger said, he has heard a number of stories about employees dismantling devices and disconnecting the wires that lead to the kiosk speaker -- effectively disabling the machines.

    Of course, that kind of sabotage costs enterprises a good deal. What hurts even more, though, is the cost savings sacrificed because customers refuse to use the self-service devices -- which were intended to offload customer service to a less-expensive channel. I know that it will be a long time before I try that self-serve checkout line at the grocery again.

    The potential for savings, said Sonderegger, is what will motivate kiosk designers to eventually get it right.

    http://crm-daily.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_title=Kiosks-Should-Hold-Their-Tongues&story_id=26718

    Posted by Craig at 02:54 PM

    August 21, 2004

    Fall Conference

    KioskCom Announces Fall Summit

    08-19-2004 --

    Due to the overwhelming success of the April 2004, Las Vegas event, KioskCom announces a Fall Summit to take place this November 8-10, 2004 at the Hotel Intercontinental, Miami, Florida. Focusing on best practices for increasing profitability in self-service technology, KioskCom Fall 2004 Summit will offer case study presentations, challenge-focused workshops, networking luncheons, benchmarking opportunities, real-time solutions from a number of industry leaders, and exhibitors showcasing the latest self-service technology.

    "The last KioskCom conference took place April 26-28, 2004 at The Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, NV. With over a 33% increase in registrants, and over 25% increase in exhibitors. KioskCom continued its explosive growth and once again showed why KioskCom is THE place to be for all of your kiosk and self-service technology needs," said Executive Director Lawrence Dvorchik. "In addition, there have been many significant kiosk projects that were finalized through the knowledge and contacts made at KioskCom events," he added.

    According to a study from IHL Consulting Group, the annual dollar value of transactions through self-service kiosk technologies will approach $1 trillion annually in North America by 2007.

    In addition, the number of kiosks in North American retail locations will grow 69% to 105,000 by 2007, up from 62,000 in 2003, according to Francie Mendelsohn, President of Summit Research Associates Inc.

    For more information, contact:
    Lawrence Dvorchik, Executive Director
    212-885-2732
    lawrence@kioskcom.com
    www.kioskcom.com

    About KioskCom:
    KioskCom(www.kioskcom.com) is the industry's source for self-service kiosk information dedicated to promoting the benefits of interactive kiosks, and their implementations worldwide. KioskCom organizes a series of Executive Conferences and Trade Shows throughout the world, focusing solely on how organizations will benefit from incorporating kiosks into their overall business plan. The conferences offer a vast array of speakers, including Retail, Government, Financial Services executives and other industries, who are sharing their experiences on such topics as Gaming, Loyalty, Marketing, QSR/MTO, C-Stores, Self-Checkout, Bill Payment, Content Development, Vendor Partnerships, WiFi, Remote Monitoring, ADA Compliance, and other areas.

    Additionally, KioskCom, via its website, www.KioskCom.com , offers Kiosk Reports, Product Resource Guide listings, and Industry News on real kiosk issues and stories.

    KioskCom Industry News

    Posted by Craig at 06:47 PM

    June 30, 2004

    Starbucks and Music Burn

    Thinking Outside The Cup in-depth article on Starbucks..http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/84/starbucks_1.html

    Posted by Craig at 06:14 PM

    June 18, 2004

    Package Pickup & Dropoff

    DHL is going after the express and ground shipping business dominated in the United States by FedEx and UPS, which together control about 80 percent of the market.

    Courier targets rivals with $150 million ad campaign
    By Jane Roberts
    Contact
    June 16, 2004

    World courier giant DHL launched a $150 million U.S. ad campaign this week to tell shippers it has trucks, people and something to prove.

    DHL is going after the express and ground shipping business dominated in the United States by FedEx and UPS, which together control about 80 percent of the market.


    Advertisement


    "Our research shows customers are clearly looking for a choice," said Jonathan Baker, DHL spokesman. "We certainly do want to make it clear that we are the stronger third choice in the American market."

    The campaign, including print, Internet and network and cable TV spots, will run over six months. The first TV ad, which began airing this week, shows FedEx and UPS couriers stopped at a railroad crossing while a train loaded with DHL trucks speeds past.

    A.G. Edwards analyst Donald Broughton questions DHL's thinking.

    "You can spend over 100 million on ads if you'd like; that in and of itself doesn't change marketplace conditions," Broughton said.

    "FedEx had some success in expanding its ground efforts because there wasn't an alternative to UPS on the ground. Customers like alternatives, but DHL is missing the point because the incremental value of alternatives drops rapidly when you already have alternatives."

    DHL estimates it controls about 8-9 percent of the domestic express and package market.

    "We don't need to increase our market share to reach our financial goals in the U.S.," said Baker. "But obviously, we want to have a strong third choice in the market."

    If DHL is successful in providing competitive service with competing prices, Broughton expects UPS will feel the loss more than FedEx because UPS dominates the ground market.

    "I'm sure FedEx will give DHL the attention it merits, but I don't suspect it's going to cause many sleepless nights for Fred Smith," Broughton said. "DHL is a minor player."

    The struggle for DHL is perception, said transportation analyst Satish Jindel with S & J Consulting Group. "They do have something to prove and that is that the service and choices are better than what customers had with Airborne," he said. "The perception is that Airborne was not as good as UPS and FedEx."

    DHL, the largest international courier, started in San Francisco in 1969. It began its plan to reassert itself in the United States last summer with the purchase of the ground portion of U.S. air cargo carrier Airborne. It has spent the intervening months integrating its network.

    "Now that that is complete, it is time to come out and announce in a big way that we can provide service in every Zip Code in the country," said DHL's Baker.

    The air operations became ABX Air. DHL will rely on ABX and ASTAR, formerly DHL Airways, to provide its express network, although it owns neither.

    FedEx and UPS hotly contested the legality of ASTAR, arguing that while the airline is owned by American interests, the management decisions are made by majority owner, Germany's Deutsche Post. Under U.S. law, at least 75 percent of a domestic airline's voting stock must be owned or controlled by Americans. The carrier's operations also must be controlled by U.S. citizens.

    The Bush administration in mid-May found that ASTAR was not controlled by foreign interests, allowing it to fly in the United States and dealing FedEx and UPS a bitter blow.

    "While DHL may have a new paint job, this is not a new competitor," said FedEx spokesman Howard Clabo. "Customers have been choosing FedEx over our competitors, including DHL and Airborne, for the last 30 years because we've proven time and time again that we are absolutely, positively the best choice for virtually any transportation need anywhere in the world."

    Last week, the U.S. Postal Service selected FedEx Express as the transportation and delivery carrier for its Global Express Guaranteed operations, its premier date-certain delivery service in more than 190 countries.

    DHL, which had held the contract since 1999, says it lost money on the deal due to low volume.

    FedEx will begin the contract July 1, carrying overseas U.S. mail to 194 countries.

    "It's big for us because we are working with the U.S. Postal Service internationally," said FedEx spokeswoman Lourdes Pena.

    commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN: Business

    Posted by Craig at 02:02 PM

    June 11, 2004

    Sports Ticketing

    Automated Kiosks for MLB's Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants

    Tickets.com Deploys Automated Kiosks for MLB's Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants
    < back


    Innovative Self-Service Ticketing Distribution System Provides
    Will Call and Purchase for Both Day-of-Game and Future Events

    COSTA MESA, Calif., June 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Tickets.com has announced the
    deployment of its advanced ProVenue(TM) Automated Kiosk system for the Boston
    Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and the San Francisco Giants, announced Carl
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    The self-contained kiosk system can be seamlessly deployed across other
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    "We are excited to partner with Tickets.com to enhance our ticketing
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    "The implementation of Tickets.com kiosks has addressed some serious game
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    Alexander, director of ticket sales and service Pittsburgh Pirates. "The
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    it! We look forward to implementing the advance game day purchase option, in
    addition to the other convenience adding technologies the Tickets.com kiosks
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    "We are now a 24 hour box office. Fans can do basic ticket transactions
    any time, day or night. Tickets.com has delivered a first class product,"
    said Russ Stanley, vice president ticket services San Francisco Giants. "I
    especially like the day of game, "no-click", will call feature. Fans swipe
    their card and will call tickets associated with their card print. It's as
    simple as that."
    "The successful deployment of our automated ticketing kiosks underscores
    Tickets.com's commitment to using advanced technology to develop and deploy
    the most convenient and scalable ticketing distribution platforms for the
    industry," stated Thomas. "We applaud our partners, the Red Sox, Pirates, and
    Giants, for continuing to adopt next generation solutions that provide their
    fans with products that offer a superior level of service and convenience."
    Similar to Tickets.com's Private Label website offerings, the kiosks can
    be customized with a team or client brand. The ProVenue Automated Kiosk works
    in conjunction with all other Tickets.com sales channels, including the
    Internet, integrated voice response (IVR) system, and call centers.
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    Automated Kiosks can also be configured to operate in one of four different
    modes. The venue then has the ability to control each kiosk individually
    based on a pre-determined schedule or manually.

    * Ticket Pick-Up, Day-of-Game only -- This option prompts the customer
    to insert their credit card or driver's license, then automatically
    prints any unprinted orders associated with that card for that day's
    game.

    * Ticket Pick-up only -- Customers may pick-up unprinted tickets for all
    prior purchases associated with the inserted credit card.

    * Ticket Sales only -- Customers may only purchase tickets for any
    available future games.

    * Ticket Sales and Pick-Up -- The customer may purchase tickets for any
    available game, or pick-up previously purchased orders that have not
    been printed.

    About Tickets.com
    Tickets.com, a leading global live event ticketing service provider, is a
    primary choice for thousands of top entertainment and sports venues and teams.
    Clients comprise leading museums and performance centers including the
    Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Ford's
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    Chicago Cubs, Greensboro Coliseum, and HSBC Arena; and esteemed Colleges and
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    ProVenue(TM) Ticketing Solutions brand, Tickets.com offers five distinct
    software products and services, as well as Customer Management and Venue
    Management Features designed to increase ticket sales and build customer
    relationships. The Tickets.com B2B website, http://www.tickets.com/provenue,
    incorporates solutions for the most flexible choices in the ticketing
    industry, while consumers can purchase client tickets directly through
    http://www.tickets.com. Beyond traditional retail, kiosk and voice distribution
    channels, Tickets.com also enables venues to sell tickets and manage
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    For further information, please contact: Bill Harrison, +1-323-960-9171,
    bill@zukermanpr.com, or Melissa Zukerman, +1-323-960-9170,
    melissa@zukermanpr.com, both of Zukerman Public Relations, for Tickets.com.


    Silicon Valley Biz Ink :: The voice of the valley economy

    Posted by Craig at 03:15 PM

    May 05, 2004

    Patent News

    Digital media company E-Data announced it has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Getty Images and Corbis, the latest companies that may eventually be forced to pay licensing fees to directly sell their products over the Internet or via kiosks.

    E-Data sues Getty Images and Corbis
    05 May, 2004

    Back News Archives


    LONG ISLAND, NYDigital media company E-Data announced it has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Getty Images and Corbis, the latest companies that may eventually be forced to pay licensing fees to directly sell their products over the Internet or via kiosks.

    The two suits in a U.S. District Court are the latest in a string of litigation the company has engaged in since the early 1990s, seeking to protect intellectual property for distributing digital content via the Internet or kiosk and loading it onto some other material or device for reproduction, according to an article on CNET News.com.

    "We're moving forward in enforcing our rights under the patent laws. That's part of our global strategy," said Gerald Angowitz, special assistant to E-Data chairman Bert Brodsky. "We would like to reach a licensing agreement with the parties, rather than litigate for the sake of litigation. But failing that, we do intend to pursue our rights."

    The company alleges Getty and Corbis infringed on its patents by electronically transferring stock photos and images to customers at a remote location, where the material was purchased and reproduced. E-Data's patent covers the downloading and recording of data, including photos, text and video, from a computer onto a tangible object--a tape, a CD, even a sheet of paper.

    The patent, granted in 1985, covers the transmission of information to a remote point-of-sale location, where it is then transferred to a material object. U.S. courts have held that saving information such as a song onto a computer's hard drive, and then selling the information on such objects as a disc or store kiosk would be covered under the patent.

    Similar issues fueled a lawsuit against Microsoft and several music services. E-Data sued several music services, including Microsoft's over its European music download service, late last year, alleging the companies infringed on its patent. But in January, the companies reached a settlement.

    With its U.S. patent having expired in January of last year, E-Data has until December 2008 to file any retroactive claims against companies it believes infringed on its patent when it was still in effect. As a result, E-Data is seeking to file its U.S. lawsuits as soon as possible, Angowitz said.

    In Europe, E-Data's patent does not expire until 2005. As a result, the company has shifted its litigation attention to Europe. It currently has a lawsuit against Corbis and Getty in the Netherlands and United Kingdom courts.

    E-Data sues Getty Images and Corbis | Kiosk Marketplace News (Mobile Version)

    Posted by Craig at 05:21 PM

    April 30, 2004

    C-Stores

    Latest U.S. Convenience Store Count Shows 130,659 Stores

    For Immediate Release

    April 14, 2004

    Contact: news@nacsonline.com
    (703) 684-3600

    Latest U.S. Convenience Store Count Shows 130,659 Stores


    ALEXANDRIA, Va. The number of convenience stores selling motor fuels grew 4.3 percent in 2003, but the overall number of convenience stores dipped slightly, dropping 1.3 percent to 130,659 stores, according to the new National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS)/TDLinx Official Industry Store Count, as of December 31, 2003. The count is based on the convenience store universe, tracked and marketed by TDLinx, and is endorsed by NACS.

    Last year, the official store count was 132,424 stores. Ten years ago, the official industry store count stood at 98,400; 20 years ago there were 80,900 stores, and 30 years ago there were 27,900.

    The 1.3 percent decrease in the number of U.S. convenience stores at year-end 2003 over 2002 is a net change number reflecting 9,500 store closings versus 8,000 openings. Importantly, the count also incorporates existing non-convenience stores that were classified or remodeled and now meet the NACS' definition of a convenience store, which includes a broad merchandise mix and a minimum of 500 stock-keeping units (SKUs).

    Stores selling motor fuels at new high
    A total of 106,240 convenience stores (81.3 percent of all stores) now sell motor fuels; both the number and percentage are all-time highs. Meanwhile, the percentage of stores that do not sell motor fuels plummeted 20.2 percent. There are now 6,182 less stores that do not sell motor fuels, outpacing the increase of 4,417 stores that sell motor fuels

    "As competition for the convenience customer continues to intensify, it is clear that stores are increasingly looking to add products and services such as motor fuels to their offers. At the same time, this competition also is making some operators re-examine the profitability of all of their stores, and the closings of less profitable stores are the primary contributor to the store count decline," said Teri Richman, NACS senior vice president of research and public affairs.

    "While the number of convenience stores remained relatively static from the year prior, there was still a significant amount of change happening within the channel," said Scott Taylor, TDLinx executive vice president and general manager. "In 2003, TDLinx tracked 92,770 convenience store changes -- these changes include store openings and closings, banner names, reporting and owner relationships and supplier changes. Nearly three-quarters of all stores (71 percent) had some sort of change last year."

    Texas leads the nation in total number of convenience stores (12,805), as well as number of convenience stores selling motor fuels (11,198). Meanwhile, the eight-state South Atlantic region (which includes the District of Columbia) continues to be the region with the most convenience stores in the country -- 30,176 stores -- nearly one-quarter of all stores in the U.S. The only region to see an increase in the number of stores was the Middle Atlantic region (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania), which saw a 2.2 percent increase.

    The industry continues to be composed by a majority of small, "independent" operators -- stores that are owned and operated as a one-store business or franchise, but both the total number and percentage of one-store operators declined in 2003. The total number of one-store operators declined 3.0 percent to drop to 76,043; however, one-store operators still make up the majority of stores (58.2 percent) in the United States.

    Highlights from the new convenience store industry store count include:

    Texas remains #1: Texas accounts for nearly one in 10 of all U.S. convenience stores, totaling 12,805 stores. The rest of the top 10 states in terms to total stores are: California (9,064 stores), Florida (8,763), New York (6,581), North Carolina (5,587), Georgia (5,554), Ohio (4,761), Michigan (4,332), Virginia (4,131) and Illinois (4,077). Virginia is the only new entry in the top 10.

    More single-store businesses than chain stores: Nearly three-fifths (58.2 percent) of the country's convenience stores (76,043 stores total) are categorized as single-store companies in the latest store count. Meanwhile, 13.3 percent (17,316 stores) are owned and operated by companies having more than 500 stores. Washington state has the highest percentage of stores operated as single-store businesses (81.3 percent of all stores), while Colorado has the fewest (31.8 percent). Meanwhile, Colorado has the highest percentage of stores that are operated by businesses owning 500 or more stores (38.8 percent of all stores). Twenty-four states have less than 10 percent of all stores owned and operated by these larger businesses.

    America's fuel retailers: A total of 106,240 convenience stores, or 81.3 percent of all stores, sell motor fuels. More than half of these stores are one-store operators (55,426 stores). In 24 states, the percentage of stores that sell motor fuels tops 90 percent, led by the 98.5 percent of stores in North Dakota that sell fuel (only five stores do not sell motor fuels in the state). Not surprisingly, the two states that mandate full-service for motor fuels sales had among the lowest percentages of stores selling motor fuels. New Jersey had the smallest percentage of stores selling fuels (33.7 percent), and Oregon had the third lowest (49.5 percent, slightly more than the 46.1 percent in Massachusetts). Overall, convenience store retailers sell approximately three-quarters of the gasoline purchased in the U.S.

    Motor fuels are an increasingly important offer for stores: Even though motor fuels margins reached a 17-year low in 2002, according to the NACS 2003 State of the Industry report, more stores are offering motor fuels than ever before to drive customer traffic. Every region across the country saw an increase in the number of stores selling motor fuels, led by the 15.3 percent increase in the Middle Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). Meanwhile, every region saw a decrease in the number of stores that did not sell motor fuels, led by the West North Central states (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), which saw a drop of 40.5 percent.

    Change is a constant within the industry: Most of the stores (71 percent) had some sort of change in 2003, whether a change in ownership, a supplier relationship, brand name or an opening or closing.
    Chains/
    Franchises All Other
    Stores Total
    Industry
    Change in store type 6,234 3,876 10,110
    Change in ownership 45,179 9,780 54,959
    Change in supplier name/brand 4,787 5,402 10,189
    Stores opened 1,332 6,702 8,034
    Stores closed 3,405 6,073 9,478
    Total changes 60,937 31,833 92,770

    Source: TDLinx


    -###-

    The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is an international trade association representing 1,900 retail and 1,800 supplier members. The U.S. convenience store industry posted more than $290 billion in total sales for 2002, with $181 billion in motor fuel sales.

    TDLinx is recognized as the universally accepted store, outlet and account coding structure and premier source of retail/on-premise channel information. With TDLinx Codes, consumer packaged goods manufacturers and alcohol beverage suppliers are enabled to aggregate to a customer view, integrate disparate data and activity, communicate seamlessly on a code-to-code basis and evaluate in any frame of reference with a systematic and repeatable process. TDLinx covers over 600,000 locations, 11,000 accounts and up to five layers of account hierarchy. TDLinx is a division of ACNielsen, a VNU business.


    Latest U.S. Convenience Store Count Shows 130,659 Stores

    Posted by Craig at 02:07 PM

    April 22, 2004

    Magstripe and Loyalty

    Catuity to move toward magnetic stripe cards (away from Smart). Also hits on Target decision to phase out smart cards. Easier to store rewards on the server instead of a card...

    Tuesday April 20, 2004

    Catuity Inc., a provider of loyalty software for transaction processors, card issuers and merchants, has announced that it anticipates its efforts in 2004 will be directed more toward magnetic stripe cards than smart cards.

    "In North America, Western Europe and Australia, we believe that magnetic stripe cards - with loyalty rewards stored not on the card (as in the case of smart cards) but on a host server - will be preferred," explained CEO, Michael Howe. This article is copyright 2004 TheWiseMarketer.com.

    "The discussions that we have had with [channel partners] Maritz, Certegy and others, indicate that this appears to be the preference. We are also able to utilise our system with smart cards as EMV mandates are accomplished in various regions of the world," added Howe.

    Target disappointment
    Although Howe expressed disappointment with the decision by the US retailer, Target, to phase out its use of smart chip technology, he said that Catuity remains optimistic about its business opportunities, and continues to work to bring about profitability and long-term value for its shareholders.

    For the quarter ending March 31st, 2004, the company expects total revenues of approximately US$470,000, most of which is attributable to its work for Target and Visa. This compares to last year's first quarter revenue of US$1,475,000 (of which approximately US$1.1 million was license revenues, recorded as deferred revenue in 2002). Software development and services revenue for the first quarter of 2004 are however expected to be approximately US$460,000 compared to approximately US$400,000 in the first quarter of 2003.

    Future forecast
    "Although it is difficult to predict the amount and timing of future revenue, we currently believe our 2004 revenue will be significantly less than that recorded for 2003 as a result of the phasing out of the Target Visa smart card programme," said Howe. "As a result of the revenue loss, we will incur a loss in 2004, as compared to our close-to-break-even 2003 results."

    "During the past three years, while our resources have been directed primarily to the Visa/Target initiative, information technology has continued to advance significantly. Our product development team is now able to add new technological improvements to our proprietary system to keep Catuity competitive. These changes will allow us to integrate our system with more databases, making our software easier for our customers to use for highly targeted offers based on more customer data, and make it much easier to integrate the Catuity system to their various POS environments," concluded Howe.


    News: Catuity to move toward magnetic stripe cards - Customer loyalty, customer retention, and customer relationship marketing daily news and information - free, unbiased news for the marketing executive or researcher.

    Posted by Craig at 02:17 PM

    April 20, 2004

    Airlines and QSRs

    Nice story on Kinetics.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Toll of a New Machine
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    04-19-2004 --
    It started with ATMs. Then gas stations. Now self-service kiosks are taking over airports and invading McDonald's restaurants. Is this the face of the jobless recovery? Or will automation make service better for workers and customers alike?

    The intersection of Interstate 4 and Florida's Highway 27 is a well-known spot, the point where the clutter of Orlando's theme parks exhausts itself and the old Florida of citrus groves and sandy ridges picks up.

    There is a McDonald's at this intersection, and in a booth on a recent Friday, Don Vaughn is having lunch with his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. They've driven 12 miles to this McDonald's, drawn by the power of a dawning technology.

    "It's fantastic," says Vaughn, a local. "I love it. It's the new age."

    "We tell [the machine] the way we want it," says Chrystal, Vaughn's daughter-in-law, "and we know it's done right." Done right, in Chrystal's case, means no onions.

    The liberating new-age technology in use right there inside the McDonald's--a pair of kiosks bolted to the floor near the front counter--allows customers to use a touch screen to order their Big Macs and Happy Meals exactly the way they want them. Vaughn, Chrystal, and Heather drove to this particular McDonald's--as they do regularly--just to order their food on the touch screens themselves.

    In the tumult of lunchtime at a busy McDonald's, and in the tumult of the U.S. economy, the slim, silver machines would be easy to overlook, though each is as tall as a person and sports a colorful screen. There are just 85 of them, installed in 48 franchised restaurants, all without the help of McDonald's itself.

    The company quietly putting self-ordering computers in McDonald's is Kinetics Inc., whose self-service technology has already swept through the airline industry, with results that have amazed executives and customers alike. Every day, hundreds of thousands of airline customers check themselves in, cheerfully doing work that used to be done by thousands of airline ticket agents. Kinetics' self-service vision could have the same impact on the fast-food business as it has had on airlines--and fast food and airlines are just the start. Besides checking ourselves in for flights at the airport, we may soon be checking out rental cars at our destinations without talking to anyone, and then checking into hotels at a lobby kiosk that, first, displays a diagram of all the rooms available and then, after we choose one, pops out a room key.

    If you look at the dozens of Kinetics self-service machines lined up at Delta's terminal in Atlanta, or Northwest's in Minneapolis, or Continental's in Houston, you'll begin to understand the role they're already having in a powerful economic trend: the ability of U.S. businesses to do more and more with the same, or fewer, workers. Labor productivity grew at an astounding annual rate of 9.5% during the third quarter of last year, the largest quarterly leap since 1983. That's an unsustainable pace (and it dropped to a more typical 2.6% in the fourth quarter), but it is part of a steady trend that has productivity increasing in the past two years at more than twice the historical pace. Crudely put, the numbers mean the work that required 100 people in 2000 requires just 89 people today.

    Kinetics and its kiosks are capitalizing on this productivity trend and driving it. The company, which makes about two-thirds of the nation's airport self-check-in machines, is an all-but-unknown Lake Mary, Florida, outfit. Although Kinetics does everything itself--from designing and manufacturing its own machines, to servicing them in the field--it is tiny. Last year, tens of millions of airline customers checked themselves in on machines that were designed, produced, and supported by just 67 employees.

    But the impact of Kinetics and its kiosks isn't as obvious or as scary as the sensationalist headline those numbers might suggest--"67-Person Company Puts Thousands of Airline Employees Out of Work!" True, airlines have been shedding jobs in the past few years, but that's largely due to industry woes that have nothing to do with automation. And it's unlikely that these machines will mean the end of ticket agents, rental-car clerks, or the front-desk staff at hotels. Instead, those jobs will change--and eventually, there may be more of them, not fewer, because of self-service. That seems counterintuitive, but employment has actually grown in other service businesses that have been automated. At the dawn of the self-service banking age in 1985, for example, the United States had 60,000 automated teller machines and 485,000 bank tellers. In 2002, the United States had 352,000 ATMs--and 527,000 bank tellers. ATMs notwithstanding, banks do a lot more than they used to and have a lot more branches than they used to.

    Instead, the story of Kinetics offers a glimpse of the continued power of computers, automation, and the Internet to transform our lives as both workers and consumers--a power that, far from having plateaued, is only just getting started. Information technology hasn't touched lots of things that are just waiting to be automated, computerized, or kiosked. That they will be automated seems inevitable. But the results aren't so clear. Will all these smart machines create more jobs and free workers to tackle more rewarding, more complex tasks? Or will we gradually see the disappearance of a whole category of frontline workers? Will kiosks leave customers feeling well cared for and more closely linked to the businesses that use them, or frustrated and trapped in a real-world version of voice-mail hell? The answers have a lot more to do with how a company uses such machines than with the technology itself.

    Kinetics, which delivered its first machines to Alaska Airlines in 1996, has transformed a kludgy, aggravating part of the air-travel experience that has long resisted improvement. In December, 70.3% of Northwest Airlines' passengers checked themselves in for their flights, the majority using Kinetics' kiosks, the rest online, a function made possible by Kinetics' software. That's up from 50% in May and 20% in 2001.

    Entering an arena dominated by muscular global players such as NCR, Diebold, Siemens, and IBM, Kinetics has consistently beaten the giants in head-to-head competition for business. Kinetics' technology is running not just the self-check-in machines of Alaska, Continental, Delta, and Northwest, but also AirTran, Hawaiian, and Frontier. In March, Kinetics won the business of United Airlines, which had been using IBM. United plans to begin installing Kinetics' machines immediately. The company's software makes possible the newer Internet check-in process for many airlines; it runs the ticket-issuing system for Orbitz; and, along with its hardware, is spreading to gates at many airports to speed boarding.

    Unlike many information-age companies, there is nothing virtual about Kinetics. The company takes pride in doing every-thing: Employees write the software, design the hardware, and staff a storefront factory in Lake Mary. A field group of 12 technicians keeps the airport kiosks running at what Continental says is 99.5% reliability. And CEO, president, and founder David Melnik says privately held Kinetics is profitable and has been so almost since its first contract.
    "Companies multiples of our size don't have the impact on culture and business that we do," he says. "That's a pretty radical thing. I think it's pretty cool."

    At Continental Airlines, 66% of U.S. passengers check themselves in at Kinetics kiosks. "We never thought it would go above 25%," says Scott O'Leary, Continental's senior manager in charge of airport self-service for passengers. As for the lines that used to bedevil even business travelers, says O'Leary, "We are essentially queueless." And once customers are standing at a kiosk, he says, "the mean check-in time is 66 seconds. For customers with no bags, it's 30 seconds." At big airports, your plane is more likely to stand in line to take off than you are to check in.

    Self-service has begun to pop up in so many places--photo-processing kiosks in drugstores, self-testing kiosks to renew driver's licenses, automated toll payment--that the technology has quickly gone from novel to unremarkable. But self-service often feels like the opposite of service, or it feels as if the customer has been made an involuntary, unpaid worker. Whatever the efficiency of pumping your own gas, doing so doesn't make the experience of filling your tank any better; depending on the weather, doing it yourself is often downright unpleasant.

    But here's something every airline passenger knows: Kinetics' machines actually improve the task they automate. They don't just make the experience quicker, they make it better. Jeffrey Lammers, who used to design nuclear weapons and until February was Kinetics' head of hardware engineering, says, "You won't find anyone who flies a lot who won't just hug these machines."

    The self-service kiosk shows you a seat map of the plane you're boarding--you see where your seat is, you see what seats are still open, and you're free to pick one you like better. And only you know that after your first choice--aisle, far forward, but not bulkhead--and your second choice--window, far forward, but not bulkhead--your third choice is any row where there's an empty middle seat. Except not farther back than row 20, because you don't want to wait 15 minutes to get off the plane. And then there's your fourth, fifth, and sixth choice. No ticket agent has the patience to walk through this with any passenger, let alone every passenger. The kiosk handles it in seconds. And it can be programmed to operate in 12 languages. "It's the end of the 'veil of secrecy' at check-in," says Continental's O'Leary. "It's a quick, informative check-in, instead of standing in line for customer service." When this kind of automation is done right, Kinetics' CEO Melnik says, "People don't perceive it as technology, they perceive it as an enabler in their life."

    Melnik, 39, is one of those smart, restless souls who stumble into entrepreneurship because it makes so much more sense than working for companies that are too big, too slow, and too hesitant. A college dropout whose real passion is marine biology (for a while, he performed as "Flipper Boy," cavorting with dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium), he started the company that became Kinetics in 1988 after working as a sales agent for a Tampa travel agency. The experience of selling and delivering airline tickets to small businesses got him wondering why those tickets couldn't be handled more like money in ATMs and less like a special product that had to be "produced" at a travel agency. "I got interested in this, and it hooked me," he says.

    Melnik worked with NCR on several projects, including plans to bring an early kiosk to the Trump Shuttle in New York's LaGuardia Airport. He worked with Siemens on a project for Lufthansa. He also worked as a waiter, accepted startup funding from his mother-in-law, and lived for several years off the teacher's salary of his wife, Cindy. He can write software, and he can "bend metal" to make kiosks.

    It took nearly eight years of persistence for the technology, the airline mind-set, and the customers to catch up with Melnik's vision. He sold Alaska Airlines on those first machines, called Orcas, using a cardboard mock-up.

    How this kind of simple but powerful self-service technology ripples through businesses and the economy always looks easier to predict than it is. The first passenger elevator in the world, created by Elisha Otis, was installed in a New York department store in 1857; it wasn't until 1950--nearly a century later--that the Otis Elevator Co. came up with the technology for self-service elevators. In 1955, 500,000 people in the United States were working as elevator operators, jobs that were almost all gone less than 10 years later.

    But as it turns out, the impact of even the most pervasive self-service, on productivity and on customers, is easy to misinterpret. Kinetics' machines improve the productivity of airline ticket agents--but not by allowing the ticket agents to do more work, more quickly. They allow the ticket agents to preside over more work being done--in this case, by the customers. And it may be this sort of productivity improvement that helps make possible the "jobless recovery," in which companies manage to grow without hiring new employees or without recalling those who have been laid off.

    Indeed, when you use a self-check-in machine, you can't help but wonder about the thousands of airline employees who have lost their jobs since September 11. Last year, Northwest flew 12% fewer passengers than in 2000. But it did so with 25% fewer employees. If Delta had been staffed in 2003 the way it was in 2000, it would have employed 2,500 more people. Since the end of 2000, Kinetics' three biggest customers--Delta, Northwest, and Continental--have shed some 37,000 employees, enough people to run all of Northwest today.

    Of course, the airlines are a complicated case--their business was out of whack before the September 11 attacks, and the attacks hit the airline business harder than any other. But even where the impact of such machines looks obvious, labor tends to squirt around the economy in unpredictable, even counterintuitive, ways. Although Continental now has 780 kiosks in 130 airports, with the machines handling the vast majority of passengers, the airline has reduced the number of airport agents by only 4% since September 11.

    Melnik likes to say that each Kinetics self-check-in machine, at an initial cost of between $6,000 and $10,000, takes the place of two-and-a-half ticket agents, because the machine is available (at least) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week--or about the number of hours that many agents would work. But that both understates and overstates the machines' impact.

    Kinetics has installed 3,800 self-check-in machines for airlines--but 9,500 ticket agents have not lost their jobs. At the same time, at airports in Atlanta and Houston, where there are banks of dozens of check-in machines, the kiosks handle surges of passengers easily and quickly. No airline can have 50 or 100 ticket agents waiting to take bags and issue boarding passes; but many airlines have that many check-in terminals in individual airports.

    At Continental, O'Leary acknowledges that the airline is using Kinetics' technology to grow traffic without adding staff and costs. "It's absolutely true that before self-service, we were adding staff and [airport] real estate like you wouldn't believe," he says. "Once you have self-service deployed, you can absolutely contain those costs. But we still argue we are getting better productivity and service out of our existing agents."

    O'Leary is sensitive to the perception--from both staff and passengers--that Kinetics' kiosks take jobs. But he argues that they're really just eliminating tedious, repetitive work and freeing agents to deliver real customer service to passengers who don't like the machines, or have more complicated issues. "My position has evolved," he says. "Watching anyone do clerical transactions over and over again just looks like wasted time. Having [a ticket agent] punch the same combination of 122 keys over and over and over again--that's just wasted effort in the 21st century. It's not the society I think of as productive."

    Here's how persuasive the self-service machines were to Gary and Kim Moulton, who own the McDonald's at the intersection of Interstate 4 and Highway 27 in central Florida, and five more McDonald's in that area. The day in early 2002 when the very first machine was delivered and hooked up, the Moultons ordered nine more. "I said, 'Tell us when you can install the rest of them,' " says Gary.

    For the Moultons, the self-service ordering machines have been one surprise after another. "The first surprise was, the first day it went in, customers said to us, 'It's not just fast, it's not just accurate--this is fun!' " says Kim. One college girl was so amazed by the machines, she ran up and hugged Gary. "She said, 'Thank you, this is the greatest,' " he recalls, still amazed at the reaction. (The Moultons' favorite customer response comes at their highway store, from tourists: "We don't have these up north.")

    The Moultons expected the kiosks to handle 25%, maybe 30% of their volume; the average across all six stores after two years is 45%, and at a couple of them, more than 50% of customers order themselves. People routinely stand in line for the kiosks, even when the counter is clear, with people ready to take orders.

    These machines are the work of Todd Liebman, who started a company called Quick Kiosk, which he sold to Kinetics last year. Liebman is now head of a Kinetics division targeting "quick service" restaurants. Fast-food machines are both simpler and more complicated than the airline machines. They are simpler because they don't have to constantly and quickly access vital, secure databases such as passenger manifests. They are more complicated because even a McDonald's lunch menu offers many more choices than an airplane seat map. You can specify the elements of your burger--cheese, lettuce, ketchup, mayonnaise--in a range of choices from none to extra. Everything from breakfast to dessert has a picture.

    The machines have actually increased the Moultons' labor costs--in two ways. Volume overall is up so much that they have had to add kitchen staff to make more food. And the Moultons have added "kiosk representatives" to greet customers and help them with the machines. "We've basically had to add two people per store," says Gary. "One in the kitchen, one for the kiosks, and we haven't been able to take anyone off the front counters." But if labor costs have gone up, the Moultons' cost of labor as a percentage of sales has dropped. "We've outpaced the labor costs with the increase in sales," says Gary.

    That's the double-reverse flip of the productivity improvement: The kiosks make everyone at the Moultons' restaurants so much more efficient--customers, kitchen staff, counter staff (who still take all cash payments and deliver everyone's food)--that the Moultons have used the machines to increase their payroll. During the breakfast and lunch rushes, the kiosks give the Moultons all kinds of headroom to keep customers flowing and lines down.


    In fact, unlike the airport, where you've already picked your airline before you face check-in lines, the kiosks in a McDonald's can quickly increase business. One of the key factors in picking a fast-food lunch spot is the wait. The front counter is a choke point. "I had a customer come up to me in one of our city stores recently," says Gary. "She said, 'I love these kiosks, but it sure is hurting your business, because there are no lines at lunch anymore!' "

    The final surprise is that customers who use the kiosks spend more money. Because the Moultons' volumes are so high, and have remained that way for so long, they know this is not some quirk of self-selection. On average, customers who use the machines spend $1 more per check. "With the size of our typical order, that's a 30% increase," says Gary. "That's huge."

    The Moultons have a couple of ideas to explain why kiosk checks are bigger. The color kiosk screens are a great sales tool--you can put the new McDonald's premium salads right in the center: 20% of customers who initially don't order a drink and are offered one (with a picture) buy it. Then there's the embarrassment factor. A substantial customer might be reluctant to upsize the fries, or order two Big Macs, or an extra apple pie, from a counter person. The kiosk can't snicker, even to itself.

    In some ways, the job issues are less stark at fast-food restaurants than at airline ticket counters. "You are always going to need a substantial number of people to run a McDonald's," says Liebman. "You aren't going to automate the cooking of the food, you aren't going to automate the delivery of the food, not any time soon." The McDonald's kiosks take payment by credit card; for cash, in terms of speed, it's still much quicker to have a customer step to the counter and hand over money to a person than feed bills and coins into a machine. And although it's easy to lament the steady erosion of personal contact in commerce, McDonald's is rarely the source of richly satisfying service encounters.

    Kinetics CEO Melnik has been working on travel kiosks for more than 10 years and sees the kiosk business as a graveyard of silly ideas. "We are an industry built on failures," he says. "People are enamored with kiosks. There are kiosks all over the place that no one uses: kiosks at the mall for shopping, kiosks for community information, kiosks for job listings."

    Kinetics has been successful, Melnik says, because it isn't trying to trick-up an ordinary experience with a "multimedia experience." "We focus on transactions that already exist," he says, and he wants machines that make those transactions steadily simpler. "I think that 10 years from now, serving yourself will be the default, versus now, where it's the exception," he says.

    And when you raise your eyes from the airline business--where Kinetics has had a dramatic impact while selling 1,341 machines in 2003, manufacturing an average of just 5 a day--the market size, and the potential for transformation, is stunning. Kinetics is already talking to rental-car, cruise-ship, movie-theater, and hotel companies. The fast-food business alone could keep Kinetics busy for years. The top five fast-food chains by revenue--McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell, and Subway--have 48,000 restaurants in the United States.

    It's easy to envision the typical fast-food restaurant installing a couple of kiosks inside. But for impact, the real key is the drive-through lane, where a Kinetics touch-screen kiosk, mounted on a pole and weatherproofed, could solve a problem that has confounded engineers for 40 years: our inability to be heard through the drive-through speaker when we shout, "No mustard!"

    Sidebar: So You Want to Hire a Robot: The Dos and Don'ts of Self-Service Automation

    Here are many reasons Kinetics' self-service check-in machines have swept through the nation's airports in just the last three years. Americans are much more comfortable with computers than they were even five years ago. And the airlines desperately needed a more effective and efficient way of getting passengers through airports. But Kinetics also thinks about self-service in ways that have made its kiosks particularly appealing--to both passengers and airlines. Its principles of self-service design could be effective in all kinds of settings.

    Automate to simplify, not to be cute. From vending machines to ATMs, the key is to automate a task that already needs to be done, not to invent a task and then provide a computer to do it. In both airports and fast-food restaurants, kiosks provide a service that customers already need. And they do it with a complete lack of self-aggrandizing flourish. It's not about the technology, it's about the task.

    Bite off less than you can chew. The first versions of Kinetics' machines in airports didn't allow customers to upgrade to first class or go on standby for a different flight. Kinetics gave customers a chance to learn the system, and to develop confidence in a new technology, before adding layers of complexity. Now airport machines offer upgrades and alternate flights, and some airlines even use them to automatically rebook passengers when there are weather or equipment delays.

    Use automation to improve the task at hand. Airport kiosks change the experience of checking in by showing passengers a map of the airplane, where they are sitting, and where there are open seats. They make checking in not just faster, but better. McDonald's customers who use a Kinetics kiosk to place their orders have absolute confidence that the "no onions" request has been made. In both cases, kiosks provide not just convenience but a sense of power and control.

    Remember, automation doesn't mean standardization. With each of its airline clients, Kinetics sits down with a fresh sheet of paper. It tries to understand the priorities of each airline independently, in order to craft a self-service experience that matches the airline's needs. For airlines that carry mostly business fliers, passengers are offered the first-class upgrade option quickly; for airlines carrying mostly tourists, the "How many bags are you checking?" screen may come sooner. Part of self-service is paying attention to how many different selves you might be serving.

    Charles Fishman (cnfish@mindspring.com ), a Fast Company senior writer, takes his airline seats aisle, far forward and his burgers with no mayo.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Source: Fast Company


    KioskCom Industry News

    Posted by Craig at 07:22 PM

    April 13, 2004

    Touchscreen Voting

    Humorous look at touchscreen voting demo ...2000 Florida Touch Screen Voting System

    Posted by Craig at 08:52 PM

    April 02, 2004

    Golf Kiosks

    TeePod kiosks tickle golfers

    Mesa course among 1st with system

    The Arizona Republic
    Apr. 1, 2004 12:00 AM


    You know your best buddy is playing today at Dobson Ranch Golf Club, and you wonder how he's getting along with his new clubs.

    With the help of the TeePod system being used at the Mesa municipal course, you won't have to wait until he's finished to find out. By using your personal computer, you can call up his score in real time.


    TeePod system
    Computerized kiosks near every tee allow players to keep score, track other players, order food and beverages or call for help. System can also be accessed from personal computers to book tee times.

    Dobson Ranch Golf Club in Mesa was the second course in the nation to install the system, and the only one in Arizona.

    Developed by 4everSports in Nova Scotia, the system cost $85,000 to install, but some of that is offset by advertising that appears on the touch screens and Web site and by added revenue that comes from online tee-time bookings. Golfers don't pay anything extra to use the system.

    How it works
    Golfers receive a code number, corresponding to their name, when checking in.

    At each tee, they enter the code number and their score for the previous hole on a kiosk using a touch screen. They also can call for help or a beverage cart, notify the pro shop about a lost club, disabled cart or other problems.

    After using the TeePod for 10 rounds, it automatically determines a player's handicap and can compile figures on fairways hit, greens in regulation and other stats.

    During the round, the kiosks display a real-time scoreboard for everyone using the TeePod that day.


    That's one of the many features of the scoring system installed at Dobson Ranch a year ago. It has become a hit with many of its golfers.

    "It's a wonderful system," winter resident Ray Gall said as he and his wife, Nancy, played the course last week. "To have something like this at a municipal course is quite a novelty. We have a lot of fun with it."

    The city-owned course was the second in the nation to install the system (a third was installed last month at Landmark Golf Club, the former home of the PGA Tour's Skins Game, in Indio, Calif.).

    It uses a network of touch-screen kiosks near each tee, where golfers can enter their scores. In addition to keeping running scores, it also allows golfers to track scores of other players, order food and beverages and call for help.

    Once off the course, golfers can use it to reserve tee times, determine a handicap index and keep track of their statistics, such as greens in regulation, fairways hit and putting.

    For David Gorman of Mesa, who plays the course several times a week, one of the best features is comparing his score with others who are on the course that day. At the kiosks, it shows the scores of all players who have signed on, which is especially useful for tournaments.

    "I hope they never get rid of it," Gorman said. "I use it every time I play. You can go home, get on the Internet and take a look at all of your scores and stats, and get an idea of what you're doing well and not so well. What I really like is being able to take a quick look and see how you're doing compared with other players. It just makes golf a little more fun."

    Golf director Jim Gentry said the biggest challenge with the system is educating golfers about its use. He said about 35 percent of players use it at a course that logs about 80,000 golf rounds per year.

    "Some people are still resistant to technology, but this being the communication age, I think it's where golf is headed," Gentry said

    "They have simplified it so much with touch screens that it's really easy to use, and once people try it, they seem to love it. "

    Contrary to concerns about slowing play, Gentry said it actually speeds up play, partly because golfers must go to the next tee to enter scores instead of filling out score cards on or beside the greens. It takes about 15 seconds to enter scores for a foursome, and Gorman pointed out that one player can do that while the others are teeing off.

    The system also alerts the pro shop if a group is lagging behind on the course, based on the time it takes between score postings.

    As for "drawbacks," there is the potential for one:

    "If your wife really wants to keep track of you, she can go on the Internet and see if you're playing and how many holes you've completed," Gorman said. "Some guys might not be crazy about that."


    TeePod kiosks tickle golfers

    Posted by Craig at 04:33 PM

    March 26, 2004

    Self-service learning

    Airline deploys online learning programme for 48,000 workers via web portal

    BA self-service learning takes off
    By James Mortleman [26-03-2004]
    Airline deploys online learning programme for 48,000 workers via web portal


    British Airways has jettisoned traditional top-down training in favour of a self-service online learning programme for its 48,000 workers.
    The airline is using a package from Oracle and e-learning firm Thomson NETg to manage, deliver and track hundreds of online and classroom-based courses covering both IT and business training.

    According to BA, the new approach will cut costs and speed up the deployment of online learning throughout the organisation.

    "The combined solution has provided BA with a comprehensive learning programme that trains our global workforce in critical areas such as baggage safety and airport security, as well as empowering employees to manage and track their personal training progress," said Graeme Davison, BA's Oracle iLearning implementation manager.

    iLearning lets employees book courses, access online learning materials, participate in classes and manage training schedules via a central web portal.

    The system has also been integrated with Oracle's Human Resource Management System (HRMS) so that managers can track workers' skills development and personal progress.

    Joel Summers, senior vice president of global HRMS and learning management product development at Oracle, explained that iLearning offers medium and large firms a complete learning management system.

    "Coupled with Thomson NETg's solution, companies can now provide employees with world-class learning programmes that are easy to deploy, targeted to job roles and aligned with organisational goals," he said.

    Thomson NETg's Open Learning Solution has been tailored to allow BA staff access to a complete range of training materials and courseware for individual needs.

    Joe Dougherty, president of Thomson NETg, claimed that BA's new open approach to training will increasingly be adopted by other global organisations.

    "An open learning environment is critical for organisations that want to deploy online learning quickly, efficiently and effectively around the world," he said.


    vnunet.com BA self-service learning takes off

    Posted by Craig at 02:39 PM

    March 04, 2004

    Online Magazines

    Chris Zimmerman Moves On.

    Farewell to Kioskmarketplace.com Editor

    Christine Zimmerman, who has been the acting editor of the kiosk portal Kioskmarketplace.com for the past year, will be departing for another job on Friday, March 19. She has made the decision to take a position as an analyst with a firm operating in the telecom industry. Former colleagues she worked with recruited her to the firm.

    Over the past year Zimmerman went from kiosk novice to kiosk expert through sleuthing, interviewing, and a whole lot of hard work. Her skills as a writer and editor will be dearly missed by the kiosk industry, as well as by those people inside Networld Alliance, who owns Kioskmarketplace.com. Christine said she too will miss the kiosk industry and working at Networld. "I really admire Networld and love the industry," said Zimmerman.

    Zimmerman said the opportunity, although a very hard decision, was one she had to choose. "It was a better opportunity with an offer I couldn't refuse," said Zimmerman. Unfortunately she will leave some big shoes to fill at Kioskmarketplace.com. Christine told KIOSK magazine that she's working with a freelance writer who will help out at the portal in the interim. In addition, it is expected that Joseph Grove, who currently oversees all of Networld's sites including Kioskmarketplace.com, Pizza Marketplace, ATM Marketplace, and Church Central, will pitch in where necessary.

    The staff of KIOSK magazine congratulates Christine on the new job and wishes her the best of luck in her endeavor.


    KIOSK Magazine Online - zimmerman

    Posted by Craig at 04:44 PM

    February 17, 2004

    Buying Home Kiosks

    Some Tyson plants, including those in Lexington, Neb., and Storm Lake, Iowa, also will be equipped with electronic kiosks...

    Tyson Foods Inc., Freddie Mac Help Workers to Buy Homes

    By Mark Kawar, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

    Feb. 16--Tyson Foods Inc. and Freddie Mac will offer assistance to help Tyson employees buy homes, the companies announced Friday.

    Tyson workers who earn less than $54,500 a year and have worked for the company for at least two years will be eligible for a $3,000 to $5,000 loan for their down payments.

    The company estimated that about 65,000 employees are eligible, or just over half of all employees. Tyson employs about 20,000 in Nebraska and Iowa.

    One-fifth of the loan will be forgiven each subsequent year the employee continues to work for Tyson.

    The program plans to facilitate $50 million worth of mortgages and might be extended after that amount is reached, said Tyson spokeswoman Libby Lawson.

    Tyson, the Tyson Credit Union and the National Credit Union Foundation each donated $75,000 to the program, she said.

    Freddie Mac Chief Operating Officer Paul Peterson called the program "a model for corporations in America."

    "This initiative supports our core values, helps build roots in our plant communities and allows Tyson to retain dedicated and talented team members," Tyson Chief Executive John Tyson said in a statement.

    Employee turnover has been high in the meatpacking industry for decades. Some plants routinely have turnover rates of more than 100 percent every year. Figures on Tyson's turnover were not available.

    Tyson's home-buying program also will provide mortgages with low down payments through Freddie Mac and home-buying counseling in English or Spanish through Balance Financial Fitness Program. The mortgages will cater to people with little or no credit history.

    Some Tyson plants, including those in Lexington, Neb., and Storm Lake, Iowa, also will be equipped with electronic kiosks that will provide information about the home buying program 24-hours a day. Lawson said the kiosks will be expanded to other plants if they are well received.

    The Tyson program is part of Freddie Mac's Catch the Dream initiative, an effort to aid minority homeownership.

    Freddie Mac is a private company that works with the federal government to increase homeownership and receives some government benefits.

    HOW TO GET INFORMATION

    Tyson employees interested in the program can contact the Tyson Credit Union at 1-800-897-6991 or at www.tycu.org.

    Posted by Craig at 10:19 PM

    Golf Course Kiosks

    Solar-Powered Interactive Scoring and Communication Devices to the Golf Course

    Taipei, Taiwan, Date 2004 " Expecting to do for golfing what ATMs did for banking, a new device from 4everSports based on the VIA EPIA Mini-ITX mainboard promises to automate golf scoring and provide a distinct competitive advantage to competitors by letting them view other players' scores in real time. The TeePod, a birdhouse-style golf kiosk, will be featured at the 4everSports Pro-Pro tournament of PGA-certified golf professionals at Dobson Ranch Golf Club in Mesa, Arizona March 8. The wireless on-course management and electronic scoring system will provide players with score tracking and a real-time leaderboard while letting fans at home follow their favorite players' scores online at www.4everSports.com.

    Based on the VIA EPIA Mini-ITX mainboard, the TeePod is attractive and environmentally rugged with temperature control and voltages managed remotely by 4everSports in Nova Scotia. Running on up to 300 watts of collected solar energy, each of the 18 TeePods on a standard course use the VIA EPIA Mini-ITX mainboard, which utilizes only 10 watts. The units bright LCD screen, which uses far more power, turns on as the player approaches the kiosk and turns off when the player leaves, managing a crisp, bright touchscreen display while the EPIA and applications run continuously. 4everSports proprietary web-based software and 802.11b wireless communications let users view transmitted scores, course statistics and check their pace of play. Players can also message the clubhouse for refreshments, request on-course help for such common incidents as lost clubs, or to seek immediate aid for players in distress.

    4everSports is confident that its TeePod Information System will be embraced by the golf world. The company offers golf course operators an irresistible opportunity, guaranteeing that the system will pay for itself in the first year of operation and ensuring increased rounds and automating many of the things course operators have had to do manually such as running tournaments and marshalling courses.

    VIA has been a great development partner, said 4everSports President and CEO, Robert Bobbett. The way VIA develops and markets its products totally supports the direction were headed. We cant wait to get our hands on new boards VIA is producing because they will enable us to even further reduce the cost of producing TeePod Information Systems.

    4everSports is an excellent example of bringing the VIA Total Connectivity platform to the consumer market to add excitement and new ways to experience traditional golf, said Richard Brown, Associate Vice President of Marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. 4everSports has leveraged the best of the VIA embedded platform to empower both the golf player as well as the course operator.


    About 4everSports, Inc.
    4everSports Inc. is responsible for the kiosk-style full service golf system known as the TeePod Information System. They are the leading experts in the development and delivery of wireless, solar-powered golf systems designed to enhance the golfing experience.

    4everSports Inc. is a private, North American Company made up of dedicated, highly-skilled programmers and designers servicing clients over the US and Canada. Find more information at www.foreversports.com.


    About VIA Technologies, Inc.
    VIA Technologies, Inc. (TSE 2388) is the foremost fabless supplier of market-leading core logic chipsets, low power x86 processors, advanced connectivity, multimedia, networking and storage silicon, and complete platform solutions that are driving system innovation in the PC and embedded markets. Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, VIAs global network links the high tech centers of the US, Europe and Asia, and its customer base includes the worlds top OEMs, motherboard vendors and system integrators. www.via.com.tw

    KNO - KioskNews.Org: Fore - kiosks arriving on Golf Courses

    Posted by Craig at 09:54 PM

    January 26, 2004

    Wi-Fi and Postal Centers

    Air-Q Agrees to Wi-Fi Hotspot Development Deal for 1,000 Nationally-Known Postal Centers

    BATON ROUGE, La., Jan 26, 2004 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Air-Q Wi-Fi Corporation (OTCBB:AQWF), a Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) Internet access provider, announced today that it had reached an agreement in principal with MyMart, Inc., a privately-held, San Marcos, CA-based Internet access firm, to install Wi-Fi hot spots in 1,000 locations of a nationally-known chain of postal centers. MyMart currently provides wire-line Internet access in kiosks in each of the target postal center locations.

    Air-Q's management is not aware of any impediment to its reaching a final agreement with MyMart and anticipates that a definitive agreement will be signed soon.

    About Air-Q Wi-Fi Corporation

    Air-Q Wi-Fi Corporation is a development-stage company that develops and operates wireless Internet access systems. Its first Wi-Fi Internet access system is located in Baton Rouge, LA, and its second Wi-Fi system is located in Phoenix, AZ. Air-Q's "Wi-Fi" (hotspot) Internet access system operates on a platform comprised of Wi-Fi standard equipment that has been configured in a proprietary manner. The term "Wi-Fi" (wireless fidelity) refers to an industry standard for wireless equipment that meets published 802.11(x) standards. Wi-Fi equipment operates in unlicensed spectra, such as 2.4 and 5.8 Ghz. Air-Q's business plan focuses on the marketing of its wireless Internet access services to businesses and residential customers, as well as to visitors to its markets with Wi-Fi compatible laptop computers and other wireless devices.

    Forward-Looking Statements

    Some information in this release is forward looking. These forward-looking statements may be affected by the risks and uncertainties in Air-Q's business. This information is qualified in its entirety by cautionary statements and risk factors disclosure contained in certain of Air-Q's Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Air-Q wishes to caution readers that certain important factors may have affected and could in the future affect its actual results and could cause actual results for subsequent periods to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statement made by or on behalf of Air-Q. There are many factors that will determine whether Air-Q will be successful in its wireless Internet endeavors, including, without limitation, access to adequate capital, consumer acceptance of its products and services and the ability of Air-Q to provide timely customer installation services. Air-Q undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof.

    SOURCE: Air-Q Wi-Fi Corporation

    Air-Q Wi-Fi Corporation, Baton Rouge
    David Loflin, 225-923-1034
    dloflin@air-q.com

    Posted by Craig at 05:50 PM

    January 24, 2004

    Strategic Role of Customer Self-Service

    white paper highlights the evolving role of customer self-service today, including the best practices and approaches for enhancing self-service in today's growing online market.

    LiveWire Logic, Inc. Hires New VP of Sales and Receives Additional Funding; Veteran Sales Executive Joins Firm While Investors Extend A-Round

    LiveWire Logic, Inc. today announced the hiring of Joe Drimer as Vice President of Sales to the company, adding a seasoned executive to the management team. At the same time, current investors extended their A-Round investment into LiveWire Logic, with an additional $1 million in funding.
    .....


    A recent white paper highlights the evolving role of customer self-service today, including the best practices and approaches for enhancing self-service in today's growing online market. "The Strategic Role of Customer Self-Service" (www.livewirelogic.com/cswhitepaper.jsp) compares the strengths and weaknesses of email, chat, phone, search and automated agent approaches to help solve the growing need for enhanced customer service for a changing marketplace.

    white paper link

    KNO - KioskNews.Org: Livewire

    Posted by Craig at 03:33 PM

    January 16, 2004

    Thorntons unwraps touch screen

    Fast-food order system trims labor

    By DAVID GOETZ
    dgoetz@courier-journal.com
    The Courier-Journal

    PHOTOS BY BILL LUSTER, THE C-J
    The new touch-screen kiosk at the Thorntons at Interstate 65 and Fern Valley Road lets customers order takeout food. The store is the first in the chain, which is based in Louisville, to get the system.

    Tony Harris, vice president of information technology for Thorntons, showed how the new touch screen works. He said the ordering kiosks were always part of Thorntons' plans to expand the food offerings at its stores through its Quick Cafes, rolled out in 2002.

    Joseph Jones, deli chef at Thorntons, prepared food that had been ordered via touch screen.

    Hungry drivers can get in touch with the future of fast food at a local Thorntons convenience store, where ordering a sandwich has become an exercise in fingertip control.

    The Thorntons Quick Cafe and Market at Fern Valley Road and Interstate 65 is the first store of the Louisville chain to install touch-screen ordering kiosks for its made-to-order sandwich service.

    Using the screen, Thorntons customers can get a guided tour through a dozen screens of menu choices and extras options, place an order and pick it up a few minutes later without exchanging a word with the person behind the deli counter.

    It's a labor-saving and cost-cutting concept that fast-food companies nationwide have been experimenting with. McDonald's has tested a touch-screen system in Denver and Raleigh, N.C., and has been considering a broader roll-out.

    The system could reduce the time to take and fill an order and cuts down on mistakes in ordering.

    "I really like the menu," said John Richardson of Lyndon, who tried out the system yesterday. He thinks it will avoid botched orders. "I'm policing it rather than the cashier," he said. "I know it's going to be correct because I'm entering the information."

    Tony Harris, vice president of information technology for Thorntons, said the ordering kiosks were always part of Thorntons' plans to expand the food offerings at its stores through its Quick Cafes, rolled out in 2002. Without it, the company hasn't been able to achieve some of the speed-of-service and cost efficiencies it had envisioned.

    "We think this is a key component to the success of the food program" at Thorntons, he said. "Wherever we put food in, this will go in."

    The company is installing the system in a second store, Harris said, a new outlet being built in the Indianapolis area. It could enter existing stores as the company works out design issues for the expanded deli and grocery concept.

    Using the touch screen, customers can choose, for example, from picture-and-word icons asking if they want a hamburger or a sub sandwich. If they pick the sandwich, they are asked if they want it hot or cold, then which meats; what cheese; what toppings; extra meat or cheese; combo meal; super-sized drink?

    When the order's complete, a receipt slips out from under the screen and the order number gets in line on a 42-inch plasma video screen near the counter. When the order's ready, the number changes color and moves down to a different line. The bill is paid at the checkout.

    "It takes a little getting used to," said customer Kenny Mahon, who lives in Louisville's South End, but "if it works all the time, that's pretty cool."

    Deli chef Joseph Jones said there haven't been a lot of operating problems. "People push the wrong things sometimes," he said, but those incidents are few.

    Louisville firm IDS Engineering developed the software that runs the system through computers the stores use to keep contact with company headquarters. It uses Microsoft .NET software, said Michael W. Golway, co-owner and vice president of sales for IDS Engineering, and can be adapted to most computer hardware systems.

    IDS has used the technology for industrial production, packaging and distribution systems, Golway said, but this is the company's first retail application.

    IDS approached Thorntons about developing an application for its gas pumps, but the retailer came back with a request for a food-ordering system. IDS had been working on software for an informational kiosk for large retailers such as home-improvement centers and was able to adapt that to the deli system.

    The application also added functions such as a pager system that allows the deli clerk to do other work in the store and get an automatic signal when someone is placing an order. It also gives the preparer a detailed recipe for the type and number of each item that goes on the sandwich, so the customer doesn't end up with too many pickles or not enough tomatoes.

    Golway said the system could have applications for sit-down restaurants as well, allowing diners to page wait staff for drink refills, for example.

    The system has created kitchen efficiencies, helping control food costs, as well as a surge in upscaled orders and larger checks, keys to increasing food-service profits.

    "Combination meals are up an estimated 15 percent," Harris said. "We're getting a lot of upsale opportunities we never got with somebody waiting in the (kitchen)."

    Not everybody is enthusiastic about the technology. "It's OK, but not for fast food," said Gregory Shedrick, a traveler from Georgia who pulled in off the expressway. "It's more impersonal. I want to tell them what I need, and I want them to tell me what they have and don't have."

    Even Mahon, who liked the system, thinks he'll miss conversations with people behind the counter and has his doubts about the screens.

    "They can't talk to you about the weather," he said. "Well, I guess they could, if they wanted."

    Thorntons unwraps touch screen

    Posted by Craig at 06:45 PM

    January 12, 2004

    NRF News

    News from the "Big Show" in New York this week. (NRF)


    • Hypercom announces new S9 terminal which is EMV level and javapos
      compliant (new new devices here or story on newsalert
    • Sun and javapos story one
    • Wincor Nixdorf, Sun Microsystems and Retek Team to Deliver End-to-End JavaPOS Solutions for Leading Retailers story link
    • Microsoft Launches new initiative


      Microsoft Unveils Smarter Retailing Initiative
      , Providing a Comprehensive Solutions Framework to Unleash the Next Generation of Retail Innovation


    Posted by Craig at 02:38 PM

    January 09, 2004

    Dell does Kodak and Xerox/Fuji

    Rochesters two most-recognizable employers are looking to make friends with the Dell dude Michael Dell, that is. PR on Fuji Xerox follows.

    Both Eastman Kodak Co. and a Xerox Corp. subsidiary have signed technology development agreements with Dells company, Dell Inc., the worlds second-largest maker of personal computers.

    Kodak and Xerox International Partners, the Xerox subsidiary, will help Dell significantly expand in imaging and printing products this year, Dell announced Thursday at the massive International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

    Xerox owns 51 percent of International Partners, a joint venture that sells components and finished printers and copiers to third parties.

    Just what the two companies will do for Dell was shrouded in a bit of mystery, however. Dell, Kodak and Xerox all declined to comment on what types of products they would be working on or when they would become available.

    All of these companies have a wide array of technologies to expand our presence in the printing market, said Michael Dell, Dells chief executive officer and founder, according to a Bloomberg News Service report.

    The agreements, including a separate alliance with Samsung, come as Dell approaches the first anniversary of its decision to begin selling home printers under its own brand name.

    An independent analyst said she believes that both Kodak and Xerox will provide technology for different types of Dell-branded printers.

    Xerox, for instance, will likely offer monochrome and potentially color laser printer technology for the office, while Kodak may work with Dell on photo printers, said Angele Boyd, analyst for IDC Corp. in California.

    Kodak sells digital cameras through Dells Web site and catalog, and is looking to invest in new initiatives in both home and commercial printing.

    The way this typically works is, Dell has zero interest in research and development and manufacturing of imaging and printing products, Boyd said.

    They are interested in working with partners to build machines that are right for the Dell customer.

    Xerox views the alliance as a huge plus financially.

    It offers access to potential customers, revenue and profit through a company that has a household and universally respected name, said Xerox spokeswoman Christa Carone.

    Dell was ranked as the most trusted technology brand in a survey of consumers by Forrester Research last fall.

    This agreement will change the competitive landscape, said Sunil Gupta, president and chief executive officer of Xerox International Partners.



    FUJI XEROX

    anuary 08, 2004 01:43 PM US Eastern Timezone

    Xerox International Partners and Fuji Xerox Align with Dell to Expand Imaging and Printing Marketplace

    2004 International CES

    LAS VEGAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 8, 2004--

    Partnership Highlights Fuji Xerox Leadership in Imaging and Printing Technology

    Xerox International Partners, a majority-owned subsidiary of Xerox Corporation (NYSE: XRX), Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd., and Dell Inc. have entered into an agreement that will leverage Fuji Xerox's imaging technology and expertise and accelerate the growth of Dell's printing and imaging business. Through Xerox Corporation's ownership stakes in both XIP and Fuji Xerox, this agreement with Dell creates additional revenue-generating opportunities for Xerox and broadens its market reach by providing new choices to more customers worldwide.

    Under the agreement, Fuji Xerox will build on its strong patent portfolio, which is shared with Xerox Corporation, and manufacturing capabilities to provide world-class technology based on Dell's strategy and specifications. Dell will acquire the products through Xerox International Partners, a U.S.-based joint venture between Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd. and Xerox Corporation. XIP offers digital marking engines, including printers and other document imaging systems, for resale under other companies' brand names.

    Dell Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell announced the technology agreement today during a presentation at the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show.

    "Dell's new relationship with Fuji Xerox and XIP provides access to a heritage of world-class technology that will fuel the continued expansion of our printing and imaging business," said Tim Peters, vice president and general manager, Dell Imaging and Printing. "Fuji Xerox is known for innovation and leadership and will contribute significantly to Dell's goal of providing a superior customer experience."

    Sunil Gupta, XIP president and chief executive officer, said the agreement will help deliver alternatives to customers and provide new revenue and market opportunities.

    "This agreement will change the competitive landscape. Xerox and Fuji Xerox together hold one of the strongest and most enviable intellectual property and patent portfolios in the imaging industry," said Gupta. "Combining our expertise with Dell's complements Xerox's growth strategy to expand market coverage and broaden access to industry-leading imaging technology."

    Xerox operates research and technology centers in the United States, Canada and Europe. Its work is strategically coordinated with that of Fuji Xerox, which has research labs in Japan and the United States. Xerox and Fuji Xerox have consistently rated among the world's top technology innovators, together earning nearly 800 U.S. patents in 2003.

    Details of the partnership agreement with Dell were not released nor were the descriptions of products that will come from this relationship.

    Established in 1991, Xerox International Partners is owned jointly by Xerox Corporation, a 51 percent partner, and Fuji Xerox, a 49 percent partner.

    Fuji Xerox, incorporated in 1962, is a joint venture with Xerox Corporation and Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd., and it is the hub of Xerox operations in the Japan and Pacific Rim markets. Xerox owns 25 percent of Fuji Xerox while Fuji Photo Film owns 75 percent.

    Dell Inc. is a premier provider of products and services required for customers worldwide to build their information-technology and Internet infrastructures.

    NOTE TO EDITORS: This release contains forward-looking statements and information relating to Xerox that are based on our beliefs as well as assumptions made by and information currently available to us. The words "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "expect," "intend," "will" and similar expressions, as they relate to us, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from those projected in such forward-looking statements. Information concerning certain factors that could cause actual results to differ materially is included in the company's third-quarter 2003 Form 10-Q filed with the SEC. For more information on Xerox, visit www.xerox.com/news. For more information on Dell, visit www.dell.com.

    Posted by Craig at 06:33 PM

    December 31, 2003

    Info Touch Reports Results

    INFO TOUCH TECHNOLOGIES 2003 FINANCIAL RESULTS
    --Record Revenue Growth in Revenue and Earnings-

    Info Touch Technologies (www.infotouch.net) (TSX Venture: IFT) today announced strong operating results for the year ended July 31, 2003. The Company continued its trend of profitable growth in the fourth quarter resulting in record annual gross revenue of $6.8 million. Net earnings for the year were $917,000 or $0.07 per share, versus a loss of ($0.16) per share on revenue of $3.5 million, one year ago.

    The Company is rapidly attaining an international reputation as a successful and leading innovator in the market for kiosk-based electronic services. These financial results confirm the success of our business model, stated Hamed Shahbazi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Info Touch. Today we see our future growth in the continued execution of developing, deploying and managing these economically sustainable terminals in areas where we can create streams of recurring revenue. Our terminals are now being recognized as destination points by consumers who want access to conveniently located, self-serve and cash based bill payment, money transfer, lottery tickets or prepaid products such as phone, wireless and mobile content.

    The Companys primary focus for the year ahead will be to build out its network of terminals while continuing to increase traffic and add revenue to the operators of large convenience store chains. Info Touch terminals function as points of collection for mass billers and sales channels for companies selling products and financial services who want access to high traffic, convenient retail locations. The Company continues to work with both private equity and lease-based financiers to accelerate the rollout of kiosks. The Company is confident that its focus on creating distribution channels for its growing list of e-services will result in significant growth in recurring transactional revenue and is key to achieving sustained growth in revenue, profitability and the maximization of shareholder value.

    The Company closed the year with a significantly improved balance sheet, with cash and cash equivalents of $1M and no significant long term debt. The Company also announced that both Steven Stone and Nicolaos Cacos have left the Board in the previous quarter. We thank them for their deep and substantial contribution to Info Touch.

    Conference Call:

    You are invited to attend a conference call on Thursday November 13th at 11:30am Eastern Standard Time to review the year end financial results. The dial-in numbers are: 416-640-4127 in Toronto, or, Toll Free 1-800-814-4853. Callers should request the Info Touch Technologies Conference call with the operator, chaired by Hamed Shahbazi, Chairman and CEO of Info Touch technologies.

    For those unable to participate in the conference call, there will be a recording of the call available two hours after following the call, for a week thereafter. following the call. The dial in numbers are is 416-640-1917 or 1-877-289-8525 using the access code 21026086#.

    Year Ended

    July 31, 2003

    July 31, 2002

    $

    $

    Revenue

    6,832,395

    3,532,218

    Gross Profit

    3,887,009

    1,151,185

    Expenses

    2,969,459

    3,215,736

    Net Income(NI)

    917,550

    (2,064,551)

    - (Loss)

    NI - (loss) per share

    0.07
    (0.16)
    About Info Touch

    Recently named one of Canadas Profit 100 and Deloitte and Touches Fast 500 (in North America) companies, Info Touch is North Americas leading provider of kiosk software based security and management solutions. Surfnet Premiere, its flagship software platform, is the Fortune 1000s preferred solution for public Internet access. Established in 1997, Info Touch provisions premiere kiosk technology solutions that help drive bottom-line benefits through the convergence of online and offline operations. Info Touch clients include: Cable and Wireless (Caribbean), Telmex, Chapters Indigo, Future Shop / Best Buy, Macs/Couchetard, ConocoPhillips, KB Home, Fairmont Hotels, Chase Manhattan Bank, Merrill Lynch / HSBC, the U.S. Army, Marines Corps and Navy.

    Info Touch Technologies
    Behshad Hastibakhsh, Media Relations
    Ph: (604) 298-4636, Ext. 250
    Toll Free: (888) 679-3322
    Email: pr@infotouch.net

    Linear Capital Corp. (Business development - Info Touch Technologies Corp.) John Lewis
    Ph: (416) 364-2266
    Toll Free: (877) 600-6001
    Email: jrlewis@linearcapital.com

    The TSX Venture Exchange has not reviewed this news release and does not accept responsibility for its adequacy and accuracy.

    Posted by Craig at 04:21 PM

    FedEx Buys Kinkos

    FedEx announced Tuesday that it would acquire Net-savvy business-services company Kinko's in a $2.4 billion cash deal.

    story

    FedEx Agrees to $2.4 Billion Deal for Kinkos

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (December 31, 2003) - FedEx Corp. said Tuesday it signed an agreement to buy copy center operator Kinkos for $2.4 billion in cash.

    The deal between the shipping giant and New York-based investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, which owns 75% of Kinkos outstanding shares, is designed to give FedEx deeper reach into the small- and medium-sized business markets and allow it to sell more corporate services such as outsourced copying, printing and document management.

    The acquisition follows a similar move by Atlanta-based rival United Parcel Service, which acquired Mail Boxes Etc. in 2001 and began rebranding those locations as UPS Stores last spring.

    Privately held Kinkos expects revenue of $2 billion for the calendar year ending Wednesday. FedEx, a $23 billion company, predicts the acquisition will have an accretive impact on its earnings in its 2005 fiscal year, which begins June 1, 2004.

    FedEx has been the exclusive shipping provider for Kinkos since 1988, and already operates staffed counters in 134 Kinkos stores.

    Posted by Craig at 04:18 PM

    December 23, 2003

    KMC Article: Year End Wrap

    The stage is set for an exciting year ahead...

    The stage is set for an exciting year ahead, if the self-service industry has gained any knowledge from the experiences of 2003.

    "If anything, we've learned that there has never been a more exciting, more stressful and more lucrative time to participate in an industry that has quickly transformed the way the world interacts," said Shamira Jaffer, executive vice president of TouchPoint Solutions, talking about 2003.

    "The industry is continuing to grow and mature. Mindsets are shifting. Viewpoints are changing. Alliances are strengthening. Standards are emerging. New market segments are materializing. Old ones are diversifying. And all the while, technology is evolving, driving expansion and fueling demand for better products and more choices," Jaffer continued.

    Many of the industry leaders queried by KIOSKmarketplace mentioned that the kiosk market has matured and become more solid than ever before. Companies are starting to build real business plans before they build enclosures or applications. And they see plenty of opportunity. Their opinions are listed below. Some were even brave enough to answer the question, "What was your least-positive, or least-successful business decision of 2003?"

    In the meantime, KIOSKmarketplace continues to cover the daily news of the industry. Here are some interesting stories of 2003:

    Faces and Places. Greg Swistak, former president of Factura Corp., granted an interview about the fall of the once-mighty kiosk company and the growth of his present company, Mercury Aviation. Swistaks whereabouts had been an industry mystery for a year, and the Factura story became indicative of the financial trouble many kiosk companies had. NetShift closed its only U.S. office, citing poor sales in the country. Netkey offered the fresh, new face of V. Miller Newton, former head of monster.com. Newton replaced Netkey founder Alex Richardson as chief executive officer. Alan Fryrear, chairman of NetWorld Alliance, became the executive director of Kiosks.org. KOA is trying to expand its reach globally, to reflect the international nature of the kiosk industry.

    All about convenience. C-stores became a strong market for kiosks, which vendors like Coinstar, Cyphermint and Info Touch Technologies leading the way with strong business plans. Kiosks in c-stores now have e-financial services to aid the unbanked population and convenience-minded shoppers. Consumers using some c-store kiosks can buy lottery tickets, shop for flowers, get a PIN for topping up their phone cards, and conduct banking all in one place.

    Showtime. KioskCom in Las Vegas, and KiosksEurope 2003 drew record crowds of people seeking information on the industry. But this year, another trade show emerged: Voyagis Kiosk Show, which had the goal of staying small and focused on complete self-serve solutions. The intimate show puts new emphasis on partnerships in the industry. KOA debuted its own partner pavilion program at Retail Systems. The pavilion contained only self-serve vendors. NACs saw its share of kiosk vendors on the floor, mostly demonstrating food-ordering terminals.

    Thats hospitality. The travel and hospitality markets stayed in the news with regular announcements about hotels testing check-in kiosks and airports adopting kiosks for boarding passes. Several airlines reached impressive milestone for customers served. The Common Use Self-Service standard will gain a role in tying airline, hotel and other hospitality kiosks to common databases.

    Not-so-human resources. Large corporations learned this year that kiosks in break rooms and on factory floors are a great tool for educating deskless workers. Companies have a responsibility to ensure their employees all have access to benefit information, and kiosks fill the bill. The self-serve units are also effective at screening prospective employees.

    New technology emerges. RFID and wireless technology gained new respect in the self-serve industry. Vendors like NCR Corp. are experimenting with radio frequency identification for self-checkout in grocery stores, and loyalty programs in the retail setting. Wireless technology offers kiosks clean design and easy connectivity.

    Picture perfect. Photo kiosks emerged as a strong segment in 2003, as the use of digital cameras became mainstream. Consumers love taking digital pictures, but dont seem committed to purchasing the expensive supplies needed to process the photos in their homes. So they are turning to photo kiosks for processing. And the technological advancements are keeping up with consumer usage -- these units can now even process digital photos from mobile phones.

    Always some controversy. Internet kiosks, or more precisely, the way some are sold through infomercials, received scrutiny from the consumer press. And the reliability and security of voting kiosks came under fire this year. These stories continue to develop.

    Beyond the headlines

    Heres what some industry leaders told KIOSKmarketplace about lessons learned in 2003, and what they are looking ahead to in 2004:

    Sylvia Berens, vice president of sales and marketing, Apunix Computer Services:

    < _IMAGE _ >

    Sylvia Berens

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: To launch our Browser-on-a-Chip kiosk software to assist customers in deploying kiosks where they can leverage existing Web services.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: Yes, that there are many customers who, even though they understand that using their Web site as a kiosks is not a good long-term strategy, know they need to begin with that as a starting point. What they need is a robust environment on which they can deploy an evolving Web services-based solution.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Customer loyalty will continue to grow, as there is an easy way to document the ROI. New applications include kiosks to draw more customers (promotional kiosks) and more integration of vending and self-service kiosks (like CDs and DVDs on demand).

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: We think the industry will focus on more, smaller personal kiosks like kiosks in the back of airplane seats, restaurant tables, and product display cases.

    Elaine Bresnick, vice president of sales and marketing, Swecoin US Inc.:

    "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    < _IMAGE _ >

    Elaine Bresnick

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: Our decision to sell consumables (paper) and extended warranty service contracts.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: Yes. The kiosk/self-service market grows larger and more robust every year. We saw many new applications, many new ideas, a solidness in the market that wasnt there a couple years ago.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Human resources, health-related units and digital photo kiosks.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: We plan to introduce several innovative printer products in 2004 that we think will spawn new applications for reliable, self-serve kiosk printing.

    Sean Carlin, retail industry manager, MEI

    < _IMAGE _ >

    Sean Carlin

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: MEI decided to invest in developing products and integration tools that cater to the kiosk marketplace. By doing so, we've helped deliver a plug-and-play solution to the industry that is saving valuable time for OEMs and retailers. This is coming at a time where retailers are realizing that, in order to maximize retail transactions, they need to accept cash in self-serve systems.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: Kiosk projects are moving from concept to completion much quicker than in the past. Retailers have more urgency to deploy kiosks and self-serve systems to meet competitive pressures. No longer are we seeing projects brought too quickly to market, without proper research about customers needs. Instead, we are seeing many more well-developed, viable solutions enter the marketplace. The potential of the kiosk marketplace is finally being realized as retailers are becoming more involved in the process. Ultimately, this will provide the consumer with technology that is more on the mark.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: We believe that traditional retail stores with kiosks selling complementary products that still support their consumer segment will be a new trend.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: As retailers become more involved in the process, they will be demanding more creative design of their kiosks that complement their stores and brands. We also expect that consumers will continue to demand alternative payment methods (cash, coin, credit, debit).

    Mark Ceciliani, vice president and general manager of the industrial business unit, Planar Systems:

    < _IMAGE _ >

    Mark Ceciliani

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Check-in for travel and hospitality applications are going to be hot next year. I believe hotels, resorts, car rentals and theme parks will find that customers will place great value in the ability to check-in at self-service kiosks the same way that airline check-in has been hot the last several years. Another potential hot area is fast-food restaurants and deli's, where pre-ordering rather than standing in line is a value proposition. The retail environment will become a much more self-service and interactive place to shop with the deployment of digital signs and kiosk systems to promote products and services in a dynamic way along with advertising and promotion content that is much more targeted and effective.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: Wireless technology will mature to the point where it is a cost effective and reliable way to transmit content around a kiosk or dynamic-signage network. I also expect that the market channels for kiosks will experience transition as traditional kiosk integrators find it harder to add real value to the off-the-shelf systems that will integrate all necessary kiosk functions into a reliable, cost effective and easy-to-procure solution.

    John Eisenhauer, chief executive officer and president, Mercury Online Solutions Inc.:

    < _IMAGE _ >

    John Eisenhauer

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: Focusing on the retail sector. Kiosks have proven to be a valuable tool for merging bricks and clicks and can clearly add value to both online and in-store sales for any national retailer.

    Q: What was your least-positive, or least successful business decision of 2003?
    A: It's difficult to say because every decision created some positive result, even though some were not in the form we expected. I did, however, gain clear insight on how valuable our staff's knowledge and experience is to this emerging industry. In retrospect, I would have changed any priority that took our core team away from pushing the envelope to new customers and new applications.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: We gained solid confirmation that our digital signage networks move the sales needle up. Even though we inherently knew it, it always makes a difference to have objective results.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Any technology that will aggressively remove barriers between bricks and clicks for retailers.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: A growing trend toward alliances between specialists and away from competition will be at the forefront in 2004. There will be an increasing demand for large-scale rollouts driven by lower technology costs and increased performance. That demand will enable companies to specialize and partner with others that provide complimentary products and services.

    Lindsay Frost, international sales manager, The Neo Group:

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: Continued improvement and expansion of our services and product range, with particular focus on our key market sectors, and conservatively addressing some of the emerging markets that will gain positive benefit from kiosks. Putting considerably more resource into company and brand-awareness development (Neo is now in the top three kiosk suppliers worldwide, but we are virtually unknown outside of our core markets).

    Q: What was your least-positive, or least successful business decision of 2003?
    A: Overall we have been very happy with our results this year, with another year of very strong performance. I think our least positive decision was not resourcing up quickly enough for some rapidly expanding markets.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: I see definite signs of the kiosk industry maturing. There is a definite transition for "I want it now" to "I want it right," and a lot more focus on planned, business-based outcomes rather than ill-planned speculation. The Internet, which was feared by many as being the enemy of the kiosk, has in fact become a great enabler.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: I think e-commerce via kiosks has definitely come of age. E-Democracy is worth watching.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: In terms of newly applied technologies, I think that wireless is definitely becoming more adopted, particularly in the bigger networks. The value of sophisticated network management is also being increasingly recognized and adopted.

    Francie Mendelsohn, president, Summit Research Associates Inc.:

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: To research and publish a report on digital-photography kiosks with product comparisons.

    Q: What was your least-positive, or least-successful business decision of 2003?
    A: We held on too long to the dream that pure public access Internet units (Web payhones) will prove to be very successful.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: Even in good times, some technologies and solution providers will not pan out. People should cut their losses while they can. Face it -- some companies are just not going to make it.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Digital photography, digital signage, food-ordering units. Retail in general.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: WiFi, biometrics (especially for public sector) and 802.11g

    V. Miller Newton, chief executive officer, Netkey:

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: Coming to Netkey. It has great people, proven technology and a terrific market opportunity.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: Self-service has become mainstream. The rapid acceptance of self-service in retail, banking and HR by both customers and businesses will accelerate through the coming year.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: From the infrastructure side, remote monitoring and management is key to lowering the cost and increasing the value of self-service networks. From the application side, human resources and hiring systems continue to grow as businesses focus on improving employee relationships and performance and automating costly manual systems.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: Wireless certainly is playing a larger role in mainstream deployments, as evidenced by Netkey's work for the BMW X3 kiosk system. But I believe the use of an enterprise-level software platform, managing multiple self-service applications and digital merchandising systems, will drive measurable returns for retailers and other businesses in 2004.

    Frank Olea, vice president, sales and marketing, Olea Exhibits/Displays Inc.:

    < _IMAGE _ >

    Frank Olea

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: To introduce three pay-per-use Internet kiosk designs.

    Q: What was your least-positive, or least-successful business decision of 2003?
    A: Engineering a kiosk without a written commitment. It can still turn into a plus, though, because we have a good design on our hands.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: It seemed as though in years past, kiosk companies would say that a kiosk is made to support staff or supplement a work force. Now it seems as though people are saying they can replace individuals or entire teams. As bad as that may sound, it seems as though many customers are all too happy to look at it that way.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Anything truly self-service based: loyalty kiosks, self-check in, self-help.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: Wireless will continue to grow in popularity as the market matures. We expect to see kiosks being deployed with some sort of wireless app more frequently.

    Doug Peter, president, St. Clair Interactive Communications Inc.:





    < _IMAGE _ >

    Doug Peter


    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: Expansion of kiosks to many forms of customer-facing devices


    Q: What was your least-positive, or least-successful business decision of 2003?
    A: Being too optimistic about the industry


    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: The industry continues to make it extremely difficult for buyers to buy.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Loyalty, financial services, all forms of customer service and product information.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: Year 2004: Wireless. Year 2006: RFID

    Tim Peterson, kiosk product marketing director, NCR Corp.:



    < _IMAGE _ >

    Tim Peterson


    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: Consumers are increasingly more interested in self-service. According to a study conducted for NCR by IDC, nearly 70 percent of consumers in five different countries say they would be likely to use self-checkout. In the United States, consumers say they would be as likely to use self-checkout as they would other popular self-service technologies such as pay-at-the-pump.


    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: The hot kiosk applications are going to be those that allow consumers to serve themselves. Examples include self-checkout at retail checkout, self check-in at airports, hotels, self-ticket at theaters and self-order/checkout at quick-service restaurants.


    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: The biggest developments in the near term will be "simple user interfaces." While this may seem mundane, todays applications and technology are still large and complex. The next wave of self-service solutions should be smaller, better integrated and easier for consumers to use. NCR designs its kiosks so they are easier to maintain in the field and so more peripherals can be organized in a smaller, well-packaged space.

    Rob Ranieri, practice leader, e-access, IBM Global Services

    < _IMAGE _ >

    Rob Ranieri

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: It was the culmination of a decision we made a few years ago, which was to fully embrace the IATA Common Use Self-Service standard. As a company IBM is very committed to open standards. CUSS is a great open standard. We got on board early with making our platform, monitoring software and application capability conform to the standard as it developed. There have been several highlights in 2003, but the biggest has to be the kiosk platform installation at McCarran airport with our partners ARINC, the airport management team and a large number of airlines. Twelve airline applications running on a common IBM built kiosk platform. And all of this monitored by our software tools. Not bad. A great step forward for CUSS.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: There is a need for a continuing focus on the self-service end user interface. The self-service product is now mainstream, it is not just for the technical savvy folks who can figure out what to do, it is also for the occasional user. That calls for more care in the design interface, and the processes to support the traveler at the kiosk.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: The hotels will increasingly look to share the benefits which self-service kiosks have brought to air travel. CUSS will offer a number of different opportunities to share kiosk infrastructure between airlines, airports and alliances as well as bringing on new partners. We are also seeing much more discussion with our customers on a multi-channel approach. One application deployed to kiosks, handhelds and the Web. A common application flow design but with a different look and feel for each channel.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: In the travel sector we focus on, a continuing move away from ATB-2 technology to bar code. Our customers are discussing a number of topics with us including security (biometrics) and smarter data input requirements (e.g. APIS data collection). Our objective over the past few years has been to build a flexible self-service platform so that we can relatively easily absorb the new developments as they gain strength in the market. We have already deployed a number of these including biometrics, image capture and passport data capture.

    Hamed Shahbazi, chairman and chief executive officer, Info Touch Technologies:

    < _IMAGE _ >

    Hamed Shahbazi

    Q: What was your best business decision of 2003?
    A: To keep focused on IFTs business plan and not be diverted by other occurrences in the industry.

    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: It is resilient and will continue to grow.

    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Those which are financial services related.

    Q: What do you expect to be a big development in the industry this coming year?
    A: Wireless. The industry is only starting to understand the significance of Wi-Fi paired with kiosks.



    Paul Wiener, marketing manager, EloTouch Systems




    < _IMAGE _ >

    Paul Weiner


    Q: Did you learn anything new about the kiosk/self-service industry in 2003?
    A: This past year reinforced the principle that ROI is king in kiosk deployment.


    Q: What apps are going to be hot in 2004?
    A: Self-service, such as check-in, check-out and registration.

    Posted by Craig at 02:31 PM

    December 18, 2003

    The Art of ROI

    When Art Meets Science: The Challenge of ROI Marketing

    Its a question as old as business itself: How can a company be sure its spending the right amount of money on the right kind of marketing so that it can sell more products or services to increase profitability and, ultimately, enhance shareholder value?


    ROI marketing helps executives better understand how to spend their dollars to attain the highest return on their marketing investments.

    To be sure, some marketers, especially those from data-rich consumer packaged-goods companies or direct-marketing firms, are able, with some precision, to determine how much bang they receive for the bucks they spend on a newspaper advertisement or a price reduction. But in general the marketing discipline has always been more art than science; corporations spend untold billions on marketing without any exacting way of determining how much the resulting brand equity or consumer awareness contributes to the bottom line.

    Most marketing executives have always felt that they had little choice but to throw money at the wall and hope that at least some of it would stick. That kind of thinking, however, is changing, according to experts at the University of Pennsylvanias Wharton School and the management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. These days, chief marketing officers and the people who work for them are under increased pressure to make marketing more of a quantifiable science than an ephemeral art. Numbers-driven CEOs and CFOs demand to know how efficiently their companies marketing dollars are being put to use.

    In response, a management concept known as ROI marketing is evolving to help executives better understand how they can spend their dollars to attain the highest possible return on their marketing investments. Interviews with Wharton faculty and Booz Allen Hamilton consultants for this white paper explore how companies in a variety of industries are practicing and rising to the challenge of ROI marketing.

    Some companies use metrics well, especially for things like advertising, reducing prices, or issuing coupons, says Jagmohan Raju of Whartons marketing department. When they drop the price or put out a coupon, they know how many extra sales they get. But whats not clear is whether extra sales represent the right metric to look at in the first place. Should a company be looking at increased sales or should they be looking at the profit impact of the price change or the coupon? They should ask how many new customers they got from that marketing campaign and what their lifetime value is. I dont think companies do that.

    Even packaged-goods companies need to know more than they do, says Wharton marketing professor David Reibstein. Companies can say, We can spend this amount of money on an ad campaign and we know what sales it will generate. But will people buy now or later? Will they stock their shelves now and not buy anything for six months? And how is the competition going to respond to the campaign?

    Moreover, while marketers may declare that customer satisfaction is up, the question CEOs really want answered, says Reibstein, is this: What does an extra point of customer satisfaction do for my shareholders?

    Its a Tool, Its a Philosophy
    In past decades, companies relied in large measure on anecdotal evidence and rudimentary metrics (e.g., a 20 percent discount coupon that generates a 30 percent lift in sales) to develop marketing strategies and tactics, implement them, and assess their effectiveness. By contrast, ROI marketing involves the use of new, sophisticated metrics and computer models to analyze and quantify marketing spending and return on investment. But ROI marketing is much more than a measurement system; its a marketing management philosophy that requires changes in organizational design and business processes to optimize marketing activities.

    To truly measure marketing effectiveness, companies must engage in a new way of thinking, says Sharat K. Mathur, a principal in Booz Allens Chicago office, who specializes in customer and business strategy, pricing and trade promotions as well as marketing effectiveness. The ones that are most successful are those that accept the need for a comprehensive transformation of the way they go to market. This involves not only more sophisticated analytics and systems, but also aligning marketing and promotion processes (e.g., planning and executing promotions, post-promotion analysis, target setting and funding, etc.) around the idea of ROI marketing. Finally, the organizations tasks and incentives need to be aligned around the idea of planning for profit.

    Mathur emphasizes that companies cant overhaul themselves overnight. ROI Marketing is a major change program, and it takes time. It is important that this program is driven by senior management, and there is a commitment to making it happen at every level in the organization, he says.

    It is also important to keep in mind that ROI marketing does not attempt to wring the art out of marketing; that would be both unfair and counterproductive, since creativity is essential to effective marketing. Rather, its goal is to bring measurable data to bear on areas that in the past were rarely measured. Within the marketing discipline ROI marketing can be applied across the entire spectrum of marketing techniques trade and consumer promotions, advertising, pricing and product placements.

    A lot of data have been available to marketing people for a long time, but today more data are available than ever before and we have better computing horsepower, says Leslie H. Moeller, a vice president in Booz Allens Cleveland office, who advises corporations on growth strategy, in particular consumer-packaged goods and retailing companies. You put those factors together and the result empowers a much fuller understanding of marketing capabilities.

    What follows are examples of ROI marketing applications in the automotive, telecommunications, consumer-packaged goods, electronics retailing, and travel and entertainment industries. Collectively these examples illustrate the broad applicability of ROI marketing across industries, how it can overturn common marketing assumptions, and how it provides new insights into which marketing efforts are most beneficial.

    The Auto Industry
    A Booz Allen team in the automotive area Peter Soliman, a partner in Booz Allens Dsseldorf office, along with New York based partner Scott Corwin and Paris-based senior associate Rich Parkin are helping a major automobile manufacturer pinpoint the specific marketing tactics that will bring customers into showrooms and give them strong incentives to buy cars. Soliman says an ROI approach to marketing has allowed this manufacturer to tailor its efforts to specific objectives and correct weaknesses in the marketing process at different points in what he calls the purchase funnel which opens with the consumers awareness of the product, followed by consideration of the product, the intent to purchase the product and, finally, the actual transaction. This particular manufacturer, call it European Auto, looks at all its marketing campaigns at the end of each quarter using the funnel perspective to discern what has worked, and what could work better. If consumers are aware of a car but are not considering buying it, European Auto can make adjustments to a campaign to strengthen its influence on purchasing. If a given campaign works in Germany, the company can share that experience with its units in other countries, who will then try the same initiatives and pass along their experience to other parts of the corporation.

    Once customers get into a showroom, they are more apt to buy a car if the dealer is willing to give them incentives that help them defray the cost of owning the vehicle. The deal-closer, says Soliman, might be two years worth of free gasoline, an offer by the dealer to pay the valued-added tax (VAT) or registration tax, or an offer of free auto insurance for a period of time. In one instance, dealers offered to pay the VAT by using the slogan, get back at your government.

    The closer you get to the bottom of the funnel, when the consumer is in the showroom, its price that gets him or her to buy, according to Soliman. But when I say price I mean price in the broadest sense. Taxes are a big issue. Weve found that consumers value things that reduce the total cost of ownership. Consumers are much less interested in incentives unrelated to the car like a free vacation or a free bicycle. We do detailed tracking at the dealer level. So once you get the right mechanisms in place, its a matter of monitoring the impact various marketing campaigns have, and making continuous improvements.


    The question CEOs ask is this: What does an extra point of customer satisfaction do for my shareholders?

    Auto companies are superb candidates for ROI marketing that aims to reduce marketing costs and increase sales because they spend enormous sums on marketing much more in aggregate than packaged-goods companies or even consumer goods companies. All of this is very quantifiable, Soliman explains. This company can now say, 'Last quarter we had 1,000 people go into showroom X each month. When we ran marketing campaign Y the following quarter, we saw 1,100 people go into the showroom, and those extra 100 people resulted in 20 additional sales. ROI marketing has become so ingrained at European Auto that the company eventually plans to use these systems everywhere it does business in Europe.

    Evan R. Hirsh, a Cleveland-based Booz Allen vice president who specializes in marketing issues related to the auto industry, agrees that carmakers could benefit greatly from ROI marketing. The use of marketing metrics is nowhere near the science it should be among car companies, although these companies are moving in the right direction, Hirsh says. Part of the challenge is complexity, especially in the area of advertising (i.e., measuring vehicle ads compared with ads for diapers and toothpaste). Roughly one-third of every advertising dollar for cars and trucks is spent by the car company itself. The manufacturer has direct control over these ads, which typically exhort consumers to Buy Brand X. Approximately another third of the ad budget is spent on local advertising by dealer cooperatives. The manufacturer pays the money for these ads, but the ads tout the dealers: Their focus is Buy Brand X from your tri-state Brand X dealer now. Dealers spend the last third on ads that urge people to Buy Brand X from our dealership today.

    Car manufacturers would like to be better at measuring advertising results. But it is tough for them to exert the kind of control that a savvy consumer goods company like Procter & Gamble does.

    Telecom Metrics
    Jonathan Harrison, a telecommunications specialist for Booz Allen in Boston, is currently working with a telephone company outside the United States to improve the profitability of its business customer segment. These customers include small- to medium-size businesses with 50 to 200 phone lines. Since Harrisons client call it XYZ Telecom is one of the smaller players in its market, it must seek opportunities to make its profit on every customer as high as possible through personalized, targeted marketing.

    Harrison and XYZ are conducting an experiment under which some customers are offered specially designed calling plans with unique pricing arrangements. The goal is to encourage customers to renew their contracts so that XYZ does not have to spend large sums to acquire new customers when existing ones switch to other carriers. To assess the success of the experiment, Booz Allen and XYZ are tracking two metrics the customers change-in-spend and the customers churn rate. Customers participating in the experiment are being compared to a control group of customers that are continuing to use existing calling plans.

    About 25 percent of XYZs customers switch to other carriers annually. It would be a major accomplishment if XYZ can reduce the churn rate since it costs at least $500 to acquire each new customer. Assuming that a customer produces a profit of $1,000 over the length of a 12-month contract, XYZ nets $500 (the $1,000 profit minus the $500 acquisition cost). If XYZ can get that customer to sign up for a second year, its net profit on that customer will rise sharply because XYZ incurs no acquisition cost for the second year. This will hold true even if the new, lower-priced calling plan results in somewhat less revenue from that customer.

    One key to the success of the test is having sales reps approach the customer with a plan especially developed for them. Its a two-pronged strategy: Theres a brand message (our carrier is great for your business); they follow that up with an individual contact from the sales reps so that customers feel the company is working for them. Says Harrison: The message of this approach is, one, we care about you, two, were creative, and three, even though were small, we can be innovative in how we approach the business compared to our larger competitors. Its mostly a price game, but were trying to be creative.

    We expect revenue to go down slightly with the new plans but we expect churn to go way down, Harrison says. The strategy is to lower the prices of the calling plans to try to secure the account for another year. But they wont lower prices as much as competitors would. You dont want competitors to take the initiative with ridiculously low prices and be forced to match it.

    Once XYZ determines if the plan is working, it will have to constantly refine the calling plans based on competitors offerings. While the pricing experiment is taking place, XYZ has simultaneously embarked on media advertising and sponsorship of sporting events to strengthen brand awareness. But Harrison stresses that XYZ is not advertising a set pricing structure because it wants to retain flexibility for its customers and does not want to be perceived as the markets low-price player.

    Snap, Crackle, Promotion
    Les Moeller of Booz Allen describes his experience working on a project to establish a program that revamped the way the Kellogg Company, the venerable American packaged foods giant, uses trade promotions in its overall marketing strategy. In trade promotions, manufacturers make payments to grocers to display, advertise, and offer reduced prices on certain products at specified times.

    Kellogg launched its Trade Promotion Excellence program (TPE) in the 1990s to increase the return on the $600 million it was spending annually on trade promotions. Kellogg knew almost nothing about the effectiveness of the thousands of promotions that took place every year. It created TPE under pressure, because at that time it was losing market share.

    Booz Allen found that 59 percent of Kelloggs trade-promotion events lost money for the company; the profit generated by the other 41 percent was almost entirely eaten away by the events that lost money. By spending trade promotion money differently, Booz Allen projected Kellogg could save at least $64 million a year.

    TPE was a comprehensive program involving structural changes in the sales and marketing organization and business, and the application of new, sophisticated software tools. As a result of TPE, Kellogg shifted a large amount of money from trade promotions into brand building and new-product innovations. The company today continually looks to see whether promotion events truly contribute to sales growth and profitability. Perhaps most important, Kelloggs sales culture has been transformed. A value mindset permeates the organization, according to Moeller. Today, hard financial data drives Kelloggs marketing strategy, tactical decisions are decentralized and based on profitable growth, and compensation is tied to value creation.

    PCs and Retailing
    Wharton accounting professors David Larcker and Christopher Ittner have had several experiences developing ROI marketing metrics for companies. In one case, a manufacturer of personal computers was losing market share. The company had identified two shortcomings that needed to be addressed by fine-tuning its pricing strategy and by improving the quality of its monitors.


    Car manufacturers would like to be better at measuring advertising results. But it is tough for them to do this as well as a savvy consumer goods company does.

    Ittner and Larcker, however, conducted a study that showed that the company had made some erroneous assumptions when it came up with this strategy. What customers really wanted was the ability to buy computers that were not going to be obsolete in a matter of months; they wanted computers that had enough features to give the products a longer life. The company responded to consumers concerns by, among other things, beefing up each computer systems memory and improving its software. The result was increased customer loyalty, word-of-mouth praise and improved earnings.

    In consulting for a big-box retailer, the Wharton researchers faced a more complicated situation. The retailer call it Big Box Inc. had been using a typical mix of TV, radio and newspaper advertising as well as in-store promotions (old chestnuts such as buy one, get one free). However, it had never attempted to assess to what extent its ad dollars were increasing profits. An analysis by Ittner and Larcker found that Big Box obtained more benefits from TV than from radio and newspapers. That was the good news; the bad news was that none of the three ad venues generated enough revenue to offset the cost of the ads.

    But for Larcker, the larger point of the study was about the difficulty of measuring marketing initiatives, especially for a large company with stores spreading from Connecticut to south Texas, and whose marketing campaigns were largely regional in nature and overseen by different managers. The interesting thing for me was the company had employees who did piecemeal marketing analysis, but they had never done a comprehensive analysis before, Larcker says. We had to link together data from separate parts of the organization on when the company spent money on ads and how much it spent. And we had to track unit sales for each store after the ads appeared.

    It turned out to be a major task to pull the data at store level and link that to when the advertising was occurring. People were not sharing data, which made it difficult to make assessments about the return on marketing investments. Larcker says this is typical in organizations.

    A Disney Story
    Wharton marketing professor Z. John Zhang stresses that companies trying to measure returns on marketing investments need to be careful they do not lose their customer focus. His advice: Do not measure something just to say it can be done; companies should always view metrics as a way to generate business insights and to bolster and invigorate their overall customer-focused strategies.

    A good example of a strategic initiative inspired by marketing analysis occurred during Michael Eisners early years as chief executive at Disney. Instead of asking how a divisions profitability could be improved, Eisner asked: How much did a family spend on a vacation and what percentage of that amount could Disney capture? To address that question, Disney had to move from using product-centric metrics to customer-centric metrics. It turned out that Disney was not capturing nearly enough value from vacation spending, even though its theme parks were quite profitable. Disneys theme parks were primary destinations for vacationers, who spent an average of, say, $3,000 on their vacations in Orlando, but Disney was capturing only 25 percent of that spending; the rest went to airlines, taxis, hotels and restaurants.

    This customer-focused metric, the share of vacationers total expenditure, generated some good business insights that helped Disney to formulate its growth strategies, according to Zhang. From then on, Disney built Disney hotels and Disney stores. Disney teamed up with airlines to offer travel packages to tourists. People were picked up at the airport by a Disney bus and taken to a Disney hotel where they could listen to Disney radio, watch Disney TV and shop in Disney stores. By building so many of what Zhang calls toll booths, Disney was able to increase its share of vacationers spending dramatically. The result of these steps, according to Zhang, was that vacationers to Orlando began spending about 75 percent of their money on Disney to get the full Disney experience. Thats why Disney stock shot through the roof at that time, Zhang recalls. Zhang also points out that a customer-focused metric can be important in other contexts, such as retailing. In that business, it is quite important for companies to distinguish between accounting profits and marketing profits.

    In a 1999 article in the journal Marketing Science, Zhang and three co-authors described how retailers have long known that some product categories are more important than others in determining the choices that consumers make inside stores. The overall profitability of a store requires careful category-level merchandising decisions to pull the most desirable customers into the store. But the traditional accounting measure of category profits revenue minus costs equals profit offers imperfect help in making those decisions because it fails to take into account the effect of the marketing of one category on the profits of other categories in the store.

    A profit measure which takes into account these important cross-effects is the most relevant performance metric for category management, the researchers wrote in the article, which focused specifically on the effects of a supermarket companys shelf-space allocations. We call this new construct marketing profits, as it focuses on consumers and their store choice behavior and is particularly pertinent to the calculus of marketing decision making. In the article, the authors constructed a formal model of marketing profits, which allows retailers to determine profitability with commonly available data.

    Zhang explains the concept of marketing profits this way: Imagine a grocery store that sells meat and produce. To find out how the business is doing, the stores owner would look at the sales from each category, subtract the cost, and arrive at a figure for the accounting profits. Assume that the owner finds that produce is the most profitable category. It would be natural for her to spend more money to market produce, but in Zhangs view that may not be the right decision to make. It could be that most customers really come to the store because they want to buy meat and just happen to buy a lot of produce, too. Therefore, devoting a lot of money to marketing produce might not result in more desirable customers coming into the store.

    Our marketing-profit measurement allows retailers to make the marketing decisions that will attract customers who will spend money across product categories, Zhang says. To implement this metric, you need a statistical model and you have to change your business processes. If you measure across categories, as were suggesting, you have to go beyond relying on brand managers. Brand managers handle one particular brand and dont care what happens to other brands. What were suggesting requires a more comprehensive approach.

    ROIs Challenges
    Wharton marketing professor Peter S. Fader says many companies have yet to grasp the benefits and implications of ROI marketing. ROI marketing is a legitimate and necessary idea but its terribly executed in most marketing practices, he says. Its all talk and, at best, no action, or, whats even worse, actions that do more harm than good. Its not that Fader doesnt believe in the importance of ROI marketing, since marketing managers need to know what they can get out of a given promotional campaign and other initiatives. But he also suspects that the renewed emphasis on ROI marketing, caused largely by the recent weakness in the economy, has done very little in terms of spurring meaningful changes in company practices.

    Larcker, the Wharton accounting professor, agrees. Its very difficult for companies to figure out the return on anything training, HR practices, marketing, innovation. If you do a marketing initiative and invest a certain amount of money in it, you need to figure out which portion of your cash flow is generated by that investment. To come up with this metric, companies must be willing to spend the time and energy on special studies or projects that zero in on the problem, but few are willing to do so, Larcker says.

    Whartons Fader says that companies should not be discouraged if they have not yet successfully adopted the concept of ROI marketing or if their early attempts at the process have been less than stellar. How to identify and use the right metrics is neither obvious nor simple. Measurement is inherently more difficult in marketing, Fader says. If you want to figure out ROI on a new machine for production or mail sorting, its relatively easy to look at the incremental costs and revenues associated with that machine. With finance, its relatively easy to compartmentalize investments. But with marketing its messy. But that doesnt mean you shouldnt try it.

    Posted by Craig at 07:05 PM

    December 17, 2003

    Windows NT Workstation/Server Availability FAQ

    Frequently Asked Questions About Availability and Support

    Product Lifecycle Roadmaps

    Posted by Craig at 04:23 PM

    December 11, 2003

    Advertising and Kiosks

    Selling ad space on 7- Eleven's Vcom kiosks nationwide

    Book Ad Campaigns for 7-Eleven's Vcom Kiosks Using a New, Simplified Process

    7-Eleven's Vcom kiosk advertising provider Cyphermint has joined B2B advertising and media exchange operator Ad Interchange to sell ad space on 7- Eleven's Vcom kiosks nationwide using the online exchange to extend their sales reach. The Vcom kiosks found at 1,000 7-Eleven convenience stores nationwide have been registered with the Ad Interchange Exchange to facilitate advertising placement on these self-service terminals. Ad Interchange offers the advertising industry an online business-to-business exchange where advertisers, ad agencies, and media providers can conduct advertisement buying and selling transactions online and with improved efficiency over more traditional practices. Now, the Vcom ad space is available for booking in media planning campaigns through the Ad Interchange Exchange, thus broadening Vcom's sales reach and making the buying process more efficient for advertisers and ad agencies.

    Posted by Craig at 12:14 AM

    Ticketing Kiosks for Ski Lifts

    icketsWest Has Selected LiveWire's Lift Ticketing Kiosks

    December 10, 2003 08:08

    TicketsWest Has Selected LiveWire's Lift Ticketing Kiosks

    Self Service Kiosks Will Sell Ski Lift Tickets in Selected Regional Colorado King Soopers Stores

    SPOKANE, Wash., Dec 10, 2003 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- TicketsWest (www.ticketswest.com), an operating division of WestCoast Hospitality Corporation (NYSE: WEH), announced today that it has signed an agreement with LiveWire International, Inc. for the deployment of self service ski lift ticketing kiosks. These units will supplement TicketsWest's existing equipment in selected Colorado area King Soopers stores to provide additional ticketing support for ski lift ticket sales throughout the winter months.

    TicketsWest Vice President Jack Lucas said, "When we decided to offer self service kiosks, we surveyed the market and Livewire quickly emerged as the leader in the ski lift ticket industry. Our customers are used to buying tickets at the stores' customer service desk's but the addition of these kiosks will assist us in providing additional customer service by providing increased purchasing services." Lucas went on to say, "TicketsWest is committed to constant improvement of our customer service experience and the implementation of this program is a great example of that."

    Roy Smith, Livewire's President said, "We are very excited to be a part of the TicketsWest solution at the selected regional King Soopers stores. King Soopers is widely known as the leading lift ticket vendor in Colorado. Our kiosks will assist lift ticket purchases by helping to reduce long lines that form during peak skiing days."

    WestCoast Hospitality Corporation owns, manages, franchises and develops hotels under its Red Lion and WestCoast brands focusing on serving business, convention and leisure travelers in first, second and third tier markets. WestCoast provides entertainment services through TicketsWest, including event ticketing for venues in the United States and Canada, and aggregates content for travel and entertainment that is sold in real time at its www.ticketswest.com website. The Entertainment division also includes WestCoast Entertainment, a Broadway and special event presenting company. G&B Real Estate Services, the real estate division of WestCoast Hospitality Corporation, develops, owns, manages and leases commercial and residential properties. Registered trademarks of WestCoast Hospitality Corporation and its affiliates protect the use of "WestCoast," "Red Lion," "TicketsWest" and "G&B" and various derivatives of those usages.

    Contact: Jack Lucas
    Title: Vice President, TicketsWest
    Phone: 1-509-459-6100
    Internet: jack.lucas@ticketswest.com

    SOURCE WestCoast Hospitality Corporation

    Jack Lucas, Vice President of TicketsWest, +1-509-459-6100, or
    jack.lucas@ticketswest.com

    Posted by Craig at 12:02 AM

    December 09, 2003

    Affordable Kiosks Newsletter

    Newsletter link

    Posted by Craig at 03:15 PM

    Vertical Vision

    IBM's industry focus reaches beyond software to include all parts of the business, from consulting to sales

    story link

    By Paul McDougall



    York International Corp. will begin testing next month remote diagnostic systems on the industrial heating and air-conditioning equipment it makes. It's initially rolling out the service to just one customer, but York ultimately wants to introduce the system to all its major accounts, some of which boast more than 20,000 locations. That's when things can get ugly: Performance data from diagnostic tools running at thousands of customer sites will have to be integrated in real time with Siebel Systems Inc. customer-relationship-management software used by the company's service department. "How do you manage that?" asks IT director John Wood.
    For help, York is working with IBM, which next month will introduce tools preconfigured to let businesses deal with integration challenges unique to their industries. "Customer expectations have changed completely," Wood says. "It used to be OK to send a service rep out in a day or two. Now, if it's beyond a couple of hours, that's too late. We need systems that can deal with that."

    IBM plans to invest millions of dollars adding more industry-specific capabilities to its middleware, representing the biggest shift in its $13 billion-a-year software business since 1999, when it exited the applications business. But the industry-oriented strategy goes beyond reorienting the company's software to focus on particular markets. Its Global Services arm has long had practices in areas ranging from retail to government, and now IBM also can count on its 60,000 business-process experts, courtesy of its acquisition last year of the consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, and its stable of 3,000 researchers to help customers in specific industries use advances in software technology to change the way they do business. "We're building a matrix that connects research, consulting, technology, and sales," says Dave McQueeney, VP for technology assets at IBM. McQueeney heads up a new program that gives IBM Global Services customers direct access to company researchers to help them solve business problems.

    Part of IBM's master plan includes training 13,000 salespeople to give them more in-depth knowledge in the industries they serve. A dozen new software connectors due next month will be customized for health care, banking, insurance, automotive, and other tech-intensive industries. The manufacturing-oriented version of IBM's WebSphere Device Management Software that York plans to use to integrate the company's diagnostics and CRM software is vital to its efforts to meet customers' insistence on fast service, Wood says. Among its capabilities will be the ability to push service-call requests to technicians armed with Palm and BlackBerry wireless devices.


    Changing business conditions mean customers' projects are more focused on urgent requirements, IBM VP Sweeney says.

    Photo of Paraic Sweeney by Ken Schles

    York's situation isn't unique. Customers' projects "are becoming more focused on urgent requirements," many of them brought on by rapidly changing business and regulatory demands, says Paraic Sweeney, VP of industry solutions and business integration in IBM's software group. One of IBM's new connectors will let WebSphere communicate directly with applications that control hardware devices used to capture data from radio-frequency identification signals in order to turn that information into business intelligence. "This is a top priority if you're in the [consumer] packaged-goods industry," because Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has demanded that suppliers become RFID-compliant, Sweeney says. "That's not about IT efficiency or optimization; it's about business survival."

    Competitors also are taking a vertical approach. Microsoft has added industry-specific functions to its .Net middleware. Extensions to its BizTalk integration server help health-care companies more easily meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act reporting requirements, and financial-services firms deal with the Swift international transactions network, says Mike Maas, Microsoft's general manger for industry marketing. "We believe the industry-specific approach is very valid, but we're already there," he says.

    BEA Systems Inc. has been moving in the same direction. And it has a reputation for better middleware technology than IBM, says US Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst David Rudow, who attributes growth in WebSphere sales to IBM's aggressive discounting. BEA is rounding out its line with industry-tuned middleware such as its WebLogic Service Delivery Solution for wireless telecom carriers that must meet the Federal Communications Commission's recent mandate to provide phone-number portability.

    IBM's software shift might ruffle feathers among some of its software partners. Officials at iWay Software, one of seven IBM partners that make and sell a range of connectors for WebSphere, question the industry-specific middleware approach. "IBM often wants to control everything, but we're specialists," says Jake Freivald, director of marketing at iWay. "They'll come back to us when they need something in a hurry, and all of a sudden find they can't do it." IBM says it wants partners like iWay to continue to build general-purpose WebSphere connectors.

    No other vendor could match IBM's mix of technology and services to build a real-time dispatch system, BostonCoach president Cooke says.

    Photo of Russ Cooke by Jason Grow

    New business requirements--as well as opportunities--present challenges that can't be addressed by software alone, IBM says. At limousine and transportation company BostonCoach, the most-critical process is dispatching its fleet of hundreds of vehicles as efficiently as possible. BostonCoach needed a partner that could help it build a real-time dispatching system, and no other vendor was able to match IBM's mix of technology and services, says Russ Cooke, president of the company. Researchers at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center recently built a mathematical algorithm for a custom dispatch system that combines data about weather and traffic conditions, driver locations, and customer pickup requests into a system that tells BostonCoach dispatchers which cars to assign to which customer calls.

    The system is so efficient that BostonCoach was able to launch service in Atlanta without having to hire additional dispatchers, Cooke says. One of the assets IBM brought to the project, he says, was a significant amount of knowledge from similar work its Global Services staff has done in other transportation industries such as the airlines, for which the company has developed a number of scheduling applications. "They shared with us the technologies and approaches they have experience with," Cooke says.

    Canadian Pacific Railway last week inked a seven-year, $200 million infrastructure outsourcing contract with IBM Global Services. One factor in its decision to go with IBM was that the deal gives Canadian Pacific access to researchers at IBM's Center for Transportation Innovation in Boulder, Colo. There, Allen Borak, VP for information systems at Canadian Pacific, will work with IBM to determine, among other things, how RFID technology will affect the railroad business.

    The outsourcing deal will cut Canadian Pacific's IT costs by 15% to 20%, leaving it better positioned to explore opportunities, Borak says. "We can drop the savings to the bottom line, but if there's an attractive business case for some of these new technologies, we can reinvest in those areas," he says.

    The merger of services and research gives IBM an edge over the competition. "It's giving them more traction in the market because it's difficult for competitors like EDS to match that," says Bob Sutherland, an analyst at Technology Business Research.

    The formula seems to be working for customers. "Combining outsourcing and collaborative research creates some very significant possibilities," says Rick Donahue, senior VP for strategy and business development at New York University Medical Center. The health-care organization stands to cut business-technology costs by 20% through an outsourcing deal with IBM. More significantly, NYU and IBM are discussing an extension in which researchers in IBM's life-sciences unit would work directly with mathematicians at NYU's Courant Institute, a mathematical research institution, in an effort to solve some of the more vexing problems in genetics research, Donahue says.

    How far can IBM take its vertical-industry strategy? Maybe all the way to the bank--figuratively speaking. The company's Global Financing division last week debuted offerings that let health-care, life-sciences, and pharmaceuticals businesses lease or finance both IT and medical equipment that hooks into IT systems, such as MRIs and CT scanners. You can't get more industry-specific than that.


    Posted by Craig at 02:49 PM

    December 05, 2003

    New IBM Email Multimedia

    IBM started a new email campaign on CRM which utilizes iqtv. It's pretty cool.
    Link

    Posted by Craig at 02:17 PM

    December 04, 2003

    Study raises concerns over web loyalty analysis

    A new study of the techniques used for online business analysis has raised some serious questions about the way web businesses are modelled


    story link

    The study, published by UK-based eCRM firm RedEye International Ltd, examined the accuracy of different approaches to preparing online business information - methodologies which are used to justify online business expenditure, gauge the value of online marketing, and calculate the impact the web is having on overall customer value. It offers possible alternative explanations as to why conversion ratios experienced by many web sites are low, and why basket abandonment rates are often high. According to RedEye, these problems are more likely to be down to the figures rather than the effectiveness of the actual web sites themselves. This article is copyright 2003 TheWiseMarketer.com.

    RedEye conducted the study in response to client demands for more robust information about customer loyalty, and the growing need for completely accurate customer profiles to drive true one-to-one marketing activities. RedEye's latest version of its eCRM platform gave it the opportunity to assess different methods of internet tracking, allowing it to begin to quantify the levels of inaccuracy that it says are inherent in many online management information systems.

    Methodologies compared
    The study examined two busy e-commerce web sites over a period of 28 days - those of the supermarket ASDA, and the bookmaker William Hill. More than half of all page requests on the two sites are made by existing customers, providing a robust sample of known data against which to benchmark the two main approaches to web metrics: IP-based tracking and cookie-based tracking.

    IP-based tracking
    The study found that the most commonly used tracking methodology, IP-based server logs, inflated visitor numbers by up to 660% over the 28 day period, which would lead to a company underestimating its conversion ratio by 7.6 times. IP-based analysis proved no better at identifying the number of distinct visits to the site, over-reporting these by 260% and only managing to accurately identify and track 14% of visits from start to finish (i.e. all the pages visited, in the correct order).

    Cookie-based tracking
    The study went on to show that while cookie-based tracking was perfectly adequate over a short period of time, the number of people who periodically delete cookies or use more than one computer leads to significant inaccuracies in the longer term. In a new RedEye-commissioned NOP study of 1,000 British internet users, 50% of respondents said they had used more than one computer in the past three months, while 89% of respondents who knew what cookies were and how to delete them said they do delete cookies periodically. Cookie-based analysis led to a 128% over-statement in the total visitors figure, with only 50% of visitors tracked uniquely over a 28 day period.

    Implications
    One major implication of this finding is that online marketing campaigns may actually be as much as twice as effective as previously thought.

    However, the results are alarming for companies that currently rely on IP-based logging to analyse the effectiveness of their online activities. The apparent inability of IP-based logging to accurately track visitors even during a single web site visit implies that the method provides reliable statistics only at page view level, and not at aggregated web site session level.

    "It's crazy that so many businesses still make multi-million pound decisions based on bargain-basement management information," warns Paul Cook, CEO for RedEye. "Hopefully now that we've quantified the problem companies will change their approach to measurement."

    More Info:

    http://www.redeye.com

    Source: Red Eye International Ltd

    Posted by Craig at 02:33 PM

    December 03, 2003

    KioskCom Announces 3rd Annual KioskCom Interactive Kiosk

    December 1, 2003 - New York, NY: KioskCom, organizers of the largest Conference and Exhibition devoted solely to interactive self-service kiosks is pleased to announce the opening of the 3rd Annual Interactive Kiosk Excellence Awards Competition.

    In 2002, KioskCom launched the Annual Interactive Kiosk Excellence Awards to recognize the top interactive self-service applications. Over the first two years, KioskCom has honored over 20 companies over a variety of industries for their stellar kiosk projects.

    This awards contest focuses on the success of the project for the companies that have implemented kiosks - not on the kiosk technology supplier - and aims to help companies promote theses successful self-service technology programs.

    Applications may be submitted by companies in the private and public sectors as well as kiosk technology companies. However, the focus of the program is on how the project was successful for the client, so their input is vital and should be included in applications.

    Awards will be presented for First Place, Second Place and Honorable Mention in each category (where applicable). The 3rd Annual Interactive Kiosk Excellence Awards will be announced during the KioskCom 2004 Casino Night & Awards Reception - hosted by ECCS, TAP Computer Services & Touchpoint Solutions - on
    April 27th, 2004.

    KioskCom 2004 takes place from April 26-28, 2004 at The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

    "The Interactive Kiosk Excellence Awards honor, recognize and promote the best interactive self-service kiosk implementations over the past year. The winners set the standards of excellence for future interactive self-service technology implementations," says Lawrence Dvorchik, Executive Director of KioskCom and this awards competition.

    Applications will be taken for each of the following categories:

    * Best Kiosk Application in a Retail Environment
    * Best Kiosk Application for a Government Agency
    * Best Kiosk Application in Financial Services
    * Best Kiosk Application for Travel, Hospitality or Entertainment
    * Best Human Resources Application
    * Best Public Access Kiosk Application
    * Best Interactive Gaming Application
    * Best Software Application in a Kiosk Project
    * Best Hardware/Enclosure Design for a Kiosk Project
    * Most Creative/Best Use of an Input Device in a Kiosk Application
    * Most Creative/Best Use of New Technology in a Kiosk Application


    Email info@kioskawards.com for more information.

    Posted by Craig at 09:54 PM

    Wal-Mart drops MasterCard signature debit cards

    Wal-Mart said Wednesday that high fees are forcing it to drop certain MasterCard debit-card transactions beginning Feb. 1.

    Wal-Mart drops MasterCard signature debit cards
    By Jennifer Waters, CBS.MarketWatch.com
    Last Update: 3:22 PM ET Dec. 3, 2003

    CHICAGO (CBS.MW) -- Wal-Mart said Wednesday that high fees are forcing it to drop certain MasterCard debit-card transactions beginning Feb. 1.

    The move affects only signature debit cards. Consumers will be able to use their debit cards by punching in their personal identification numbers, according to Melissa Berryhill, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

    Shares of Wal-Mart (WMT: news, chart, profile) bounced around most of the trading session, last resting at $52.95, off 7 cents.

    The decision, which affects under 1 percent of the company's total sales, is based on the fees MasterCard charges retailers to use the cards. Last year, Wal-Mart rang up total sales of $244.5 billion. Berryhill would not disclose how much those fees cost.

    Most consumers are not aware that credit-card companies charge retailers higher fees if debit-card users sign the receipt rather than when they enter their PINs. Many retailers recover those fees from their customers.

    "The fees charged by MasterCard for its signature debit are simply too high, which led us to eliminate this payment option rather than pass these costs on to our customers," Mike Cook, Wal-Mart's assistant treasurer, said in a statement. Because the cards are tied to a bank account, customers will be able to write a check for payment.

    Berryhill said discussions are continuing with Visa on similar matters. "We'll certainly consider any proposal MasterCard might make," she said.

    The actions are the first salvos retailers are taking after Wal-Mart and a number of other merchants took the nation's two largest credit-card issuers to court about these very issues. The MasterCard case was settled earlier this year while the Visa case is awaiting a judge's approval, Berryhill said.

    In a statement, Visa Vice President Daniel Tarman said he expects Wal-Mart to continue to accepts the Visa check card.

    "However, there will not be a definitive or conclusive arrangement for continued acceptance until Judge John Gleason issues an order granting final approval of the settlement of the retailers' litigation," he added.

    "Visa believes that the vast majority of merchants will continue to accept the Visa check card because of the significant value that it provides to them," he said.

    Posted by Craig at 09:16 PM

    December 01, 2003

    IBM to focus on industry-specific software sales

    Partner programmes and a salesforce reorganisation are key to IBM's focus for 2004

    Monday December 1, 03:40 PM


    IBM to focus on industry-specific software sales

    By Martin LaMonica, CNET News.com

    Partner programmes and a salesforce reorganisation are key to IBM's focus for 2004

    IBM intends to reorganise its salesforce and increase spending on partner programmes to boost sales of its software.

    Over the course of 2004, the computing titan will take a number of actions to accelerate software sales with an industry-specific orientation, according to Tim Breuer, the director of public relations for IBM's software group. By the end of next year, the company plans to have over half of its salesforce trained with both technical and industry expertise, he said.

    At the same time, he said, IBM will increase investment in existing partner programmes to accelerate the delivery of applications, built on its software, that are specialised for vertical industries. For example, IBM will extend its ISV Advantage programme to entice partners to build industry-specific editions of their applications for small and medium-size businesses.

    "There will be a series of technology and marketing enabling programmes to tie their applications to our middleware," Breuer said.

    Breuer said no dollar amount has been tied to the efforts, which were first reported by the Financial Times. The vertical-industry push is a reflection of customers' desires and the direction IBM would like to move the software industry, he added.

    IBM's increased focus on vertical markets reflects the changing needs of customers, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with research firm RedMonk. Rather than purchase general-purpose software, businesses are seeking more specialised tools.

    For example, many companies in the healthcare industry need to change their computing systems to adhere to privacy regulations, and financial firms need to address new guidelines to process securities transactions.

    "[Companies] are looking to solve very specific problems," O'Grady said. "From a sales perspective, [IBM's industry orientation] is very much a reflection of the fact that salespeople are not conditioned to speak the same language or lexicon as the customers are."

    IBM already sells industry-specific versions of its WebSphere integration software. The company intends to offer industry-specific versions of all its software brands as part of the sales process, Breuer said.

    A vertical orientation for IBM's software sales dovetails with the industry orientation of IBM's Global Services division and its business consulting arm.

    IBM is also pushing the use of Web services technology to allow customers and partners to more rapidly link software applications.

    Posted by Craig at 06:19 PM

    November 20, 2003

    IBM Acquires PSI

    Self-checkout for retail stores is heating up; technology can allow redeployment of clerks as service reps and upselling agents

    IBM has acquired Productivity Solutions Inc. (PSI) for an undisclosed sum, making it a bigger player in the self-checkout marketplace. IBM was previously a PSI partner, helping the company market its functionality to various supermarkets, and made some of the components in PSI hardware.

    Self-checkout is already familiar to many supermarket and retail shoppers. The proposition is much the same as kiosk-based self service at airports: reducing waiting times for consumers while also reducing the costs of human service.
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    Retail service and self-service are timely topics given a strike involving 70,000 grocery clerks and workers in California. Self-checkout won't be replacing workers anytime soon, says industry analyst Greg Buzek of IHL Consulting Group, but the technology could definitely change the face of retail. "At retail checkout, no one asks 'Do you want fries with that?'" Buzek says. "The cashier is part of the cost of getting the customer out the door."

    A study Buzek did last year revealed that stores that had self-service saw 35 percent of total volume flow through that channel. That means freeing up checkout clerks to do something more value-added. "You have labor at the checkout line redeployed in the store to upsell or increase the market basket size," says Buzek. He adds that stores like Kroger, Publix, A&P, and Winn-Dixie are using this strategy, ultimately with an eye on retail giant Wal-Mart. Buzek believes that, for now, getting into a price war with Wal-Mart is unwinnable (as in the case of K-Mart), but stores like Target and Walgreens are having success by upping their service levels to a specific demographic.

    Greg Thompson, a spokesman on retail issues for IBM, says that IBM decided to acquire PSI because "self-checkout has really caught on." Like Buzek, Thompson believes that self-checkout may in some cases simply replace clerks (depending on a specific retailer's strategy) but in all cases has the potential to transform what goes on inside the store. "The technology can free up people for customer service," he says, by way of example. "The trend we're seeing is retailers looking to provide more personalized service, especially to their best customers."


    Posted by Craig at 06:20 PM

    Pet-Ark Kiosk for Pets

    As Seen on the "Today" Show...

    Pet-Ark's Animal Rescue Kiosk (or "ARK") was aired on the NBC "Today" Show on November 7th, 2003. Shown here are NBC's Matt and Katie talking with two promenent animal activists - Mary Tyler Moore and Burnadette Peters.



    Bringing homeless pets to the public used to be a trying and expensive task, but not anymore! With our Animal Rescue Kiosks - or ARKs, we can bring hundreds of pets that are specific to the local area in a timely, non-intrusive, and cost-effective manner.

    The easy-to-use intuitive interface allows virtually anyone to explore any participating shelter in their area with "just a touch". Our field tests have proven that that not only does the public love the experience, but they actually seek out the kiosk - and adopt pets that were displayed on the ARK!


    Click Here For Enlarged View

    Posted by Craig at 05:45 PM

    November 19, 2003

    Branding Synopsis

    Nice breakout article on Branding and touchpoints.

    Take a Stand for Your Brand
    by Dave Sutton
    November 18, 2003

    Every successful brand has managed to communicate its companys core beliefs and attitudeswhat the company stands forto its target customers.

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    www.adservice.com
    MarketingProfs Most Read Articles on
    Branding

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    Brands allow you to clearly define and communicate what you stand for, whether youre the lowest-cost provider, the most innovative, the best total solution, the preferred choice and so on.

    But youve got to decide what your brand stands for, and communicate that value proposition effectively and repeatedly. Its not good enough to just run a quality businessyouve got to let everyone know what sets you apart from the pack.

    The Architecture of a Brand

    A brand architecture lays out the key elements of the brand in detail and reveals specific messages and key takeaways for the target audience (customers and consumers). A brand architecture can include emotional benefits, functional benefits, physical benefits, product attributes, occasion appropriateness, user imagery and a variety of other intangibles.

    The architecture represents the structural integrity of the brand, delineating how it is built, how it works and how the components fit together to deliver meaningful benefits to the consumer.

    Brand architecture combines both the science and the art of marketing into an integrated process. It is grounded in the science of understanding why customers purchase and use products, it and provides direction regarding which elements can create the strongest connection to the customer. It allows the marketer to apply judgment and intuition to act on customer and consumer insights. And, finally, it produces a strategic framework visible to the entire organization.

    You can determine the structure of brand architecture by focusing on the key driversthe attributes or benefits that influence customers overall decision to purchase or use a product:

    1. Cost of entry drivers encompass the benefits that any brand must deliver to be considered a viable option. If youre a fast-food provider, youd better be able to serve your customers their burgers and fries in a hurry. Everyone in the competitive frame can deliver these benefits; theyre the minimum ante necessary to play the game. To determine the cost of entry benefits, you need to understand why consumers purchase any brand in the competitive frame, and determine how your brand stacks up on these benefits.

    2. Differentiation drivers are the benefits that begin to positively separate you from the rest of the competition. These are capabilities or equities that you possess that others in the competitive set may not. Of course, these benefits may not appeal or be motivating to all customers in the target audience. Indeed, if these benefits are not of significant importance, they may remove you from customers considerationit doesnt matter how comfortable your minivan is, for instance, if someones determined not to buy a minivan. More importantly, your distinct benefits may not be at the top of your consumers minds, and will therefore require a certain amount of communication and education to induce purchase.

    3. Preference drivers are benefits that can propel a brand to category leadership. These benefits are crucial in the minds of customers as they consider various brand alternatives in your competitive set. These types of benefits represent significant points of leverage with customers and can become the source of sustainable advantages. These may be as simple as a buy American consideration, or they may come about through extensive research and experience with a variety of competitors. Preference drivers are the trump card, the brand attributes that keep your customers coming back again and again.

    Brand Equity Drivers

    Once youve got the basic framework of your brand architecture, its time to figure out what you can do that no one else can: the unique attributes that set you apart from your competitors. These brand equity drivers encompass the sets of benefits where your brand has an advantage over all others in your sphere. If no one brand holds a sustainable advantage, its an open opportunitynobody has enough sway to pull consumers one way or another. Its the high ground not yet takenand the turf you should strive to conquer.

    Brand equity drivers include the following:

    1. Key equity drivers give you direct leverage against your competition. Quite simply, your business performance is higher than your competitions, and you can use this strength to take new ground, building new equities in areas that were previously open opportunities.

    2. Minor advantage drivers are those benefits where your brand rates statistically stronger than the competitions but your business performance is actually lower than the competitions. Your brand is intrinsically strong, even if your performance is weaker than your competition, and in this case perception is realityif your target customers think youre a stronger company than your competition, in the long run you will be.

    3. Parity equity drivers come into play when your brand rates are statistically equivalent to your competition, but you have higher business performance. In this case, its to your advantage to highlight your own strengths and your competitors weaknesses.

    4. Potential vulnerability drivers are those benefits where your brand rates at statistical dead heat with the competition, but your performance is actually lower than your competitors. This is dangerous territory; its only a matter of time before the competition seizes on this vulnerabilityand reveals it to your target consumers.

    How to Develop a Brand Architecture

    Looking inward to help develop brand architecture is necessary, but its only half the battle. Developing a brand architecture also requires a deep understanding of customer needs and wants. Such understandings must derive from quantitative datathat is, surveys of broad ranges of customersrather than the qualitative data gained from focus groups.

    Analyzing the brand and its key competitors across a spectrum of potential consumers helps determine drivers, equities and opportunities. Qualitative data is not typically sufficient to develop an appropriately thorough brand architecture.

    But, as with so much in life, the devil is in the details.

    For your brand architecture to provide necessary insight, youve got to have specific information on the subtle but meaningful differences between brands. The amount of insight and ability to take action are directly proportional to the specificity of benefit statements and ratings of competitors.

    Its important to point out that this is a more complicated process than simply asking the people what they like. Direct questioning along stated importance or stated reason lines elicits purely rationalnot emotionalresponses and tends to favor existing, intrinsic product benefits. The correlation of behavior and attitudes will give you a far more comprehensive and valid insight into your customers behavior.

    How Is a Brand Architecture Used?

    Marketers use brand architectures as the basis for brand positioning and as a means of bringing the brand to life via advertising, packaging, promotion and so forth. (Brand positioning is, in effect, a shorthand version of the brand architecture.)

    And since the brand must come to life at every customer touchpoint, the brand architecture ensures a unity of appearances, appeals and interactions.

    The true value of the brand architecture comes through when developing and rolling out marketing strategies. In this framework, the key drivers focus energy on your strengths; open opportunities draw your notice towell, to opportunities; and brand equities show you how to play to your best characteristics. With all of this scientific data in your corner, the creative team now has a concrete starting point for accentuating all of your products benefits.

    Brand architectures also outline the framework for evaluating advertising, packaging, and promotions before, during and after going to market. You can get a clearer picture of whats working and whats not in your advertising matrix.

    On a broader scale, you can decide which properties might prove a good match for your brandfor instance, the Olympics, with a higher percentage of female viewers, might prove a better match than the more male-dominated NFL.

    Brand architectures also form the basis for developing operational strategiesthat is, how are you going to design your business so that everything orbits around your brand message? How does every element of your company contribute to the benefit of your customer?

    The brand architecture is a guidebook for operational changes across your enterprise: how to organize, train and reward your personnel; how to design your selling and servicing processes; and how to implement various types of technology to support your customers throughout the process.

    Your brand is thus the engine that drives the entire company. Think of it not as a collection of attributes but as a business unto itselfone that requires constant upkeep, analysis and measurement, lest your competitors run your business out of business.

    Brands as Businesses

    Today, most companies structure themselves into business units (or product lines) or perhaps they structure around the geographies where they sell their products. But you should view your brands not as a part of the marketing departments budget but as discrete business units in and of themselves.

    Brands are some of your most valuable assets. In fact, brands are critical business assets (not unlike plant and equipment), each with its own characteristics, maintenance needs, P&L and obligations for return on capital invested.

    Your responsibility to your brands, then, is to drive profitable volume growth, which in turn maximizes total value for the whole enterprise. What this implies is a shift from product management, region management, national management or any other kind of management to a measurement of the one variablebrandthat produces value for your company.

    Your brand is the only aspect of your company that truly differentiates your company from your competitorstreat it with the respect it demands.

    Furthermore, brands serve as a mental shorthand for customers looking to decide what to purchase. Marketings sole purpose is to continuously create a distinctive air for its brands. Marketing must ensure that customers select your brand at every purchase locationwhich means that you must invest resources behind every brand to the point of diminishing returns.

    Again, this is where science comes into playif you can generate complete P&Ls for every brand and every activity, you can maximize your advertising and resource allocation efficiency, standing behind what works and getting rid of what doesnt, effectively and efficiently.

    You need a scientific method to help you put management processes and systems in place to ensure that you are investing your resources in marketing activities that generate superior return on investmentand assuring that your brands are being managed and run like the businesses that they are.

    Take a stand for your brandbut more importantly, take a stand for your business and the brand assets that drive profitable, sustainable competitive advantages.

    story link

    Posted by Craig at 04:29 PM

    November 17, 2003

    New U.S. Mobile Imaging Service

    Eastman Kodak Company today announced agreements that will provide mobile imaging services to help people store, share, organize and print their digital images.

    US : Eastman Kodak Company today announced agreements that will provide mobile imaging services to help people store, share, organize and print their digital images, moves that will make the familiar Kodak brand a leader in this new category.

    This market is rapidly growing, according to projections by market research firms such as IDC, which forecasts more than a billion camera-enabled mobile phones in use over the next three years.

    Kodak will provide imaging services for Cingular Wireless and has also entered into agreements with wireless leader Nokia to help customers get more out of their camera phones. KODAK Mobile Service offers camera phone users anytime, anywhere access to all of their digital photos and phone-captured video.

    In addition, Kodak extends its leadership in the kiosk market by enabling KODAK Picture Maker kiosks at participating retail locations with mobile printing capabilities and five-second printing with superior KODAK PERFECT TOUCH premium processing.

    Cingular subscribers with camera phones and multimedia messaging service (MMS) are able to store and access their mobile images at KODAK Mobile Service directly through their handsets for a monthly subscription fee of $2.99, charged through their monthly service bill. Cingular MMS customers can sign up for KODAK Mobile Service by visiting www.cingular.com/mms and can enjoy a 90-day free trial of the service prior to the subscription billing.

    Kodak is also expanding its relationship with Nokia, the leading handset maker, to create seamless links from select versions of the NOKIA 3600 Series camera phones to the KODAK Mobile Service. Nokia users can sign up for the service at www.nokia.kmobile.com.

    "Kodak has led innovation in the imaging industry for more than a century and currently holds the No.1 market share position for photo kiosks at retail and online photofinishing through Ofoto," said Bernard Masson, president, Digital and Film Imaging Systems, and senior vice president, Eastman Kodak Company. "As an example of Kodak's aggressive pursuit of the digital imaging market, these new services and agreements place Kodak at the forefront of the mobile imaging industry, with products and services that help people take, view, print and share pictures wherever they are, whenever they want. Whether online or through kiosks at retail locations, Kodak's mobile imaging services now give consumers places to print all their mobile images."

    KODAK Mobile Service
    KODAK Mobile Service is an easy-to-use, comprehensive service for the growing number of camera phone users to make, manage and move all of their digital pictures and mobile-captured video on the go. With KODAK Mobile Service, consumers can:

    Intuitively store and organize all their pictures and phone-captured video in one location;
    Share all their digital and mobile pictures with friends and family right from their camera phone;
    View all their digital pictures and phone-captured video on the go.
    Anyone with a camera or image-enabled phone that supports WAP 2.0 can begin using KODAK Mobile Service, which can be accessed by computer or handset browser at www.kmobile.com.

    KODAK Mobile Service is currently available free for trial initially to customers in the U.S. After the trial, customers can subscribe to the service on a monthly or annual basis through a participating carrier or directly through KODAK Mobile Service. Customers should check with their carriers for specific pricing and availability or visit www.kmobile.com for further information.

    Kiosks Offer Mobile Image Printing at Retail
    Capitalizing on Kodak's installed base of 24,000 kiosks across the country, Kodak will offer convenient solutions for consumers at retail to print digital images through the enablement of KODAK Picture Maker kiosks using Bluetooth or infrared technologies. Camera phone users will be able to beam their images to a KODAK Picture Maker and quickly edit, enhance and print their images. Users simply take a picture with their mobile imaging-enabled phone, insert their memory card or select the wireless option and send the photo to a KODAK Picture Maker kiosk. Consumers then follow the on-screen kiosk directions to easily print their pictures. CVS/Pharmacy will be the first national retailer to provide this offering beginning in early 2004 as part of its continued effort to provide easy-to-use digital printing solutions to their customers.

    Kodak is expanding its global partnership with Nokia to the U.S. and together they will engage in a number of co-marketing activities in 2004, beginning with the 2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl. Nokia and Kodak also will jointly develop kiosk printing services and other retail printing solutions to empower mobile users to turn their favorite pictures into prints.

    Continuing to innovate its kiosk offering, Kodak will offer five-second printing of 4x6-inch prints from KODAK Picture Maker kiosks. This offers consumers increased ease of use and convenience with prints five times faster than current print options. In addition, all thermal printer-enabled digital KODAK Picture Maker kiosks will be equipped with KODAK PERFECT TOUCH premium processing so each photo reveals more vibrant colors, richer detail and fewer dark shadows. These new services and wireless enablement will be available to consumers by January 2004 at participating retailers.

    Posted by Craig at 03:05 PM

    Self-Service Today

    Striding into the airport here one recent afternoon, Kimberly Ward did not so much as glance at the two ticket agents waiting at the counter.

    INDIANAPOLIS - Striding into the airport here one recent afternoon, Kimberly Ward did not so much as glance at the two ticket agents waiting at the counter. Like most of her fellow travelers, she instead claimed an automated check-in terminal, touched its screen a few times, and took the proferred boarding pass with a quick smile of thanks. Ms. Ward, 37, pays for gas only at the pump. She shops at Marsh, a supermarket in her neighborhood that has machines that let customers scan, bag and pay for groceries themselves. Her favorite bank teller is her A.T.M.

    Dealing with humans in such situations "just slows you down," she says. "This is a lot more convenient." A new generation of self-service machines is slipping into the daily lives of many Americans. Rejected for decades as too complicated, the machines are being embraced by a public whose faith in technology has grown as its satisfaction with more traditional forms of customer service has diminished. Faced with the alternative - live people - it seems that many consumers now prefer the machines.

    "The main thing is you don't want to deal with the cashiers and their attitudes," said Dexter Thomas, 37, bagging his own pizza rolls and Eggos in a self-checkout lane at Pathmark store in downtown Brooklyn this month. "That's why people come to this line." Soon they may have little choice. Eager to save money on labor costs, businesses are stepping up the pace of automation. Nearly 13,000 self- checkout systems will have been installed in American retail stores like Kroger and Home Depot by the end of this year, more than double the number in 2001, according to the market research firm IDC. Delta Air Lines spent millions of dollars this year to line 81 airports with chest-high automated kiosks: 22 million of its passengers - 40 percent of the total - checked in by touch-screen this year, up from 350,000 in 2001.

    Fast food restaurants like Jack in the Box and McDonald's are experimenting with automated ordering stations that executives say have reduced lines and the need to order from a human being. "Skiosks" dispense lift tickets at several Colorado ski resorts. Urged on by theater advertising, millions of moviegoers now buy tickets from one computer by phone and pluck them from another at the theater, though eye contact is sometimes still necessary to gain admission.

    The sudden influx of the machines, which still look and sound like the souped-up PC's that they mostly are, heralds what economists see as the eventual roboticization of large chunks of the service sector. In a standard economic paradox, they are already beginning to both eliminate jobs and increase productivity.

    But their arrival is also prompting a retooling of people's reliance on machines, and each other. Celebrated for their convenience, the devices appeal to an antisocial impulse that critics find troubling.

    "The question we should be talking about is not how much faster do you get your chicken if you go through a kiosk," said Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies human interactions with digital devices. "The question is, `What is it doing to our social world when we deploy this technology to all these parts of the life cycle?' "

    For many Americans, however, chicken check-out speed turns out to be quite the burning question. Marcia Boone, 62, said she has been using self check-out ever since it was installed in her local grocery store earlier this year. She has become so good at it that she sometimes chooses to go through the steps in Spanish, just for the challenge. "You eliminate a step," explains Mrs. Boone. "Even in our express lane with a regular checker, they run it through and then it's sitting on the counter, and then they bag it. Whereas I run it through and then I bag it right away."

    A self-described "people person," Mrs. Boone, of Talleyville, Del., says she now talks back to the machine. "After you scan, if you don't put it into the bag fast enough, it will say. `Please put the item in the bag,' and I'll say, `I'm getting there, I'm getting there,' " she said. The growth of self-service machines, experts and users say, is partly a result of improvements in the technology since the early days of automated teller machines, which were much slower to catch on. Now more R2D2 than Darth Vader, most of today's kiosks have shed their hulking shells. Grubby number pads and monochrome displays have been replaced with brightly colored touch-screens that respond instantly - and help foster a trust in the technology that mere mortals may never again command.

    "If we asked people even a few years ago which would be more likely to make a mistake, an A.T.M. or a cashier, they would say the A.T.M.," said Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University. "Now people would say the cashier. That's an amazing change." But for many of those who declined to use similar technology in similar places when it was repeatedly tried over the last 20 years, the main appeal of the machines is the chance to avoid what they say are increasingly frequent frustrating, hostile or guilt-inducing interactions with service workers.

    "They always get mad at me at Amtrak," said Megan Lesser, 26, of Brooklyn, who prefers to discuss schedules with Julie, the train company's voice-activated phone service, and buy her tickets at the electronic kiosks in Pennsylvania Station. "They say I have the wrong card, or if you go up to the window too fast, they're like, `You have to get back in line and wait until someone calls you.' "

    Critics say the machines may also provide an all-too-easy escape from social interactions across class lines that may prompt some shoppers to wonder uncomfortably if a minimum-wage cashier has health insurance, or lead an employee to respond angrily to a customer. But some weary consumers say they would just prefer to serve themselves. Brian Southard, 30, of San Diego said employees at his local supermarket make him feel like it is an inconvenience for them when he shops there. He prefers kiosks at airports and was thrilled to find them installed recently at his Home Depot.

    "I like people, but if someone's having a bad day and you get that wave of negativity, it can impact my day, too," said Mr. Southard. Machines have been displacing people since well before the Luddites began smashing them at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. But economists say this is the first time computers have been flexible enough to automate a broad range of skills, including cognitive ones, that previously required complex interaction with people.

    "The types of jobs now amenable to displacement by technology is really something we haven't seen before, said David Autor, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If you don't have one of those jobs, you're a beneficiary, because the lines are shorter and your airline ticket price won't go up as fast. But it's going to have a significant impact on the people in these jobs now."

    Businesses insist that they are not using machines as a direct substitute for human labor, but plan instead to compete by improving their service over all. But union representatives say jobs have already been lost as a direct result of the kiosks, and they say that the machines are causing perceptions of customer service to decline.

    Airline employees say they often have to soothe passengers after a frustrating kiosk encounter. Twenty-five percent of the riders surveyed by New York City Transit recently said they had had a problem with the city's recently installed MetroCard machines, which now handle more than half of all sales.

    Navigating a Delta kiosk for the first time at the Indianapolis airport, Cathie Franklin, 52, yearned for the days when someone else at least pretended to be happy to press the buttons for her. "I deal with computers all day at work," said Mrs. Franklin. "I don't want to have to deal with them when I'm traveling on vacation."

    Many service employees are now being told to train people to use the technology that will ultimately replace them.

    "The managers tell our people to tell customers to use those machines," said Bobby DePace, president of District 143 of the Machinists Union, which he said had already lost jobs at Northwest Airlines directly as a result of the kiosks. "If you don't tell them to use the machines, you're going to be disciplined."

    Driving the corporate embrace of machines is some basic math. A typical airline kiosk costs less than $10,000, said Robert W. Mann Jr., an airline industry consultant in Port Washington, compared with a salary for a customer service agent of $20,000 to $40,000, plus benefits. Self- checkout systems pay for their $80,000 price tags after about 15 months, and then the average cost of a transaction to the retailer is cut nearly in half because of labor cost savings.

    "Self-service machines never call in sick," said Greg Buzek, president of the IHL Consulting Group, a retail technology research firm. "You don't have to worry about scheduling issues. You don't have to worry about vacations." Then there are the things you do have to worry about. One morning this month, Luciano Guerreiro of Manhattan deposited a $100 bill in a machine at the 23rd Street C/E subway station for a $20 MetroCard, only to discover that it would not give him the change. The clerk in the booth listened sympathetically as Mr. Guerreiro explained at high volume what had happened. "I'm sorry," the clerk said, giving him a number to call. "Once you use the machine, I can't help you."

    Posted by Craig at 02:35 PM

    November 12, 2003

    Independent restaurateurs Banding Together

    Independent restaurateurs across the United States increasingly are banding together to fight competition from ever-expanding chain operations.

    link: http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20031111-110848-9166r.htm

    Chain restaurants give fierce competition

    CLEVELAND, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Independent restaurateurs across the United States increasingly are banding together to fight competition from ever-expanding chain operations.

    Independents like Sergio Abramof, the owner of a Brazilian restaurant in Cleveland, are forming local chapters of the Council of Independent Restaurants of America, a Louisville, Ky., trade group that helps single-unit operations to fight for survival, ABC News reported.

    "We have been painfully aware of what's been happening in other industries such as the drugstores, the hardware stores and the coffee shops," said Abramof.

    "Many have just become extinct and they're all replaced by chains. It seems like if the restaurants don't do anything about it, we're next."

    The National Restaurant Association said more than seven out of 10 eating-and-drinking establishments are single-unit, or independent operations.

    But according to industry analysts the chain restaurants are growing more popular and giving fierce competition to mid-priced independent restaurants.

    Posted by Craig at 08:45 PM

    November 10, 2003

    Hotel Information Systems to Act as Reseller of It Just Works Software

    LAKE FOREST, Calif., Nov 10, 2003 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Hotel Information Systems (HIS), a division of MAI Systems Corporation (OTC Bulletin Board: MAIY), is pleased to announce that an agreement has been finalized with It Just Works Software based out of Ontario, Canada.

    LAKE FOREST, Calif., Nov 10, 2003 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Hotel Information Systems (HIS), a division of MAI Systems Corporation (OTC Bulletin Board: MAIY), is pleased to announce that an agreement has been finalized with It Just Works Software based out of Ontario, Canada.

    Hotel Information Systems will resell It Just Works Software for Kiosk and Wireless Handheld units to its current and prospective user base. This solution will integrate fully with Hotel Information Systems epitome Property Management Systems to provide self check-in functionality at individual hotel sites.

    "We are extremely pleased that our relationship with It Just Works Software will allow us to offer a wireless solution to our clients. Combining our software solutions with kiosk and wireless data entry systems enables us to help our clients in streamlining their businesses and enabling them to become more profitable and enhance customer service," commented Seth Christian, HIS Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Sales.

    "It Just Works Software has been developing hotel kiosk systems for the past decade and our relationship with Hotel Information Systems will be a true benefit to our organization. Hotel Information Systems has a large install base of satisfied clients that are beginning to see the need for self check-in and enabling Hotel Information Systems to satisfy those needs is truly important to our company," stated Doug MacRae, President of It Just Works Software.

    About It Just Works Software

    IT JUST WORKS SOFTWARE has developed an advanced hospitality focused self-service kiosk unit and wireless handheld software for use with minicomputers, wireless handheld computers, Personal Data Assistants and with computer networks using minicomputers or PC Network Servers as host computers and personal computers or graphical terminals as workstations and other software developed for the hospitality industry.

    About Hotel Information Systems

    Hotel Information Systems, Inc. (HIS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of MAI Systems Corporation (OTC Bulletin Board: MAIY). HIS provides total enterprise management solutions, improving critical operations and profitability for global lodging organizations. For a complete demonstration or additional information about epitome Enterprise Solutions, please call 1.800.497.0532 or visit hotelinfosys.com .

    For further information, please contact Seth Christian, Chief Marketing Officer & VP Sales, Hotel Information Systems, Inc., +1-949-598-6184, seth.christian@hotelinfosys.com .

    SOURCE Hotel Information Systems, Inc.

    Seth Christian, Chief Marketing Officer & VP Sales, Hotel
    Information Systems, Inc., +1-949-598-6184, seth.christian@hotelinfosys.com

    Posted by Craig at 02:41 PM

    November 07, 2003

    Today Show Episode Today

    Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters will appear on this morning's "Today" show to promote the campaign, and then join city leaders for the official kickoff in Central Park.

    I saw the segment and the kiosk-based system was very attractive...craig



    November 7, 2003 -- Celebrity animal lovers will help the city launch an ambitious new campaign today to end the mass killing of unwanted dogs and cats in its shelters.

    Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters will appear on this morning's "Today" show to promote the campaign, and then join city leaders for the official kickoff in Central Park.

    Almost 50,000 animals pour into city shelters every year, many of them strays. Not enough people adopt,so the city kills more than three-quarters of them.

    To stop the killing, the city has applied for a $15 million grant from billionaire Dave Duffield, founder of PeopleSoft. The money would underwrite spaying and neutering, and promote adoptions.Heidi Singer

    story

    Posted by Craig at 08:22 PM

    Self-service Changing CIO Wish Lists

    "The walls (to the network) are down," Conner said. "People can come in and do self-service and make changes. Businesses have to be concerned with who they are. Security and privacy are part of the conversation of business now."

    story link

    November 7, 2003
    CIO Shopping Lists, Wish Lists
    By Colin C. Haley

    PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Recent studies indicate that large corporations and government agencies are beginning to start spending again on IT. So what are they buying?

    A panel of CIOs at here the Future Forward '03 conference offered their insights, as well as a wish list of what they would like to see from vendors.

    "We're working on projects that facilitate collaboration," said Doug Schwinn, CIO of toy giant Hasbro. "We want to take advantage of the information that is in our organization, whether it's in the U.S., Asia or Europe and put that information together to product products customers want."

    Terry Conner, CIO of Liberty Mutual, said security is more of a concern than ever. Whereas the precautions were once left to mainly to the IT department, now upper management is keenly aware of the expanded threats.

    "The walls (to the network) are down," Conner said. "People can come in and do self-service and make changes. Businesses have to be concerned with who they are. Security and privacy are part of the conversation of business now."

    John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup, echoed those thoughts and said that not only is the network more vulnerable because of customer access, but also because of employees who are connecting via laptops from home and wireless devices.

    Because of that Halamka said his department is spending money both on the desktop for anti-virus software and enryption technology, but also with network vendors and enterprise software companies to secure systems. Other products and services that fall into that category are anti-intrusion technology and the hiring of so-called "ethical hackers" to probe corporate systems for vulnerabilities.

    Another inescapable expense is for compliance with new federal regulations for several industries including financial services(Sarbanes-Oxley), health care (HIPPA) and international trade (Patriot Act).

    For example, health care regulations require that hosptials and providers retain patient records for 30 years. That dictates a signficant investment in storage, Halamka said.

    The CIOs present said the number of vendors they were using was shrinking and includes the biggest names in the industry: Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, EMC and Cisco, were among those mentioned.

    Some audience members who worked for smaller companies bemoaned the practice, saying it made it difficult to make the step from a successful, small company to the next level. Some of the CIOs agreed and said they have to weight the risk of dealing with a company that could go under with the need for the product.

    That doesn't mean that the companies won't consider a startup's technology if it solves a problem. The key is knowing how to get them. CIOs receive hundreds of pitches for meetings, but the gatekeepers are often one level below. Most companies have a committee to screen new technology.

    Justin Lindsey, CIO of the FBI, said there is are also oportunities in the federal sector. The CIA for example has its own venture capital arm that scouts for new products that are of use to the intellgence community. Likewise, the Department of Homeland Defense has more than $4 billion earmarked for technology investments.

    Workding with the government can involved more steps than the private sector, but it's another avenue. In addition, once technology is vetted with the government it can open other doors.

    Finally, there is room for companies who can fill a need.

    Conner, and several other panelists, said they are still looking for a product that provuders a dashboard view of the performance of all their IT systems, including information on the performance for users out on the network. Some vendors have claimed they could build such a view, but they involve "millions of dollars and five years to get there," Conner said.

    "It's probably a pipe dream."

    Posted by Craig at 08:19 PM

    November 06, 2003

    Multi-Carrier Check-In on Airlines

    Northwest Offers Check-In On Multi-Carrier Itineraries

    nwa.com Check-In now issues boarding passes for connecting flights on six partner airlines in addition to Northwest

    ST. PAUL, MINN. (November 6, 2003) Northwest Airlines today said that it is offering customers the ability to check in at its Web site for travel involving multiple airlines.

    As a result of a recent enhancement to its nwa.com Check-In service, e-ticketed customers, regardless of where they purchase their ticket, can now obtain boarding passes at www.nwa.com for both their Northwest flight, and at the same time, for their connecting flight on any of six partner airlines.

    The partners included in the initial launch of the new service include KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and Hawaiian Airlines.

    This smart enhancement will extend the convenience, speed and control of nwa.com Check-In to even more Northwest customers, said Al Lenza, vice president of distribution and e-commerce. Services such as global Web check-in available up to 36 hours prior to departure demonstrate that nwa.com Check-In continues to offer travelers self-service functionality not found at any other airline.

    AIRPORT KIOSKS OFFER SERVICE AS WELL

    Simultaneously, Northwest announced that its 755 airport self-service check-in kiosks, located at 188 airports, are also able to provide customers with boarding passes on itineraries involving both Northwest and the six partner airlines.

    Since its 2000 launch, nearly seven million Northwest customers have printed their boarding pass from the convenience of their home or office through nwa.com Check-In, Lenza added. A record 67% of our customers used nwa.com Check-In or one of our self-service check-in kiosks during October to speed their way onto a Northwest flight.

    Posted by Craig at 06:27 PM

    October 31, 2003

    Weird World - Dead Go Digital

    PARIS : Generations of dead in a cemetery in southern France have joined the information age, thanks to a new computerised system that maps the way to graves and enables people to leave electronic condolence messages

    Dead go digital in cemetery

    REUTERS[ FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2003 06:07:21 PM ]

    PARIS : Generations of dead in a cemetery in southern France have joined the information age, thanks to a new computerised system that maps the way to graves and enables people to leave electronic condolence messages.

    People arriving this week at the cemetery in Saint Andre de la Roche, near Nice, found an interactive screen giving precise locations and personal details for the 4,000 deceased.

    "Until now visitors spent hours walking round and round. It was a real headache to work out where you were," Honore Colomas, mayor of the town near the Rivera coast, was quoted as saying in Thursday's Le Parisien newspaper.

    "The system is very simple. All you do is type the name of the deceased or the tomb and a detailed map of the cemetery with arrows appears on the screen," he said.

    The touchscreen-based system cost 15,000 euros (9200 pounds), is floodlit. Visitors can read biographies of the deceased, type in messages of sympathy and also find contact details for local taxis or funeral parlours.

    Florists are also said to be delighted by an innovation that makes it easier to turn up at the right place with deliveries.

    Story

    Posted by Craig at 04:47 PM

    Check Those Lottery Tickets

    Those self-serve scanning machines found at the side of many lottery counters are almost perfect, but......

    It's worth checking

    Mark Patrick photo

    B.C. Lottery Corporation spokesperson Alison Lester demonstrates a ticket checking machine.

    By Martin van den Hemel
    Staff Reporter

    There are only two things worse than not winning the lottery: failing to cash in a winning ticket and being shortchanged when you think you've won more.

    Over the last couple of years, more than 350 people have complained to the B.C. Lottery Corporation about the validation of their lottery tickets, many saying that the retailers did not show them the validation slip which indicates the size of the prize they've won and arguing they were not given the correct prize amount.

    And then there are the people who win but fail to claim their windfall. This group numbers in the thousands across the country, most of whom are winners of smaller prizes in the $1 to $10 range, but on occasion are winners of something more sizable.
    For example, as recently as October 2001, someone in B.C. who won the choice of $50,000 cash or a BMW failed to validate the ticket before the one-year claim window closed.
    Denis Savidan, manager of lottery security for the B.C. Lottery Corporation, said there are steps residents can take to ensure they get what they deserve.
    The first thing they should do is sign the back of each ticket they buy. This will ensure prizes, particularly larger amounts, are given out to the rightful owner and puts into motion a number of security safeguards. Without a signature, a ticket becomes a bearer document that almost anyone can cash in like a blank cheque, Savidan said.

    And each time you get your ticket checked, do your due diligence and double check either with the lottery numbers printed in the newspaper or in the lottery corporation's Luck Magazine or online at www.bclc.com.

    Those self-serve scanning machines found at the side of many lottery counters are almost perfect, but can make a mistake once in every three million time they read the bar code found at the bottom of each ticket.

    Another way to protect yourself from being duped is to listen for that distinctive chime. If you hear it, it's a sign that there's a winner. About 18 months ago, that music indicated the purchase of certain lottery tickets, but that was changed to alert winners.
    Savidan said the retailer should let prizewinners see the amount they have won on the validation slip, which aside from indicating the prize amount also contains a number that should match the 14-digit control number on the bottom of each ticket. This ensures that the tickets haven't been switched.

    Thousands of lottery ticket buyers each year fail to cash in their winning tickets before the one-year claim window closes, accounting for an unclaimed national lottery prize pool that amounts to between $14 million and $22 million each year in the Lotto 6/49 and Super 7 games. (This pool becomes prize money for super-sized bonus draws held about once a year.)

    Every now and then, the unclaimed prizes go beyond the small-change wins.
    In October of 1994, a $1 million BC/49 prize went unclaimed. In a three-month span in 1993, two EXTRA winners, worth $500,000, also went unclaimed.

    Just two years ago, an Abbotsford woman claimed her million-dollar prize less than a week before it was set to expire after a media blitz alerted local residents to the unclaimed windfall. She had left the winning ticket on the bottom of her purse.
    Lotteries are big business in B.C.

    In 2002/03, the Richmond-headquartered B.C. Lottery Corporation made more than $663 million in net income, and some retailers make as much as $50,000 each year from the sale of lottery tickets alone.

    Nigel Anderson, director of sales for the Richmond-headquartered B.C. Lottery Corporation, said retailers earn a five per cent commission on ticket sales. A couple of dozen B.C. retailers sell up to $1 million dollars worth of tickets annually, which would earn them in the neighbourhood of $50,000.

    There are currently 4,000 lottery ticket retailers in B.C. and the lottery corporation is always looking to expand, eyeing strategic locations such as the opening of new 7-Eleven or Shoppers Drug Mart stores in which to place lottery machines.

    story link

    Posted by Craig at 04:37 PM

    October 29, 2003

    Convenience Store Business

    Excerpt -- Kiosk Information Systems and TouchPoint Solutions Inc. have paired up on another c-store deployment: the new QPIX-2000 Digital Photo and Film Processing Center, a self-contained, photo-finishing station.

    story link

    Easy as A, B, C-store
    by Christine Zimmerman, editor 29 Oct, 2003

    Talk about a match made in heaven. Convenience stores are based on the business of offering a multitude of services in a very tight physical space. They are meant for fast action and ease of use. Their goal is to make life a little bit easier for consumers. Do those definitions sound familiar? They work for "self-service technology," too.

    1,2,3s of working with c-store operators:

    1. Identify factors of ROI;
    2. Learn the needs of the community;
    3. Align with business partners to add services.

    Indeed, c-stores are a growing market for kiosks. Some technology providers, such as Info Touch Technologies and Cyphermint, have already based much of their businesses on supplying software and services to c-stores. Info Touchs relationship with Circle K, and Cyphermints with 7-Eleven are among the most well-known and successful deployments in the self-service industry. Coinstar is also getting into the game, having just introduced its new Top-Up Kiosk, which offers a range of services like self-serve bill payment, prepaid cash cards, cell phone mobile content, online computer game time, prepaid wireless and long distance, and prepaid Internet.

    C-stores are a market in which Info Touch has "laser-like focus," said Hamed Shahbazi, the companys chairman and chief executive officer. He said that there are 120,000 c-stores in the United States alone. C-stores see an average of about 1,000 people walk through the doors each day.

    Shahbazi pointed to the "c" in c-store: "The operators are selling time. There is nothing they offer that a customer cant buy cheaper elsewhere. Whether its cigarettes, coffee, cold drinks or salty snacks they want, the customer can park and be in the middle of the store within 10 seconds."

    The point is that c-store operators are not selling products, but convenience. And they are always on the lookout for ways to find new streams of revenue. E-services fit into that mix quite well. With a kiosk, c-stores can deliver a number of products from a small footprint.

    "In the next 24 to 36 months, self-service in c-stores will be a heavyweight category," said Shahbazi. "Theres not a huge right payoff now, but the future will tell."

    "Self-service is an absolute fit in convenience stores," added Joe Barboza, president and chief executive officer of Cyphermint.

    He points to another definition for the "c," and that is "community." He explained that if c-stores are to compete with local grocery stores, they have to offer something special to the communities they serve: something the large stores do not. And that something is e-services.

    "C-stores can use kiosks to let members of the community pay their bills, do banking, buy movie tickets, shop on the Internet. This variety of goods and services make the c-store environment unique," said Barboza.

    Complete Circle K

    There are about 160 ZapLink terminals in Circle K stores in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; and Las Vegas. There will soon be another 50 to 100 terminals added in Arizona. There are also nine in California, and plans call for expansion to Charlotte, N.C.; and Florida. The objective is to have 500 units deployed.

    The ZapLink initiative was launched in September 2001 with the goal of implementing a sustainable and profitable business model, and introducing innovative e-based solutions to customers seeking convenience.

    The services include bill payment, money transfers, interactive mapping and directions, e-couponing, point-of-sale-based advertising, purchase of lottery tickets, public and private video and photo e-mail, general-purpose Web surfing and e-mail access.

    Michele Tihami, director of ZapLink services at Circle K, said, "Our original thought was that pay-per-use Internet would be the driver for these units. But it never was. We added Leap Wireless as a billing partner and realized the potential to make money."

    Shahbazi said the number of services have grown as Info Touch has sought new business partnerships.

    One such partnership is with EWI Prepaid, a payment processor. EWI holds the patent on real-time PIN delivery. The vendor will provide Info Touch with a transaction platform for issuing PINs for purchasing items like prepaid phone cards and wireless phone service.

    Pat Hazel, chief executive officer of EWI, said he was impressed with Info Touchs emphasis on the business case for self-service in convenience stores.

    "They have been increasingly successful in placing kiosks. They aggregate the right combination of services," said Hazel.

    "Info Touch understands business fundamentals and focuses on services that will achieve ROI. They concentrate on the best services, instead of on offering the broadest range of services," he added.

    Info Touch has most recently partnered with GTECH Holdings Corp. and the California Lottery to offer a self-serve lottery feature on selected ZapLink Web-based kiosks in its California stores.

    Placing the lottery function on ZapLink improves the gaming experience and eliminates the need for lottery customers to go through a cashier to purchase online tickets. Customers may still purchase lottery tickets from a cashier if they choose to do so.

    Circle K convenience-store customers can now play their favorite online lottery games at nine ZapLink e-services kiosks at select stores in Modesto and Sacramento, Calif.

    Francie Mendelsohn, president of Summit Research Associates, is impressed with the variety of services offered. She said, "There is an unbelievable number of people using ZapLink each day, and each pays a $2 transaction fee. The revenue that directs into the stores and providers pockets is significant." She noted that the units "pay for themselves in no time."

    The key is a steady stream of customers who gladly pay the service fee. "The un-banked population is used to paying service charges. Two bucks is nothing to them. They are just happy to be able to pay a utility bill at the last minute and know that the phone wont be shut off the next morning," said Mendelsohn.

    Info Touch applied a profitable business model by securing multiple streams of recurring revenues from transactional applications, advertising and sponsorship of nationwide brands including Coke, Nestle, M&M and KB Home, and metered or pay-per-use access of services like general Web-browsing and e-mail.

    Oh, Thank Heaven

    About 1,000 Vcom units are found in 7-Eleven stores in 15 states. With the units, customers have touchscreen access to services such as bill payment, deposit capability, event ticketing, travel directions and online shopping. The terminals accept credit cards or cash for Internet purchases right at the machines. Vcom merchants include Best Buy, 1800flowers.com, JewelrySprite.com, eBags.com and US Health Services.

    Advertising and sponsorships are also available on Vcom. Currently, national organizations including Nestle, Dreyers, Wonka, Pepsi and Instant Auto all promote their brands and products at Vcom.

    Barboza said that there is little cost to the store owner to have a Vcom unit on site. The store doesnt even need to purchase a high-speed Internet connection, he explained.

    "Vcom will function with a 56-k dial-up connection, which the banking partner is probably already paying part of anyway," he said.

    Every time a customer makes a purchase at the unit, Cyphermint and the store owner receive commissions. Plus, Barboza said Cyphermint research shows that 73 percent of the customers who use the ATM portion of the Vcom unit will shop in the physical store, as well.

    The kiosks also offer savings in terms of personnel. "We figure the unit costs about half the amount of hiring a cashier," said Barboza. And the unit makes existing employees more productive, since it can offload time-consuming tasks as checking lottery numbers and cashing checks.

    Vcom units are found exclusively in 7-Eleven stores today, but Barboza said he is having conversations with other organizations to provide similar functionality to their customers. These organizations include stop-and-go gas stations, pharmacies and community banks.
    < _IMAGE _ >

    Cyphermint's Vcom

    Challenges of the Market

    Barboza said one challenge Cyphermint has overcome is working around c-stores various existing banking partners.

    For her part, Tihami said she has very specific challenges training and motivating employees in the convenience-store environment because their turnover rate is so high.

    "The c-store industry is a tricky one, because you have $5 to $7-hour workers who might not really care about learning something new," she said. "Keeping mindshare is a challenge."

    Tihamis solution is to keep a high profile at the stores with Zaplink representatives and to offer regular information to operators via e-mail. "Giving constant support really jazzes people," she said. "You cant just stick a kiosk somewhere and say, OK, there you go. Use it. It takes a concerted effort."

    Other C-Store Opportunities

    Pro Tech and Radiant Systems are vendors tapping into the self-service market in gas-and-go convenience stores. The companies are in tests right now with several c-stores, allowing customers to select and pay for quick eats while they are waiting at the gas pump.

    Kiosk Information Systems and TouchPoint Solutions Inc. have paired up on another c-store deployment: the new QPIX-2000 Digital Photo and Film Processing Center, a self-contained, photo-finishing station.

    It is compact enough for the space-challenged c-store environment. Powered by TouchPoint's Catapult software, it also offers a credit-card and cash-processing vending machine.

    NCR has miniaturized its FastLane self-checkout system for c-stores, and has added a lottery ticket-purchasing function.

    The key to this type of technology in c-stores is clear, according to Hazel. He said kiosks will represent 20 percent of the prepaid world alone by 2007.

    "Retailers will make $3 billion in commissions by 2007. Thats potent information," he said. "If they can get people out of the queue and over to the kiosks, everybody wins."





    Note: KIS has qualified products in Convenience store sector including QuickPIX, prepaid applications, money orders, and many more.

    If you are interested please contact
    info at gokis.net

    Posted by Craig at 11:29 PM

    October 28, 2003

    Email Intranet Kiosks for Employees

    As ubiquitous as email seems to be in our world today, a new study shows that 45 percent of corporate workers do not have email access on the job.

    Market Opens as Nearly Half of Workers Without Email

    October 27, 2003
    Market Opens as Nearly Half of Workers Without Email
    By Sharon Gaudin
    As ubiquitous as email seems to be in our world today, a new study shows that 45 percent of corporate workers do not have email access on the job.

    But the study also shows that 45 percent figure is going to start dropping next year and decrease dramatically by 2007, creating a huge market for workplace email. The Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based market research and consulting firm, says the market has the potential to be a $6.7 billion business.

    ''This market is being born from enterprises that have determined that the technology is to the point that it's silly for everyone not to have email,'' says Marcel Nienhuis, a market analyst at the Radicati Group, which conducted the study. ''What's happened is that companies have excluded these workers from email access and now they're out of the loop about what's happening in the enterprise. They're getting their corporate information from notes tacked to a bulletin board.''

    And Nienhuis says companies won't be giving every factory or warehouse worker a desk and a laptop. Instead, IT managers will be called on to install email kiosks that can serve anywhere from 10 to 100 workers. During a break or lunchtime or after hours, workers can go to the kiosk to access inter-office email -- information from HR, corporate newsletters and questions from payroll.

    The question that remains is if these companies will enable employees to email with friends and family outside of the company.

    But Nienhuis says many companies may want to inhibit non-work-related email out of fears of liability and lost productivity, but others will make it available to improve employee morale and provide an easy perk.

    With a down economy and low IT spending, when will this bump come in the workplace email market?

    That, Nienhuis says, is debatable. But he expects it to start picking up in 2004 and then taking off in 2005. Then, if the economy holds, workplace email spending is expected to ride through the next several years.

    So who doesn't have email?

    Nienhuis says they had a fairly liberal range when gauging the corporate workforce. He said it's not just about engineers, CEOs and accountants. The corporate worker list also includes flight attendants, factory workers, nurses and warehouse workers. People working in the field were not included in the study.

    ''The potential market is enormous,'' says Nienhuis. ''It would increase employees' knowledge of corporate information, boost morale and reduce paper costs. There are a lot of benefits.''

    Posted by Craig at 02:43 PM

    Retail News -- Borders

    Borders Books & Music to Open Two New Stores in Chicago (Title Sleuth)

    Borders Books & Music to Open Two New Stores in Chicago; Borders Coming to Lincoln Park and Uptown in Early 2004

    ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct 27, 2003 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Borders Books & Music(R) will open two new stores in the Chicago market in early 2004. A store in Lincoln Park on the southeast corner of North Avenue and Halsted Street is scheduled to open in February, and a store in Uptown at the intersection of Broadway Street and Lawrence Avenue is scheduled to open in April. Each store will be approximately 25,000 square feet and occupy two stories of their respective buildings. Borders currently operates 29 stores in the greater Chicago area; the Lincoln Park and Uptown stores will bring the total to 31.

    The new Borders stores will provide area residents and tourists a comfortable place to explore a vast selection of book, music, DVD and periodical titles. Each store will also include a Cafe Borders, offering customers a variety of gourmet coffees, teas, beverages, desserts and light food items.

    The Lincoln Park Borders store will be located in the heart of the Clybourn Corridor retail and residential area, on the site of the former YMCA building. The store will have its own parking deck. Other retailers in the area include Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and Urban Outfitters.

    "Clybourn Corridor is an important destination shopping district that caters primarily to Chicago residents," said Randy Rohde, regional director for the Lincoln Park and Uptown stores. "The famed Steppenwolf Theatre is one block away, and there are several upscale restaurants and shops surrounding the new site. We're very excited to be a part of this neighborhood."

    The Borders in Uptown will be located in the Goldblatt's building, near the historic Riviera and Aragon Theatres. Uptown is home to the Green Mill Jazz Club and is also a thriving theater district that attracts both residents and tourists. The location was selected based on a variety of factors including demographics, traffic patterns, the availability of parking and the attractiveness of the site.

    "The Goldblatt's building is gorgeous and we've taken great care to preserve this historical landmark," said Rohde. "In the last few years, Uptown has been redeveloped into a first-rate residential and entertainment quarter."

    The Lincoln Park and Uptown stores will each offer corporate discounts to schools, libraries and businesses in the area. Free events like lectures, author signings, musical performances, children's activities and 'Benefit Days' that support local charities will be held throughout the year.

    Borders is an industry leader in selection, customer service and convenience. Borders stores offer up to 200,000 book, music, DVD and periodical titles, as well as cutting-edge service technology through Title Sleuth(TM) self-service computer stations located throughout the store. Title Sleuth allows Borders customers to easily determine if a particular book, CD or movie is in stock at the store they are visiting or at a nearby Borders location and offers access to more than 15 million used, out-of-print and hard-to-find titles worldwide. For Borders.com and Amazon.com shoppers, "In-Store Express Pick Up" service combines the ease of ordering online with the convenience of paying for their purchase and picking it up the same day.

    Exploring contemporary books and CDs by innovative authors and artists is easy with Borders' "Original Voices" program - featuring the works of more than 200 contemporary authors and illustrators from around the world in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, young adult and children's picture books throughout the year. For those unsure of what they're looking for, Borders' "We Recommend" titles and reviews are displayed throughout the store and knowledgeable booksellers are happy to suggest titles well suited to each customer. In the multimedia section, Borders B-Listening(TM) lets customers preview nearly every CD in store and view trailers of DVDs. In addition, Borders' experienced buying staff recommends music and movie titles everyone should have in their personal libraries through in-store "Borders Essentials" lists.

    About Borders Group

    Borders Group (NYSE:BGP) is a leading global retailer of books, music and movies. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., the company employs 32,000 people worldwide and operates over 425 Borders domestic superstores; 36 international Borders stores located primarily in the U.K. and the Pacific Rim; 36 Books etc. stores throughout Great Britain; and approximately 755 Waldenbooks stores in malls across America. Teamed with Amazon.com, the company also offers online shopping through Borders.com (www.borders.com) and Waldenbooks.com (www.waldenbooks.com). More detailed information on the company is available at www.bordersgroupinc.com. Information on Borders stores title selection, events and locations is available through www.bordersstores.com.

    SOURCE: Borders Group, Inc.





    Note: KIS has delivered solutions for Borders. Visit the Title Sleuth next time you are in Border.

    If you are interested please contact
    info at gokis.net

    Posted by Craig at 02:39 PM

    October 27, 2003

    Fast Food and QSRs

    ParTech, Inc., Quick Kiosk Partner to Offer Pioneering Self-Service Solutions for Fast-Food Market

    October 27, 2003 09:03

    ParTech, Inc., Quick Kiosk Partner to Offer Pioneering Self-Service Solutions for Fast-Food Market

    New Strategic Partnership Agreement between Point-of-Sale and Self-Service Technology Leaders Will Revolutionize the Quick Service Restaurant Experience

    LONG BEACH, Calif., Oct 27, 2003 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- ParTech, Inc., a subsidiary of PAR Technology Corporation (NYSE:PTC), and a leading provider of software, hardware and service solutions to the hospitality and retail industries, and Quick Kiosk, A Kinetics Company LLC, a leading provider of self-service solutions to the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry, today announced they have formed a strategic partnership. The announcement of the partnership was made at this year's Food Service Technology Conference at the Long Beach, California, Convention Center.

    Under this agreement Quick Kiosk and ParTech will work cooperatively to become an industry-leading provider of self-service solutions for the QSR and entertainment markets, possibly expanding in the future to other vertical markets.

    "We are thrilled to ally ourselves with the most dominant player in the QSR point-of-sale (POS) market," said Todd Liebman, president of Quick Kiosk. "The potential of this type of strategic alliance is truly limitless. By combining our strengths, we can offer a product that will not only fulfill the needs of today's quick-service franchisees, as well as other hospitality and leisure markets, and their customers, but help anticipate future changes in those needs and meet them expeditiously and effectively."

    "This partnership further connects ParTech with its core customers (restaurants, movie theatres, cruise lines, commercial banks, recreation sites) and their hospitality technology requirements," said Greg Cortese, CEO & president of ParTech, Inc. "Quick Kiosk's presence in the hospitality marketplace is a key method to further introduce combined (PAR/Quick Kiosk) solutions to other transaction based markets and showcase the superior quality of the software, hardware, and services of both Quick Kiosk and ParTech."

    Self-service QSR ordering kiosks are one of the newest and most intriguing uses of self-service technology, and for the small number of owner/operators who now use them, the results have easily exceeded expectations. Self-service helps increase the average total receipt, increases repeat business, gets orders correctly every time, improves point-of-purchase merchandising and increases productivity.

    PAR has provided integrated solutions to the restaurant, movie theatre, cruise line and recreation industries for over 25 years. Its POS management technology integrates both software applications and PAR's Pentium-based hardware platform. This hospitality management system can host fixed, as well as wireless, order-entry terminals, may include video monitors and/or third-party-supplied peripherals networked via an Ethernet local area network (LAN) and is accessible to enterprise-wide network configurations. PAR also provides extensive systems integration and professional service capabilities to design, tailor and implement solutions that enable its customers to manage, from a central location, all aspects of data collection and processing for single or multiple site enterprises.

    As a subsidiary of Kinetics, Inc., Quick Kiosk will be able to utilize the expertise of the company that pioneered the modern airline self-service era. Kinetics now provides self-service technologies to 10 major North American airlines that offer self-service check-in services to their passengers, representing more than two-thirds of the total market.

    Quick Kiosk has already introduced its self-ordering kiosks at approximately 50 McDonald's franchises in 15 metropolitan areas of the United States. The terminals allow McDonald's customers to self-service order at freestanding or countertop kiosks, using either credit card, debit card or cash for payment. They also allow for quick and easy ordering, with a suite of multi-media capabilities, including audio and animations. Customers can easily modify their orders to suit their personal preferences.

    Although Quick Kiosk's current sales have been directed primarily at McDonald's franchises, the new strategic partnership agreement will open a vast new array of potential customers that could benefit from self-service technology.

    ABOUT PAR TECHNOLOGY

    PAR Technology Corporation is a leading provider of professional services and enterprise business intelligence software. PAR develops, markets and supports hardware and software products that improve the ability of business professionals to make timely, fact-based business decisions. PAR has been a leader in providing computer-based system design and engineering services to the Department of Defense and Federal Government Agencies. The Company is the world's largest supplier of Point-of-Sale systems to the quick service restaurant market with over 35,000 systems installed in over 95 countries. PAR Technology Corporation's stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol PTC. More information can be found on the Company's website at www.partech.com.

    ABOUT QUICK KIOSK

    Framingham, Mass.-based Quick Kiosk, A Kinetics Company LLC, is a leading provider of innovative self-service solutions to the Quick Service Restaurant industry, using the time-tested hardware and innovative enterprise and e-commerce technology developed both by Quick Kiosk and Kinetics to create a state-of-the-art turnkey solution for any restaurant that wants to take advantage of the myriad benefits of self service. For more information, visit www.quickkiosk.com or www.kineticsusa.com.

    SOURCE: Quick Kiosk, A Kinetics Company LLC

    Quick Kiosk, a Kinetics Company LLC
    Jim Brown, 407-333-4100, Ext. 142
    or
    PAR Technology Corp.
    Chris Byrnes, 315-738-0600

    Posted by Craig at 02:44 PM

    October 25, 2003

    Home Depot tries to cut waiting times

    Home Depot is taking steps to streamline the checkout process at its stores.

    Story Link

    Home Depot tries to cut waiting times

    By TONY WILBERT
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Local contractor Tony McAllister likes shopping at Home Depot, but he says the checkout process can be frustrating.

    Sometimes lines are too long because cashiers are scarce, says McAllister, who shops various Home Depots several times a week. At other times, it's hard to maneuver carts of bulky building materials through the checkout lanes.

    So it pleases him that Home Depot is taking steps to streamline the checkout process at its stores.

    "That would be a great idea," McAllister said, "especially when you have a big old stack of lumber and three or four carts."

    The Atlanta-based company kicked off its program to improve "front-end," or checkout, efficiency late last year, when it began installing self-serve checkout stations. Self-serve checkout is now available at about 750 Home Depot locations, including 22 in metro Atlanta.

    The next steps to shave seconds off of customer wait times include installing cordless scan guns and touch-screen registers. The scan guns are used to read price codes attached to items and can be used for customers standing in line, while the touch screens are aimed at speeding up cashiers' work.

    Committing time and money to reduce long checkout lines is important as Home Depot strives to improve customer service and fend off archrival Lowe's, retail analysts said.

    The money Home Depot spends on the technological upgrades will pay off if it leads to better service, said Michael Baker, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities.

    "It's an important initiative," Baker said. "The key is to improve customer satisfaction. If it does reduce customer checkout time and increase accuracy, yes, it would improve customer satisfaction."

    Service complaints

    Complaints about customer service have dogged Home Depot, especially since it increased the percentage of part-time workers more than a year ago. The company has since returned to using more full-time workers, who tend to be more knowledgable about home improvement issues than their part-time counterparts.

    Moreover, Lowe's has stressed customer satisfaction and has been helped by the perception that its service is better than Home Depot's.

    While Home Depot doesn't agree with that perception, it continues to find ways to improve its customer service. The company's latest front-end changes will work in conjunction with self-checkout lanes to reduce waiting times, said Troy Rice, senior vice president of operations.

    "This is just a rollout of all these components into an integrated strategy for us," Rice said. "This isn't about a new [point-of-sale] system or about self-checkout. It's about a combination of things working together to really transform the front end of our stores."

    Home Depot refused to say how much it is spending on self-checkout stations, cordless scanners and touch-screen registers. But Rice said the expenses are part of $360 million the company will spend on information technology this year.

    The new initiatives will further separate Home Depot from Lowe's. North Carolina-based Lowe's does not have self-checkout, touch-screen registers or cordless scan guns, spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said. The company is evaluating whether to eventually install self-checkout stations, she said.

    "We're still investigating technology options for our customers," Ahearn said.

    The cordless scanners that Home Depot plans to install in all its stores by next spring will incorporate two-way communication that will allow cashiers to ring up merchandise for customers waiting in line.

    The scan guns will display items that are rung up and send the information to the cash register. Cashiers then will return to the register, hit a "complete" button, collect payment and send the customer on his way.

    Other large retailers use one-way cordless scanners that send information to the register but do not display what has been rung up on the scanner itself. Rice calls them "dumb guns."

    Just touch the screen

    The new touch-screen registers will save time because they will virtually eliminate the need for price-list books currently used at Home Depot. Cashiers will find prices by touching electronic icons on the register's screen.

    "Instead of having the big black cashier look-up book they have on the register today, which takes an average of 23 seconds to look up one item, cashiers can find items right there on the register," Rice explained. "It's going to help cut down on wait time, absolutely."

    Instead of having to physically amend the price books, Home Depot will be able to change prices and add items electronically across the company on a monthly basis, Rice said.

    As for self-checkout stations, Home Depot plans to have them in 800 stores by year end.

    At stores with self-checkout, customers should see shorter lines and a reduction in waiting times of as much as 30 percent, the company said.

    But the kinks still need to be worked out, contractor McAllister said.

    "I always have a hassle with self-checkout," he said. "It seems easier for me to go to a clerk. And at certain Home Depots, they never have enough clerks."

    Posted by Craig at 04:37 PM

    Nation's Retailers Are Staffing Up for Holidays

    With a larger hiring pool, job seekers should not expect the same bonuses and flexible scheduling retailers offered during the late 1990s, Challenger said. The lean staffing could lead to poorer customer service as stores rely on computerized kiosks to help shoppers instead of salespeople, Challenger said.

    Nation's Retailers Are Staffing Up for Holidays, but Cautiously

    By Janet Adamy, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

    Oct. 25--Retailers are hiring cautiously for the holiday season -- a sign they're wary of predictions that holiday sales will pick up after three disappointing years.

    Several large retailers say they plan to hire the same or slightly more workers as last year, widely considered one of the worst Christmas selling seasons in decades. Instead of bulking up now, they're planning to take advantage of an abundant labor pool that makes it easy to get workers if customer traffic picks up closer to Christmas.

    Stores typically boost their staffs by one-third during November and December to handle the influx of holiday shopping. That hiring fits into a bigger Christmas buying picture that experts use to predict the strength of the coming year's economy.

    The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will increase 5.7 percent this year to $217.4 billion -- the biggest jump since 1999.

    But retailers aren't staffing to handle a sales spike. Macy's West plans to hire about 22,200 workers to staff its 110 western division stores, which is about the same as last year, said Human Resource Director Helen Harris. Target Corp. plans to hire between 50 to 80 seasonal workers per store, flat with the past two years, spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear said. David M. Brian also plans to keep hiring even with last year by adding 100 workers to its 15 East Bay gift stores. Nordstrom plans to keep hiring flat, too.

    "You never know until the doors open in December," said David McCaulou, president of David M. Brian. "We're going cautious, and we're not concerned because there's a lot of availability of Christmas help on the market this year."

    In the late 1990s, the Bay Area technology boom left retailers scrambling to find seasonal help. But since the economy soured in 2001, holiday applications have soared, giving retailers the upper hand. After being lucky a few years ago to find a college student to staff their registers, retailers say they're getting applications from overqualified professionals looking to make ends meet.

    This may be one of the most competitive holiday job markets in years, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., which tracks the job market. He predicts stores will add only slight more than the 555,000 workers they took on last November and December. During the three years ending 1999, stores added 655,000 workers for Christmas selling.

    "There's a lot of competition out there," Challenger said. Since large retailers typically add stores each year, the hiring decrease is particularly significant.

    Like most retailers, David M. Brian started hiring seasonal workers earlier this month. Already it's received 50 applications, McCaulou said.

    Unemployment in Contra Costa County was 5.1 percent in September, slightly down from 5.4 percent during the same month last year. In September 1999, it was 2.8 percent.

    With a larger hiring pool, job seekers should not expect the same bonuses and flexible scheduling retailers offered during the late 1990s, Challenger said. The lean staffing could lead to poorer customer service as stores rely on computerized kiosks to help shoppers instead of salespeople, Challenger said.

    Some stores are upping their hiring by a notable amount. Gap Inc. plans to increase hiring by as much as 30 percent at its Banana Republic, Old Navy and namesake stores nationwide. That amounts to 25,000 new hires at its Gap stores, spokeswoman Jordan Benjamin said. Borders Group Inc. will increase hiring between 6 percent and 7 percent from last year because it's expanding its temporary holiday store business, spokeswoman Anne Roman said.

    Harris said Macy's stores can hire last-minute workers more quickly because they've shifted some hiring to the Internet.

    Although stores may hire through Thanksgiving, experts caution against waiting to apply.

    "The time to look for those jobs is now," said Ellen Tolley, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

    JOB HUNTING TIPS: Experts say this may be one of the most competitive holiday job markets in years. Some tips:

    -- Offer to start working now as an on-call fill-in for vacationing or sick staffers.

    -- Apply to stores that suit your skills. For example, if you're a golfer, look for a job at a sports store.

    -- Look beyond the sales floor. Stores also hire for back-office positions, including shipping, receiving, warehousing, accounting, information technology and security.

    -- Promote computer skills: Some stores are changing from traditional registers to computer-based systems.

    -- Dress up for your interview. If you own a suit, wear it. It will make you stand out among all the applicants who come to interview in tattered jeans and T-shirts.

    SOURCE: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

    -----

    To see more of the Contra Costa Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bayarea.com

    Posted by Craig at 04:32 PM

    Best Buy and Digital Cable In-store Qualification

    The new tool will be available starting Sunday, October 26th at more than 400 Best Buy retail locations.

    MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 24, 2003--

    New In-Store Activation Tool Offers One of the Largest Selections
    of Digital Cable Options Available at Any National Retailer

    Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) today announced that through its new in-store Digital Cable Activation Tool, customers now have access to one of the largest footprints of Digital Cable providers available at any national retailer. The new tool provides an automated way for Best Buy Product Specialists to qualify customers for Digital Cable and High-Definition TV services, provides a list of available plans for the customer to compare and choose, and the ability to purchase digital cable and high-definition services quickly and easily. The new tool will be available starting Sunday, October 26th at more than 400 Best Buy retail locations.

    Expanded Selection at Competitive Prices

    Best Buy will offer one of the largest footprints of top-tier digital cable providers from across the country. Customers will now have easy access to seven of the top 10 cable providers including: Adelphia, CableVision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Insight, and Time-Warner.

    The expanded digital cable offerings available through Best Buy build on the company's experience and success in marketing connectivity products and services through the retail channel.

    "Our goal with digital cable service has always been to make it easy to understand, simple to compare, and fun to purchase so consumers can make informed decisions about which service is best for them," said Dave Sprosty, vice president of Subscription Services for Best Buy. "Now by expanding the choices available to customers, we're helping to ensure that they will find a service that fits their lifestyle needs both by feature and price."

    Added Chris Caffrey, Vice President of Retail Sales for Comcast, "We're pleased to expand our relationship with Best Buy, who has proven to be a leader in the high-speed Internet and digital cable space by providing industry-leading solutions for consumers, including a best-in-class customer experience. This gives us an opportunity to reach even more customers and provide them with information about the tremendous value and breadth of communications and entertainment services Comcast offers."

    Simple to Qualify, Compare and Buy

    In addition to offering consumers the best digital cable options at competitive prices, Best Buy's new Activation Tool also makes selecting any additional features, such as premium channel packages, High Definition, or High Speed Internet, simple and straightforward. In a matter of minutes, customers can enter their address, qualify for service, select a plan, select additional services (like HD or premium channels), bundle broadband, and finalize their order. Upon submitting their order, the customer receives a confirmation page, which provides instructions on how to complete their installation.

    Leading the Industry

    The kiosk interface was developed in partnership with GetConnected, Inc., the leader in online service qualification and activation solutions, who also developed Best Buy's Broadband Activation Station, and CableLabs(R), the non-profit research and development consortium for the cable industry, which provides the Go2Broadband(SM) cable service locator.

    Posted by Craig at 04:29 PM

    South Africa and Kiosk Market

    The South African kiosk market has its own unique challenges that are a direct result of the diversity of the demographics of the region

    Story Link

    South African Kiosk market

    allAfrica.com: Southern Africa: Tecor Group Identifies Self-Service Technology As Key Growth Area in Southern Africa

    The South African kiosk market has its own unique challenges that are a direct result of the diversity of the demographics of the region, in terms of literacy levels, low technology adoption rates, poor infrastructures, high HIV/AIDS statistics and crime rates.

    Furthermore, the culture of the largest part of our population makes the adoption rate of this technology slower than in First World countries.

    At the same time, the country faces steep political changes where government is under pressure to pay much needed attention to provide the majority of the population with the most basic services that include easier access to information. The empowerment of people through information and knowledge provides an excellent platform for Self-Service Terminal (SST) and kiosk solutions to government and service organisations.

    In addition, corporations are faced with steep competitive issues. The only place where bottom line improvements can be made is through leaner and meaner infrastructures, the more effective use of technology and an increased focus on customer service and retention.

    "All of these critical business and government issues can be addressed through the clever implementation and use of SST's and kiosk application solutions," says Nico Oosthuisen, CEO of Tecor Group (Pty) Ltd.

    The kiosk industry is an emerging one, with a mix of established companies and other players seeking to stake their claim within the market. The kiosk market continues to grow rapidly and according to the Summit Research Associates' 2002 edition of its flagship report "Kiosk" and "Internet Technology"; the number of kiosks deployed worldwide is expected to increase by 75.6% by 2005. Self-service technology and the Internet will trigger much of this growth.

    Why deploy kiosks, you may ask? The answer is not always easy, because there is no universal answer. Some kiosks generate revenue, while others save money by replacing human resources. Others serve as shopping portals in retail stores, while a growing number of kiosks simply provide information.

    In addition, kiosks can be expensive to build and maintain, so naturally many are created with the goal of bringing in revenue. Key to the deployment of any kiosk project is to prove some sort of return on investment, whether it is in cash, customer goodwill or cost savings.

    Accounting for an investment return on kiosks that don't generate revenue is a tricky issue. When deploying kiosks, one must make judgements on the value of the kiosk project based on intangibles. While the cost of the kiosk is measured in rands, the value of a satisfied customer can be priceless. An information kiosk, for example, offers a variety of services that do not generate revenue, but rather produce an enormous amount of customer goodwill.

    Some of the more successful kiosk projects are those that enable users to do something they could not do otherwise.

    Being at the forefront, Tecor is able to provide the following types of kiosk solutions:

    * Internet kiosks usually are strictly pay-for-use machines offering access to the Web, though some deployments offer free Internet services and generate revenue through advertising income.

    * Informational kiosks are those that dispense information and are considered to part of the soft benefit category. These might be used for trade show information, surveys, data collection, etc.

    * Architectural kiosks can be any of the above. These are normally custom designed kiosks specifically made to enhance their surroundings while performing whatever tasks they are given.

    "Implementation of any SST project requires knowledge and skills on a network environment - Tecor boasts good design and implementation skills across a variety of network products. Our excellent supplier and partner relationships give us accessibility to competitive price and solution offerings. Tecor chooses and customises the solution that best fits the customer's architecture and infrastructure," states Oosthuizen.

    "In addition, the biggest contributor to a successful SST solution is a software application that delivers the message and functionality that a company wants to offer its clients."

    Kiosk solution providers face a significant challenge from the moment the kiosk idea is born. The most important consideration throughout the entire process is the mindset of the ultimate user. The kiosk must make life easier for the user in some way, by solving a problem, automating a process or delivering a desired service. Electronic kiosks are therefore often the vehicles for moving client-customer relationships to a higher level. Any effort to reach out to customers, provided it is not too intrusive or time-consuming, can empower customers and make them feel more involved in the process.

    Posted by Craig at 04:23 PM

    October 24, 2003

    A Better Website

    Retailers should focus on the basics of site functionality, Jupiter says

    story link

    Retailers should focus on the basics of site functionality, Jupiter says

    Many retailers overlook the basics of providing good site search and navigation as a way of keeping customers interested in their sites and coming back for more, Jupiter Research analyst Matthew Berk, who specializes in web site performance, says. He adds that retailers often over-invest in personalization technology as a way of wooing customers with customized web pages. "The best investments are usually the low-hanging fruit of site search and navigation," he says. "Focusing on the basics, in particular elements that let site visitors accomplish tasks, is a great use of time, money and labor."

    In its recent report, "Beyond the Personalization Myth: Cost-effective Alternatives to Influence Intent," Jupiter says that it`s more effective for e-retailers to help customers figure out their own customization. "Focus on flexible navigation and improved search to help visitors become their own personalization engines," Jupiter says.

    It notes, however, that few companies have addresed the slack in their conversion rates or customer satisfaction ratings by leveraging simple tactics like improved site usability. "Other more basic tactics, including clarifying navigation and optimizing site performance, are very high on the list of site attributes known to drive profitable behavior," Jupiter says. "Notwithstanding concerns about price and shipping-and-handling costs, the number-one factor for consumers considering where to purchase a product online is ease of finding products."

    Jupiter notes that relevant offers targeted to specific keyword searches can reach sales conversions of 20% or more. Jupiter cites one retailer that has found this approach so critical to its revenue growth that its merchandisers add a human touch to algorithm-determined search results by actively maintaining over 700 keyword campaigns on its site.

    Posted by Craig at 06:54 PM

    $20 Bill and Self-Checkouts

    The new $20 bill is having trouble at some checkouts, doing fine at others.

    story link>

    New $20 bills bringing change(s)
    Some machines still lack software update to process currency

    By Heather Draper, Rocky Mountain News
    October 24, 2003

    The new $20 bills have several features to thwart counterfeiters; unfortunately those features are also vexing King Soopers' automated check-out counters and some other vending machines that read currencies.

    The problem: The machines don't have the computer software update needed to read the new currency, said Dave Savage, King Soopers vice president of operations.


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    "At this point, we don't have them converted at our stores," Savage said. "It will probably take about 30 days to get them all switched over."

    King Soopers has put signs up at the automated check-outs, asking customers to bring the new bills to an attendant to be exchanged for old ones, which the machine can read.

    The Isle of Capri Casino in Black Hawk said that more than 80 percent of its slot machines have been upgraded for the new bills.

    "We will be 100 percent in the very near future," said Robert Greyer, director of casino operations. "Because of all the new (bill) series released recently, we have it down to a science - this transition was pretty smooth."

    Ticket machines in the Bay Area Rapid Transit district in San Francisco couldn't recognize the bills at first, but the agency has since installed new machines that can read them.

    Denver's Regional Transportation District, however, has weathered the change well, said spokesman Scott Reed. "Our fare boxes are OK, and we're putting a software fix on our light-rail lines," he said.

    The new multicolored bill, released Oct. 9 by the Federal Reserve, features a watermark that can seen from both sides of the bill when held up to the light, a plastic security thread that reads "USA TWENTY," and color-shifting ink, so the "20" in the lower-right corner of the face of the bill changes from copper to green when tilted.

    Any problems with the new bill come despite the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's best efforts.

    The bureau began "the new $20" education campaign more than a year ago, first working with the manufacturers of currency-accepting machines, said BEP spokeswoman Dawn Haley.

    "We actually learned from the 1996 and 1998 mistakes . . . we didn't reach out enough to transit authorities and others," Haley said.

    This time, the bureau sent out "thousands of e-mails" to gaming industries, transit authorities and others "to let them know the new $20 is coming out, so get ready for it," she said.

    The BEP has called the new $20 "the most secure U.S. currency ever," needed because digital technology has made counterfeiting easier and cheaper. In 1995, less than 1 percent of counterfeit notes detected in the United States were digitally produced. By 2002, that number had grown to nearly 40 percent, according to the U.S. Secret Service.

    New designs for the $50 and $100 notes are scheduled for introduction in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

    draperh@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5456






    Note: KIS provides currency acceptors which handle the new $20 bill.

    If you are interested please contact
    info at gokis.net

    Airline Turnstile Check-In

    Talk of new turnstile check-in.

    TheSunLink.com

    At least one carrier will have subway-like turnstiles at gates, giving passengers the power to board themselves, according to Kinetics Inc., a Lake Mary, Fla.-based provider of airport technology whose clients include Continental Airlines, Delta and Northwest.

    read article for rest

    Posted by Craig at 02:36 PM

    Parking Kiosks

    Cherry Creek parking kiosks delayed


    Denver Post article on Parking Kiosks

    Cherry Creek parking kiosks delayed
    Machines fail final tests; shoppers to be given free parking through Christmas

    By Karen E. Crummy
    Denver Post Staff Writer
    Cherry Creek shoppers are getting an early Christmas gift.

    Parking kiosks that were supposed to be installed this month - and last month and the month before - failed their final operational test.

    That means shoppers can continue parking for free through the Christmas season.

    But while store patrons are celebrating the holiday windfall, the city of Denver is left holding a lump of coal.

    City officials asked the company from which they're leasing the kiosks, Denver Capital Leasing Corp., to terminate the contract with TCS, the supplier of the kiosks.

    Now officials are back to square one, facing the distinct possibility that they have to start the entire process again.

    "We're working with all the relevant parties to see what alternatives there are," said Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, spokeswoman for Mayor John Hickenlooper. "We have a lot of decisions to make."

    The city has not yet paid for the machines.

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    The kiosks were supposed to be in place Aug. 1 under terms of the contract. But the machines continued to fail operational tests, with the final one last Friday.

    Getting the kiosks into place by early next year, however, is critical for the city, said assistant city attorney David Broadwell.

    Two hundred parking spots in a Cherry Creek lot, costing $4.7 million, are under the same financing agreement as the kiosks.

    The parking spaces will be offered on a monthly basis to employees of Cherry Creek North merchants.

    The 77 kiosks are supposed to generate enough money to cover the lease-purchase payments of the spaces in the lot. The payments start Nov. 4, 2004, and continue for 15 years.

    "It is incumbent, economically, that we generate (kiosk) revenue as soon as possible," Broadwell said.

    Although the pay-to-park stations are intended to create more turnover in the shopping district, there was concern that installing them in late October before the holiday shopping season might hurt retailers.

    As a result, the Cherry Creek North Improvement District, which has been working with the city on the parking issue, was not upset by the delay.

    "I think from our perspective, we're glad they aren't going in at this time of year. The timing wasn't what it was originally planned to be," said marketing director Christina Brickley.

    Posted by Craig at 02:33 PM

    Customer Self-Service

    According to IHL Consulting Group's study, "Self-Service Kiosks in North America," the North American market will spend more than $155 billion at self-service kiosks in 2003.

    KNO - KioskNews.Org: Here comes the sun.

    Helius and Partners to Demonstrate Self-Service Kiosk Infrastructure; Together Companies will Deliver End-to-End Kiosk Solutions for Billion Dollar Industry

    Helius Inc., the worldwide leader in business-class data broadcasting solutions, announced today a series of self-service kiosk infrastructure technology to be demonstrated at the FS/TEC industry tradeshow in Long Beach, Calif., Oct. 26-29, 2003. Working with key partners Vultron Technologies, Broadcast International and Microspace Communications, Helius will demonstrate the ability to manage and report real-time activities at self-service kiosks.

    According to IHL Consulting Group's study, "Self-Service Kiosks in North America," the North American market will spend more than $155 billion at self-service kiosks in 2003. This number is predicted to grow to more than $900 billion by 2007, according to the same study.

    "Self-Service technologies are pervading all aspects of our lives in North America today," said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Consulting Group. "Self-checkout systems at the supermarket, ticketing kiosks for transportation and entertainment, and new self-service technologies being introduced into fast food/quick service are rapidly growing in acceptance. The growth rate is dramatically accelerating in the retail, transportation and government sectors as a way to lower transaction costs."

    "To maximize the value and service delivery of a self-service kiosk, an organization needs to have reliable full-time connectivity and the ability to update and control the content offered in real time," said Mike Tippets, Sr. VP of marketing at Helius. "Using the end-to-end solution offered by Helius and our partners, an organization will deploy a network of self-service kiosks rapidly and keep the content as fresh as necessary to maximize customer satisfaction."

    Customers interested in this technology can visit the Helius booth at FS/TEC, or visit the Helius Web site at www.helius.com/kiosks for more information.

    About Helius Inc.

    Helius is a privately held company based in Lindon, Utah. For more information, please visit http://www.helius.com or call 801-764-9020.

    NOTE: Helius is a trademark of Helius Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein may be trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

    Contacts


    Helius Inc., Lindon
    Richard Jackman, 801-764-9020
    richard@helius.com






    Note: KIS is the world leader in the self-servicetechnology market.

    If you are interested please contact
    info at gokis.net

    Posted by Craig at 02:26 PM

    Europe Grows WiFi Faster Than North America

    Worldwide WiFi revenues are expected to grow from $7 billion in 2003 to over $44 billion by 2008

    KNO - KioskNews.Org: Wi-fi growth

    Europe Grows WiFi Faster Than North America, Says Insight Research

    BOONTON, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 23, 2003--Established wireline and wireless network providers will be among the big beneficiaries of the $163 billion to be spent worldwide over the next five years on WiFi services and equipment, according to a new market research study from Insight Research Corporation. WiFi is a technology that combines Ethernet and wireless communications, making it possible for computers and other electronic gear to send and receive high-speed data in a local area network without a wired connection.
    Insight Research's analysis of the WiFi industry, WiFi in North America and Europe: Telecommunications' Future 2003-2008, suggests that wireless LAN technology--increasingly popping up in public spaces such as airports and cafes, in private residences, and in businesses--will grow faster in Europe than North America. Worldwide WiFi revenues are expected to grow from $7 billion in 2003 to over $44 billion by 2008, at a compounded annual rate of 44 percent.

    "Some analysts believe that broadband access is driving the adoption of WiFi, while others contend that WiFi is driving broadband," says Robert Rosenberg, Insight Research President. "Our analysis suggests that they drive each other in a complementary way--creating greater demand for broadband services across the board. We expect growth of European WiFi services to surpass North American service revenue well before the end of our forecast period," Rosenberg explains.

    WiFi in North American and Europe: Telecommunications' Future 2003-2008 examines the factors driving adoption of WiFi, equipment revenues, and service-related revenues. This industry research report forecasts revenues for North America and Europe by core network equipment, antennas, end-user devices, wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), traditional ISPs, fixed operators, and mobile operators. The growth of worldwide WiFi hotspots locations is also projected over the 5-year forecast period.

    An excerpt of this WiFi market research report, table of contents, and ordering information are online at http://www.insight-corp.com/reports/wifi.asp. This 134-page report is available immediately for $3,995 (hard copy). Electronic reports can be ordered online; visit our Web site, or call 973/541-9600 for details.





    Note: KIS is a leader in providing Hotspot technology.

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    info at gokis.net

    Posted by Craig at 02:23 PM

    Wi Fi and ROI

    At first glance, it might not make sense for profit-making businesses to give away, rather than charge for, wireless Internet access.

    KNO - KioskNews.Org: Free Wi-fi ROI

    At first glance, it might not make sense for profit-making businesses to give away, rather than charge for, wireless Internet access. But a growing number of hotels and restaurants have found that it pays to offer free Wi-Fi Internet access. This perk attracts customers and provides a real bottom-line payback for a relatively small capital investment, according to free-Wi-Fi pioneers.

    Cities and community development organizations across the country have embraced free Wi-Fi to boost economic development and attract visitors to downtown areas. A handful of small airports in the shadow of large hubs offer free Wi-Fi to attract travelers. And Verizon Communications Inc. in New York offers Wi-Fi free of charge to its Internet service subscribers to distinguish itself from its cable-modem rivals.

    Operators of free Wi-Fi hot spots are capitalizing on the boom market in Wi-Fi-enabled notebook and handheld computers. Gemma Paulo, an analyst at In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz., estimates that shipments of notebooks equipped with industry-standard 802.11b chips or cardswhich offer a raw data rate of 11Mbit/sec. at a range of 100 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoorswill hit 16 million this year.

    Free Wi-Fi is an alternative to paid services offered by companies such as Starbucks Corp., which, in partnership with T-Mobile USA, currently offers Wi-Fi service at rates ranging from $9.99 per day to $29.99 per month in 2,300 of its coffee shops.

    Lovina McMurchy, director of Starbucks Interactive, says the paid Wi-Fi service helps attract customers after peak morning hours. And those who use it tend to be "high-income customers" who "come more often and stay longer," she says. She declined to reveal the service's impact on the company's bottom line.

    John Wooley, chairman, CEO and president of restaurant chain Schlotzsky's Inc. in Austin, isn't so shy in sharing details of what he calls the "strong ROI" from the company's free Wi-Fi service. Schlotzsky's currently offers free Wi-Fi in 30 of its 600 company-owned or franchised Schlotzsky's Delis. Wooley says he figures that the free Wi-Fi results in an additional 15,000 visits per restaurant per year by customers who spend an average of $7 per visit.

    That means Wi-Fi service brings in more than $100,000 per year per outlet in return for an investment of about $8,000 per restaurant for wireless infrastructure, Wooley says. The largest continuing cost is backhaul to the Internet over 1.54Mbit/sec. T1 circuits, Wooley says. Since the cost of a T1 circuit varies from $300 to $700, depending on what part of the country you're in, he says Schlotzsky's would average those costs to induce existing franchisees to offer the service. (New franchisees will be required to offer free Wi-Fi, Wooley notes.)

    Guerrilla Marketing

    Wooley also uses the free Wi-Fi service as a high-tech marketing tool. When wireless users first connect to the Schlotzsky's Wi-Fi network, they're shunted to an in-house "splash" Web page that the chain uses to promote itself and its bill of fare.

    Schlotzsky's has even bought high-gain Wi-Fi antennas that transmit the splash page as far outside its restaurants as possible, Wooley says. One Austin outlet beams its signal into dorm rooms at the University of Texas, and another beams it into a competing Starbucks. This high-tech guerrilla marketing campaign to grab the eyeballs of potential customers is less expensive and potentially more targeted than buying a 30-second TV commercial, Wooley says.

    Panera Bread Co., based in Richmond Heights, Mo., has also embraced free Wi-Fi as a marketing tool and plans to offer the service in 130 of its 600 bakery cafes by year's end, eventually extending the service chainwide. Ron Shaich, the company's chairman and CEO, says he views free Wi-Fi as an amenity that has already started to attract and retain customers at what he calls a "minimal cost."

    In fact, Shaich considers free Wi-Fi to be such an essential marketing tool that he dismisses any discussion of ROI. "What is the ROI on a bathroom?" asked Shaich, pointing out that the day of pay restrooms in restaurants has long since passed.

    Keith Pierce, president and CEO of Parsippany, N.J.-based Wingate Inns International Inc. says he has enlisted free Wi-Fi as his newest weapon in a technology arms race to attract budget-minded business travelers. Pierce says Wingate, a division of travel conglomerate Cendant Corp., started offering free wired Internet access four years ago as part of an all-inclusive room rate that also included free local phone calls and free use of on-premises business centers.

    Now that competitors have started to offer free wired Internet service, Pierce has raised the ante by rolling out free Wi-Fi throughout the chain, with all 100-plus properties expected to offer the service by the start of next year.

    Pierce says he didn't even consider paid Wi-Fi service, saying his research shows that going the paid route isn't worth the effort. Under the paid model, Pierce calculated that a typical property would have roughly two paid Wi-Fi users a day. After splitting the revenue with a Wi-Fi operator, Pierce says this would return only about $7.50 a day to the franchisee.

    Wingate has outsourced deployment and operation of its free Wi-Fi service to LodgeNet Entertainment Corp. in Sioux Falls, S.D., the company that also provides Wingate with in-room pay movies and video games.

    Easier and Cheaper Than Ethernet

    Apple Core Hotels Inc., a New York-based operator of six budget hotels in mid-Manhattan that cater to business travelers, knew it needed to offer free Internet access for competitive reasons, says Vijay Dandapani, the company's chief operating officer. Dandapani says Apple Core chose Wi-Fi instead of Ethernet because it was far easier and cheaper to install in the company's hotels, which are rehabilitated buildings that are all at least 100 years old.

    Installing Ethernet connections would have required drilling into walls and "making a mess" of wallpaper and carpet, Dandapani says. Installation of the Wi-Fi service went quickly, he adds, taking about six weeks per property.

    Installation was a learning process, Dandapani says. Buildings with high ceilings, which allow for better propagation of the Wi-Fi signal, required only two access points per floor. Buildings with lower ceilingsand worse signal propagationrequired four access points per floor.

    Beachfront Hawaii might be the last place you'd expect to find a Wi-Fi hot spot, but Waimea Plantation Cottages on the island of Kauai operates what's probably the westernmost Wi-Fi service the U.S., free or paid. It's five miles from the end of a dead-end road on Kauai's western shore.

    Liz Hahn, a spokeswoman for Kikiaoloa Land Co. in Waimea, Hawaii, which operates the cottages, says the company decided to offer free Wi-Fi as a perk to guests to enhance their vacation experience. "People can get up in the morning, check their e-mail and then spend the rest of day relaxing," Hahn says.

    Customer service and satisfaction at a relatively low capital cost means that free Wi-Fi will continue to proliferate at the expense of the paid model, according to Schlotzsky's Wooley. "I think pay Wi-Fi is going to go away," he says. Panera's Shaich agrees, saying hotel and restaurant customers will eventually come to expect free Wi-Fi access.

    Dan Lowden, the vice president of marketing at Wayport Inc., a Wi-Fi network company that offers paid service at 545 hotels and 12 airports, at rates that range from $6.95 for a single connection to $29.95 a month, contends that the paid and free models will coexist.

    Paid networks offer higher-quality service with better hardware and carrier-grade networks, Lowden says. He adds that Wayport offers its paid service in locations untouched by free Wi-Fi providers, such as major airports. Maybe not for long, though. Wooley says he has his eye on offering free Wi-Fi in airports.

    Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass., predicts that free and paid Wi-Fi will coexist for the next five to 10 years. But he says the paid model will eventually prevail, as cellular carriers add Wi-Fi service to their portfolios and dominate the market.

    Posted by Craig at 02:20 PM

    October 23, 2003

    More McDonalds Tests

    You could already get airline tickets, cash and groceries from a machine instead of a counter clerk. Now you can get a Big Mac.

    Story

    McDonald's Test Self-Service Kiosks at Raleigh, N.C.-Area Sites

    By Mark Minton, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

    Oct. 23--You could already get airline tickets, cash and groceries from a machine instead of a counter clerk.

    Now you can get a Big Mac.

    McDonald's is testing kiosks that allow customers to place orders by touching food and drink icons on a computer screen instead of telling a clerk at the register what they want. A recorded voice from the machine prompts them as they make their choices.

    After ordering, customers pay at the kiosk instead of the register. They put a $1, $5, $10 or $20 bill into the machine. It prints a receipt that the customer takes to a designated register to get change and pick up the order.

    McDonald's has installed the kiosks at six Triangle restaurants as part of a national test of automated ordering, said Darnell Crews, McDonald's field-operations manager for Eastern North Carolina.

    The machines resemble the ones now common in grocery and airline-ticket lines. While banks and gas stations have long offered their own version of self-checkout -- automated teller machines and pay at the pump -- retailers of other descriptions are eyeing automation for its potential to cut labor costs while delivering speed and convenience for customers.

    Home Depot has put self-checkout machines in stores, including a couple in the Triangle. Taking a different approach to automation in the checkout line, Home Depot said Wednesday it is introducing cordless scanners to allow cashiers to move down a line of customers and ring up purchases while they wait.

    McDonald's is using its touch-screen kiosks near the register counters and in the play areas of selected restaurants in Cary, Durham and Apex, Crews said.

    With a machine in the play area, a mother hauling a vanload of children can disembark, punch in an order on the machine and never get tangled in a checkout line, he said.

    McDonald's theory in testing the machines is not only that they will prove more convenient, but that some people would rather deal with them than with a clerk, Crews said.

    Not Mike Michel.

    "I use it when somebody's standing in the line over there," the 41-year-old computer engineer from Apex said as he tapped the screen of a machine Wednesday at the McDonald's on U.S. 64 in Apex.

    Michel said the machine is "actually slower" than telling the order to a clerk.

    "And it sort of bothers me, because I know people are going to be out of work now," he said, punching in an order for a two-cheeseburger value meal.

    Crews said clerks displaced by the machines are reassigned to other duties. And if the devices are no faster than a person, they can reduce the human-to-human miscommunication that all too often turns two cheeseburgers into a double cheeseburger.

    It's no small point for McDonald's, which lags its competition in speed and accuracy of handling orders, industry and internal surveys show.

    But the company reported resurgent U.S. sales Wednesday due in part to the success of entree-sized salads and McGriddles breakfast sandwiches. Third-quarter profit rose 12 percent to $547.4 million on sales of $4.5 billion, the company reported.

    The Triangle is one of two markets where the chain is testing the kiosks. The other is Denver, where the machines take debit cards and give change, Crews said.

    "Kids take to this stuff like a duck to water," said Claire Watkins of Raleigh, while her sons Daniel, 13, and Michael, 10, punched in their orders.

    All three said they liked using it, though technology doesn't cure everything.

    "Michael, what did you order?" Claire Watkins asked her 10-year-old, as she checked the completed order printed on the screen.

    It was the 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, prompting one last order from Watkins: "Hit 'Delete'!"

    -----

    To see more of The News & Observer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsobserver.com.





    Note: KIS has qualified products for the POS market.

    If you are interested please contact
    info at gokis.net

    Posted by Craig at 09:27 PM

    October 22, 2003

    Homeland Security and Technology

    Homeland official outlines opportunities for tech firms

    From Goverment Executive Magazine

    Homeland official outlines opportunities for tech firms

    By Mathew Honan for National Journal's Technology Daily

    MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- A top official in the Homeland Security Department's research agency on Thursday outlined new funding opportunities in government for technology firms.

    Speaking at Veritas Software here during a conference sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), Jane Alexander, deputy director of Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), described her agency's structure and mission, and stressed the need to "stitch together" tech systems across the department's 22 agencies.

    She said HSARPA will ascertain departmental technology needs based on several issues that are the responsibility of multiple agencies. Those issues include cyber, biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear security.

    The research agency also must meet several "customer specific" concerns within the department, such as: protecting critical infrastructure, borders and transportation systems; and aiding the Coast Guard, Secret Service, and state and local "first responders" to emergencies. The heads of those functions must assess their needs and report back to department officials.

    HSARPA's main role is to rapidly prototype and adapt existing technologies for short-term solutions, satisfy the operational needs of entities within Homeland Security and develop revolutionary technology options.

    Alexander said Homeland Security systems must be affordable, have solutions that match regional needs and include technology frameworks, and result in no false warnings about terrorism. "We cannot afford to believe we are under attack when we are not," she said in stressing the last point.

    Alexander said 90 percent to 95 percent of the department's fiscal 2004 budget for science and technology -- which has not yet been appropriated but should be in the range of $1 billion -- will go toward identifying needs. The rest will focus on developing breakthrough technologies.

    She also noted that said Homeland Security must have complete solutions suitable for civilian populations.

    Alexander said that a desire to protect Americans' privacy will be a key of new systems. "The technology choices we want to make are ones that make Americans more comfortable rather than contributing to a sense of unease," she said.

    The deputy director noted that federal contracting rules will be less stringently applied to HSARPA. "As long as you have generally acceptable accounting principles, then we can still do business," she told company officials. "Let's talk about the good ideas first, and then we will find a way to work together."

    At least 2.5 percent of contracts will be reserved for small businesses, she said. Homeland Security is developing a Web site to register products for purchase and is soliciting contracts via the Technical Support Working Group and HSARPA announcements.

    Finally, Alexander stressed that her department is still in flux and likened it to private-sector startups that must change as they grow. "We're going to consider ourselves an experiment for at least a full year," she said.





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    Posted by Craig at 03:03 PM

    Diebold Reports Results

    Diebold, Incorporated today reported record third quarter 2003 net income of $48,289,000, an increase of 9.5 percent over third quarter 2002 net income of $44,080,000.

    Excerpt...

    Despite a challenging global economic environment, total orders for product and service increased in the double-digit range. Financial self- service orders in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and EMEA all increased in the double-digit range. Security orders remain strong, increasing in the high single-digit range. Total orders in North America grew in the double-digit range, excluding election systems.

    Orders in election systems grew substantially from the third quarter 2002. The election systems business is driven by a small number of large orders in any given quarter, making quarter to quarter comparisons difficult. For example, election systems orders for the third quarter 2003 include a very large order from the state of Maryland.

    Significant orders for the quarter included:
    -- An election systems order from the State of Maryland for $55.6 million
    -- Total Opteva orders in excess of $40 million
    -- Opteva orders from four major financial institutions in North America
    totaling $23 million
    -- Two financial self-service orders from banks in China totaling $17.6
    million
    -- An order for financial self-service equipment from a bank in Brazil
    totaling $6.9 million
    -- A financial self-service order from a customer in Belgium for $1.7
    million
    -- An order for financial self-service equipment totaling $1.5 million in
    Portugal
    -- Upgrade orders for a customer in Colombia for $1.2 million
    -- A financial self-service order for $1.1 million from a bank in Russia

    Posted by Craig at 02:54 PM

    Photo kiosks Sales Up at Kodak

    The company had a litany of positive results to back up the point. Kodak reported a 117% increase in consumer digital camera sales, a 43% increase in online photofinishing sales, a 33% increase in inkjet paper sales, and a 14% increase in the sale of photo kiosks and related media.

    story link

    Kodak earnings beat street


    By Ben Rand
    Staff writer

    (October 22, 2003) Eastman Kodak Co. rode an improving economy and growth in consumer digital photography to produce better-than-expected financial results during the third quarter.

    Rochesters largest employer, a company in the throes of a major technological shift, made $122 million or 42 cents a share during July, August and September. Thats down from $334 million or $1.15 a share in the same period a year ago.

    But excluding a series of one-time charges, Kodak earned $252 million or 88 cents a share. Analysts had been expecting 57 cents a share.

    The earnings report comes as a restless group of large shareholders prepares to meet in New York to consider challenging Kodaks decision to hasten its transition from chemical to computerized imaging. The company cut its stock dividend in September to provide money to invest in businesses such as consumer digital photography, commercial and home printing, display screens for consumer electronics and others.

    Some investors fear that Kodaks strategy is high risk and are questioning whether it is the best use of shareholder resources.

    Kodak appeared to be talking directly to that group in its earnings release this morning.

    With success, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Carp said in a statement, will come higher sales, profits and investment returns for Kodak shareholders. I am committed -- along with a management team experienced in digital markets -- to generate as much value as possible from Kodaks assets, and we are convinced that the plan....represents the best way to achieve that goal.

    The company had a litany of positive results to back up the point. Kodak reported a 117% increase in consumer digital camera sales, a 43% increase in online photofinishing sales, a 33% increase in inkjet paper sales, and a 14% increase in the sale of photo kiosks and related media.

    In a sign of the changing times, results of the companys consumer photographic film business - its historic crown jewel - were not mentioned in the earnings news release.

    Yet Kodak today announced an investment designed to support the film business as it moves into what the company describes as a slow, but permanent decline. Kodak has said it will selectively invest in film opportunities.

    Kodak will spend about $100 million to purchase 20 percent of China Lucky Film Co., that countrys largest domestic maker of film.

    Under the agreement, Kodak will, over time, provide Lucky with technical support, equipment upgrades and training. Lucky will pay Kodak for the use of selected technologies, and will pay dividends on the shares Kodak owns. The agreement will run for 20 years.

    Posted by Craig at 02:38 PM

    Self-service DMV

    Lawmakers gave the agency $2 million to set up self-service kiosks in as many as 20 DMV offices.

    story link

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003
    Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

    EDITORIAL: Self-serve DMV


    One completely unsurprising consequence of Nevada's rapid growth is the lengthy wait residents experience at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they want to obtain driver's licenses or register their cars. For the most part, state lawmakers and administrators have dealt with delays by building more offices and hiring additional employees; in recent years, the DMV has established a useful Web site that allows motorists to complete many transactions online.

    But there are other ways to improve DMV service without adding to the ranks of the bureaucracy. This year's Legislature funded a technological experiment that offers much promise. Lawmakers gave the agency $2 million to set up self-service kiosks in as many as 20 DMV offices. When fully functional, these kiosks will allow motorists to renew driver's licenses, register vehicles and perform records searches within a matter of minutes ... without the necessity of dealing with a DMV employee.

    The first kiosk is being tested at the office on West Carey Avenue in Las Vegas, and despite a few remaining glitches, the kiosks are expected to offer seamless transactions at a fraction of the time it typically takes to deal with department workers. The machines accept cash and credit cards and will deliver registration documents and license stickers on the spot; it's no longer necessary to wait for paperwork to be mailed.

    Once the bugs are worked out, this experiment should be replicated at DMV offices throughout the state. It offers an opportunity to improve customer service without expanding the state payroll (and perhaps even reducing it) ... which will always be a good deal for Nevadans.

    Posted by Craig at 02:37 PM

    October 21, 2003

    Do It Yourself Catching On

    America is becoming a self-serve society, with consumers taking on tasks that used to be performed for them by businesses. I

    Kari Anderson is on the go. With two kids in elementary school and another in preschool, time is at a premium for the Eagan homemaker.

    So after she dashed into the Home Depot recently for a few packages of screws and hooks and whatnot, she headed straight for one of the store's new self-checkout stations.

    "It's very easy, and you usually don't have to stand in line," she said, scanning her items and swiping her credit card through the reader. "I have online banking, I do online groceries, I shop online. I do self-check-in at the airport.

    "It saves me time. It's all about time."

    America is becoming a self-serve society, with consumers taking on tasks that used to be performed for them by businesses. It started a generation ago with self-serve gas and automated teller (ATM) machines; now, growing numbers of Americans shop, bank and fly with little or no help from employees of the businesses they're patronizing.

    Phyllis Heinsohn uses NWA's self-service check-in
    Phyllis Heinsohn uses NWA's self-service check-in.
    Glen Stubbe
    Star Tribune

    Consider:

    Nearly 80 percent of Northwest Airlines' Twin Cities passengers check themselves in, either at self-serve airport kiosks or on the Internet.

    About 30 percent of U.S. supermarkets offer self-scanning of groceries, up from 6 percent in 1999, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

    ATM transactions have doubled since 1990 and now total more than 13 billion a year, according to the American Bankers Association.

    Fast-food giants McDonald's and Burger King are testing do-it-yourself kiosks that will allow customers to place and pay for their orders. Convenience and drug stores also are making plans to install self-scan checkout systems.

    U.S. consumers spent about $65 billion online in 2002, with the average Internet shopper racking up nearly $1,100 in purchases, according to consulting firm NFO Business Intelligence.

    Experts say the trend toward self-service figures only to get stronger.


    "I think that there are a lot of things that people don't mind doing themselves and even prefer doing themselves, and the technology is making it easier to accommodate that," said Bruce Temkin, research director at Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm that specializes in technology issues. "I definitely see self-service in all these areas continuing to blossom."

    Consumer control

    At the heart of the self-service boom is consumer control, said Howard Liszt, former CEO of the Minneapolis ad agency Campbell Mithun and now a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

    "As I go through my day, there are some services I choose to pay for and some I choose to do myself," Liszt said. "We're seeing these choices now show up in all kinds of venues we never saw them before. It's the convenience -- the speed with which you get the product and the flexibility it gives you to do it on your own time."

    That's exactly what makes Bill Wirsbinski choose self-service.

    "Airport check-in -- I do that," said the Eagan resident. "I haven't been inside a gas station in a long time. I'm not sure it's any faster, but I can control it."

    Northwest Airlines is the industry leader in self-service; the Eagan-based company aggressively has promoted its self-serve options, believing they give it an advantage in a fiercely competitive business.

    "The idea in Minneapolis is, we want our customers to breeze through the airport check-in process," said Robert Isom, Northwest's senior vice president for customer service. "We want them to get to security, get through as fast as they can and then get their seat with no hassle."

    Many Northwest fliers give high marks to self-service. Rebecca DuRose of Burnsville flies once or twice a month to visit her fianc in Alabama; she checks her own bags, gets her own boarding pass and selects her own seat.

    "I like it a lot," she said. "You walk up, check your bag, and you don't have to stand in line. I think a 5-year-old could do it."

    Cost to workers

    But consumer convenience may come at a cost to workers. Earlier this year, Northwest laid off about 500 customer-service agents -- and 182 of those layoffs were because of self-service devices, said Bobby DePace, District 143 president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents about 15,300 Northwest workers.

    "Northwest has made it clear that as it gets into these operations, they will cost jobs," DePace said. "It's no secret -- it's out there, point-blank."

    Other businesses say they don't expect to replace workers with machines. Atlanta-based Home Depot has installed self-service checkout stations in about 800 of its 1,600 stores nationwide, but company spokesman John Simley said the labor savings barely amount to one full-time employee per store.

    "We are taking those extra hours and putting them back onto the sales floor," he said. "The bottom line is, there's no head-count reduction."

    Cub Foods offers self-service checkouts in five of its 44 Twin Cities area stores, with nearly 25 percent of Cub shoppers using the service when it's available. But the Stillwater-based company said the devices aren't meant to replace workers.

    "Nobody has lost their job [to self-service], and that's never going to happen," said spokeswoman Nancy Fjerkenstad.

    As consumers become more accustomed to serving themselves, businesses will need to offer a growing array of self-service options. That means Internet marketing will become more important, said Scott Litman, president of Minneapolis-based Digital@jwt,a division of the New York advertising giant J. Walter Thompson Co.

    "What is it that made the ATM so successful?" Litman said. "Eventually, it became an easier mechanism for interacting with the bank than the teller. We look to do the same things online."

    Research on automobile company Web sites, for example, shows that they now are the leading influencer of consumer buying decisions right up until the test drive, said Litman, whose firm built Ford Motor Company's Web site.

    "You do a lot of the selection yourself," he said. "You start to do your research and create your own opinion. And if the test drive fulfills that, you become a very likely buyer."

    In other words, the consumer is in the driver's seat, in more ways than one. And for a growing number of Americans, that's just how they want it.

    "It's a technological age," said Mary Jo Aiken of Edina, a retired teacher who recently used Northwest's self-check-in for the first time. "If you don't learn these things, you're going to be standing still."

    John Reinan is at jreinan@startribune.com.

    Posted by Craig at 02:36 PM

    Lottery Comes To Circle K kiosks

    Circle K First to Give Customers Self-Serve Lottery Through In-Store Kiosks in California

    EMPE, Ariz.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 21, 2003--Circle K convenience stores (NYSE: COP) has launched a self-serve lottery feature on selected ZapLink Web-based kiosks in its California stores. This innovative offering was created for Circle K in conjunction with Info Touch Technologies (TSX Venture Exchange: IFT), GTECH Holdings Corp. (NYSE: GTK), and the California Lottery.

    Circle K is the first retailer in the country to offer customers the convenience of purchasing lottery tickets on a kiosk using a simple Internet Protocol solution. Placing the lottery function on ZapLink improves the gaming experience and eliminates the need for lottery customers to go through a cashier to purchase online tickets. Customers may still purchase lottery tickets from a cashier if they choose to do so. Circle K convenience store customers can now play their favorite online lottery games at nine ZapLink e-services kiosks at select stores in Modesto and Sacramento, Calif.

    "Playing lottery games on the ZapLink kiosk provides players with a fun, exciting playing alternative," said Scott Templeton, innovations group manager for Circle K. "The addition of the lottery sales capability creates a significant convenience for our many customers who are lottery players, while at the same time satisfying our desire to keep lines at the counter shorter, especially when sales increase during large jackpots."

    "We are pleased to team up with such an outstanding group of partners in what we believe is a natural fit and product offering for our convenience store network and their customers," said Hamed Shahbazi, chairman & CEO of Info Touch Technologies.

    "We believe the creation of the self-serve lottery application will expand both lottery and retail opportunities to customers in a way that captures and harnesses the power of emerging technologies," said James Breindel, retail product manager of GTECH.

    "In California, this has become an innovative alternative to standard lottery retailing and an example of the California Lottery's commitment to maximizing revenue for public education," said Tony Molica, California Lottery's chief executive officer.

    In addition to the opportunity to play the lottery on a self-serve basis, customers will be able to use the ZapLink kiosks to pay utility bills, and purchase pre-paid telecommunications services, such as long distance and cellular. The kiosks also allow customers to access news and information over the Internet, including a locator service for maps and driving directions; e-mail; online shopping; Internet surfing; access to entertainment and games; and the capability to download electronic media, such as music and software, to portable customer devices.

    For more information on ZapLink or to find a Circle K location nearby, logon to www.circlek.com or call Circle K's toll-free customer service number 877-CK-SERVICE or 877-257-3784.

    Posted by Craig at 02:31 PM

    European Award

    Frost & Sullivan has presented Wincor Nixdorf with award for leadership in European market.

    Story Link

    Frost & Sullivan has presented Wincor Nixdorf with the prestigious Market Leadership Award. Wincor Nixdorf is the clear leader of the European Multimedia Kiosk market not only in terms of units and revenues but also in terms of its reach and the depth of that reach.

    "Wincor Nixdorf to a large degree epitomises the future of the Kiosk market" reports Andrew Tanner-Smith, Senior Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "It is international in its outlook, it competes exclusively within the banking and retail verticals and it put much effort in the further development of kiosk topics on beefing up its consultancy and services offerings".

    Its biggest rivals lack the European focus of Wincor Nixdorf and have suffered in this region accordingly. Only a handful of other vendors are sophisticated enough to challenge Wincor Nixdorf internationally but none of them can match it for unit sales and revenues.

    Wincor Nixdorf has also successfully integrated its kiosk offerings into its wider product set. As well as targeting the airline industry with its check-in procedures and ticket sales, the company is strongly focused on banking and retail. Product development is key to the Kiosk industry and Wincor Nixdorf continues to impress, developing new functionality that increases the attractiveness and accessibility of its range of kiosks. Specifically, a new solution, which combines multimedia software with a camera, is changing the way kiosks interact with users. The new solution detects both customer presence near the kiosk terminal and whether they are responding to the system and then addresses potential users specifically.

    Finally, to complement its strong product focus, Wincor Nixdorf has and continues to invest heavily in its services capability. It offers services that are tied into its vertical product offerings and independent multi-vendor services designed to help banks and retailers to get the most out of its technology investments.

    Wincor Nixdorf has been awarded Frost & Sullivans Market Leadership award based purely on its market share, clearly outpacing both its international and domestic competitors. However, the manner in which it has achieved its position; its international outlook, its focus on a few key verticals and its continuing investment in its services capabilities means that it is leading the market on all fronts.

    Posted by Craig at 02:29 PM

    Little Interest in Internet ATMs

    ATMs did not fare well in the third annual Community Bank Technology Survey recently conducted by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and by InFinet Resources.

    Story Link

    Survey: Few community bankers express interest in ATM technology
    21 Oct, 2003

    WASHINGTON ATMs did not fare well in the third annual Community Bank Technology Survey recently conducted by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and by InFinet Resources.

    In response to a question on which software applications banks were currently using or planning to evaluate in the next 12 to 18 months, 63 percent of the more than 1,000 community bank executives surveyed said that Internet-enabled ATMs were "of no interest."

    Just 1 percent were currently using Internet-enabled ATMs and another 17 percent were "planning to evaluate."

    "Talking" or audio-enabled ATMs earned a similar ranking. They were "of no interest" to 72 percent of respondents, with 2 percent already using them and 8 percent "planning to evaluate."

    More than 1,000 community bankers nationwide completed the survey, which gauges the technology challenges facing community banks, according to a news release. The survey had
    an 11.5 percent response rate.

    In previous years, community bankers indicated in the survey greater interest in finding new technologies to stay competitive. Now, however, they are looking to maximize the effectiveness of existing technologies. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed cited affordability and security as their top technology concerns.

    "Now banks need to digest technology purchases and are examining their influence on the bottom line," said Dewite North, ICBA's chief information officer, in the release..

    Other highlights from the ICBA-InFinet Resources survey:

    * Imaging technology gained ground in 2003 as bankers sought the efficiencies of electronic images versus paper. Community banks already using check-imaging applications climbed to 53 percent, from 47 percent in 2002. Another 39 percent of community banks indicated plans to evaluate the technology in the next 12 to 18 months.
    * In 2002, 54 percent of community banks had Web sites with Internet banking. Although Internet banking is still a concern, 81 percent of banks with more than $100 million in assets offer customers the technology, as opposed to 38 percent of banks with assets of less than
    $100 million.
    * Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software lost some of its steam from a year ago. Thirty-six percent of banks said they were planning to evaluate using CRM in the next 12 to 18 months, down from 43 percent last year.

    "While it's difficult to pick out a single technology that all community banks are interested in, the survey indicates that banks are doing more in terms of technology rather than less," North said. "We're keeping our eyes out for the next big blip on the radar."

    For complete survey results, http://www.icba.org/tech/2003techsurvey.pdf

    ICBA has nearly 5,000 members with 17,000 locations nationwide. Members hold more
    than $526 billion in insured deposits, $643 billion in assets and more than $405 billion in loans to consumers, small businesses and farms.

    Posted by Craig at 02:23 PM

    October 20, 2003

    nwa.com Is Highest Ranked Web Site in Survey

    Northwest Airlines (Nasdaq: NWAC) today announced that its nwa.com Web site outperformed all other U.S. airline sites in the Summer 2003 Online Customer Respect Study of Airline, Travel and Hotel/Resort/Casino firms that rank among the largest 1,000 companies in the United States.

    Northwest's nwa.com Is Highest Ranked Web Site in Survey

    nwa.com Is First Among Airline Sites in Independent Customer Respect Group Study

    ST. PAUL, Minn., Oct. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Northwest Airlines (Nasdaq: NWAC) today announced that its nwa.com Web site outperformed all other U.S. airline sites in the Summer 2003 Online Customer Respect Study of Airline, Travel and Hotel/Resort/Casino firms that rank among the largest 1,000 companies in the United States.

    On a ten-point scale with ten being the best, Northwest's nwa.com site received an overall Customer Respect Index (CRI) of 9.1, the highest ranking in the airline category and well ahead of the airline industry average of 7.4.

    "We are honored that nwa.com's customer service, convenient functionality and overall ease of use have earned the recognition of the Customer Respect Group," said Al Lenza, vice president of distribution and e-commerce at Northwest Airlines. "From the most developed Internet-based self-service check-in program to proactive flight notification, nwa.com is yet another reason customers who choose Northwest are flying smart."

    The Customer Respect Group is an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their customers online. The study, in its second year, brings objective measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customer's point of view and involves evaluations of more than 1,000 Web sites from a variety of industries. It assigns a Customer Respect Index (CRI) to each company based on 25 different attributes that combine to create the entire online customer experience, including the areas of privacy (respects customer privacy), principles (values and respects customer data), attitude (customer focus of site), transparency (open and honest policies), simplicity (ease of navigation), and responsiveness (quick and thorough responses to inquiries).

    "Northwest received high scores for the speed and quality of its responses to inquiries submitted online, in addition to providing a well organized and easy to navigate site," said Thorsten Ganz, vice president of research, The Customer Respect Group. "The company clearly understands the importance of its online channel as it relates to the overall customer experience."

    Northwest's nwa.com Web site is backed up with customer support staff available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, able to respond through e- mail, I-mail and by telephone to questions and help customers through transactions.

    Additional information on the Customer Respect Group's study is available at www.customerrespect.com .

    NEW NWA.COM EASIER TO USE, OFFERS NEW SERVICES

    In August, Northwest introduced a re-designed version of nwa.com making the most extensive design, navigation and functionality changes since its launch in 1996.

    Visitors to the simplified nwa.com benefit from an array of improvements, including better organization and ease of use, improved layout and visual design, increased site efficiency and performance, streamlined paths to functionality, a more personalized experience and direct access to key information.

    Also at nwa.com, customers with e-tickets can change their reservations, check-in for their domestic or international flight -- including their return trip up to 36 hours in advance -- and apply for ticket refunds.

    Northwest Airlines is the world's fourth largest airline with hubs at Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Memphis, Tokyo and Amsterdam, and approximately 1,500 daily departures. With its travel partners, Northwest serves nearly 750 cities in almost 120 countries on six continents. In 2002, consumers from throughout the world recognized Northwest's efforts to make travel easier. A 2002 J.D. Power and Associates study ranked airports at Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul, home to Northwest's two largest hubs, tied for second place among large domestic airports in overall customer satisfaction. Readers of TTG Asia and TTG China named Northwest "Best North American airline."

    For more information pertaining to Northwest, media inquiries can be directed to Northwest Media Relations at (612) 726-2331 or to Northwest's Web site at www.nwa.com .

    SOURCE Northwest Airlines

    /CONTACT: Northwest Media Relations, +1-612-726-2331/

    /Web site: http://www.customerrespect.com

    http://www.nwa.com /

    (NWAC)

    Posted by Craig at 05:47 PM

    Handheld Portable Music Kiosk

    MusiKube, a leading developer of music recognition and discovery solutions, and Virgin Megastores, the world's leading entertainment retailer, today announced plans to deploy MusiKube's Personal Music Guide (PMG), a portable in-store wireless music discovery solution, at Virgin Megastore, Union Square.

    October 20, 2003 08:50

    MusiKube and Virgin Entertainment Group to Deploy Portable Wireless Music Kiosks in New York City Megastore
    LAS VEGAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 20, 2003--

    Virgin Megastore Union Square to Host Pilot Music Interest Capture

    and Discovery System this Holiday Season

    MusiKube, a leading developer of music recognition and discovery solutions, and Virgin Megastores, the world's leading entertainment retailer, today announced plans to deploy MusiKube's Personal Music Guide (PMG), a portable in-store wireless music discovery solution, at Virgin Megastore, Union Square. The pilot will run during the height of the holiday season when the Union Square Megastore will be at its busiest, from late November through late January.

    MusiKube's innovative PMG is a wireless music discovery system that uses a customized HP iPAQ, Wi-Fi connectivity and MusiKube's Encyclomedia(TM), a powerful database encompassing licensed samples of over two-million songs, album reviews and related content, to give consumers a personalized and interactive music discovery experience while giving retailers the opportunity to increase revenue through improved customer satisfaction, increased customer traffic and time spent browsing in store.

    Using the MusiKube PMG, customers at Virgin Megastore, Union Square can:

    -- Freely roam the store and listen to music clips from virtually

    any CD by scanning the barcode

    -- Discover new music through recommendations and reviews

    -- Maintain a personalized music library to help keep track of

    the music they like (personal wish lists)

    -- Maintain and check their personal music history to remind

    themselves about music they sampled from previous visits

    "MusiKube's PMG is a chance for us to offer the same kind of personalized, interactive services as online websites, combined with the in-person customer service only we at Virgin Megastore can provide," said Glen Ward, CEO, Virgin Entertainment Group, North America. "MusiKube's solution enables us to enhance Virgin Megastore customers' experience, facilitate music discovery and turn music interest into increased music sales."

    MusiKube's PMG is the first in a suite of services that help consumers capture their music interests, discover new music and convert all this into actual purchases. More advanced services will be launched in 2004.

    "Virgin has established a unique music retailing environment that is the ideal complement to our advanced wireless music discovery service," said Ashley Heather, CEO of MusiKube. "We are pleased to offer them a solution which will help them differentiate and build powerful, personalized interactive music discovery solutions into their brand."

    About MusiKube:

    MusiKube is an entertainment solutions company, specializing in wireless music applications. MusiKube is the only service of its kind working with record labels, mobile operators and retailers to champion an authorized system that supports consumers ability to discover new music and maximize impulse purchases of music and other related products.

    MusiKube is based in New York City with offices in London. For more information, visit www.MusiKube.com.

    About Virgin Entertainment Group

    Virgin Entertainment Group is the world's leading multi-channel music and entertainment retailer, providing customers with a range of superior entertainment experiences through a family of integrated Virgin-branded businesses. The "category killer" Virgin Megastores and Virgin Megastore Online at www.virginmega.com are integral parts of a strategy to provide entertainment customers with what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. For more information, or to check out the location of the nearest Virgin retail go to www.virginmegamagazine.com.

    CONTACT: Fusion Public Relations
    Nick Ludlum, 212-651-4214
    nickludlum@fusionpr.com
    or
    Virgin Megastores
    SJ Communications
    Krysty Walker, 818-881-3889
    Krysty@sjcommunications.com

    Posted by Craig at 05:43 PM

    Hotel Check-In at Starwood

    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) is testing self-service kiosk applications at the 1,215-room Sheraton Boston Hotel and the 509-room W New York - Times Square. Located in each of the hotels' lobbies, and similar to airline kiosks, the kiosk allows guests to check-in and out of the hotel by simply swiping their credit card, eliminating the need to go to the front desk. Check-in takes less than 45 seconds as compared to several minutes using the traditional front desk check-in method.

    Story Link

    October 20, 2003 12:00 PM US Eastern Timezone

    Starwood Tests Check-In Kiosks in New York and Boston; Self-Service Check-In Averages Less Than 45 Seconds

    WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 20, 2003--Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) is testing self-service kiosk applications at the 1,215-room Sheraton Boston Hotel and the 509-room W New York - Times Square. Located in each of the hotels' lobbies, and similar to airline kiosks, the kiosk allows guests to check-in and out of the hotel by simply swiping their credit card, eliminating the need to go to the front desk. Check-in takes less than 45 seconds as compared to several minutes using the traditional front desk check-in method.

    Starwood plans to deploy these kiosks to a number of its downtown, convention and airport hotels next year following the conclusion of the current pilot test in two of its busiest hotels. The kiosks deployed at both the Sheraton Boston and the W New York - Times Square are made possible through the use of Galaxy's next generation Lightspeed(R) property management system.

    "Data from our two pilots is positive," said Carl Cohen, Vice President, Property Technology Business and Systems Strategy for Starwood. "It suggests that for those guests with an affinity for technology, this product improves the experience during arrival and check-in, and significantly expedites the check-out process."

    Here's how the kiosk check-in/check-out process works: during check-in, a guest simply swipes a credit card, the kiosk pulls up the guest reservation, the guest confirms the reservation, keys are issued and a receipt informs the guest of his/her room rate and room number. The receipt also has space for customized messaging through StarGuest, Starwood's proprietary Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application suite. Upon check-out, the guest swipes his or her credit card, the kiosk pulls up the guest folio, the guest confirms that all the information on the folio is accurate, the kiosk prints out the guest folio and the guest has the option to have the folio e-mailed to him/her in a .PDF (read-only) format.

    "We are delighted to have the kiosk in our lobby; it provides a user-friendly option for guests to check-in and out," noted Doug Ridge, General Manager of the Sheraton Boston Hotel. "Business and leisure travelers alike certainly appreciate the kiosks' functionality, especially when they are on the run and want to get in or out fast."

    "Times Square is affectionately known as the center of the universe, and our hotel, which is the flagship of the W brand, can get quite busy at peak hours," said Bradford Wilson, General Manager of the W New York - Times Square. "W Hotels have always been on the cutting-edge in high-tech hospitality advancements, and the kiosk application is no exception - it fits right in with our brand ideology."

    Future plans for additional kiosk development include the ability for guests to change their room assignments. Starwood and Galaxy work together on the development process, allowing Starwood to make modifications to the kiosk, based on guest feedback, and integrate new kiosk functionality with the Galaxy property management system in the hotel. Should the kiosks catch on with customers as they appear to be in the pilots, they will have a tremendous impact on the improvement of the guest experience, and customer convenience, resulting in the reduction of long wait lines.

    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 740 properties in more than 80 countries and 105,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. With internationally renowned brands, Starwood is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels and resorts including: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, W brands, as well as Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit www.starwood.com

    ** Please contact Starwood's new, toll-free media hotline at (866) 4-STAR-PR (866-478-2777) for photography or additional information.**

    Posted by Craig at 05:19 PM

    Airline Check-In and Educating Consumers

    Although airline check-ins via the Web are available for almost all carriers, passengers have been slow to use the service. Most passengers still need education about the benefits of using Web boarding passes.

    Story Link

    THE INTERNET TRAVELER
    Passengers aren't lining up yet for Web check-in

    Times Headlines

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    Polynesia


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    TRAVEL LOG


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    more >







    TRAVEL INDUSTRY

    INTERNET COMPUTER NETWORK TRAVEL INDUSTRY AIRLIN

    AIRLINES

    INTERNET COMPUTER NETWORK








    By James Gilden, Special to The Times


    You can stand in line for the airport check-in counter if you really want to, or you can check in on the Web up to 24 hours or more in advance on nearly every major airline, dodging yet another travel hassle.

    Despite the time and trouble Web check-in saves, it seems to be slow catching on, even though all of the major airlines offer it (except Southwest, which plans to introduce it later this year).

    Among the first to offer Web check-in was Delta, which began using it in spring 2001. More than 1 million passengers used the Web for check-in on Delta the first eight months of this year, just a fraction of the more than 70 million passengers who flew the airline through August.

    Thomas Gay of Fort Worth, a million-mile flier on American Airlines, regularly shops the Internet for fares and travel bargains, and considers himself a sophisticated and Web-savvy traveler. Still, he was intimidated by the idea of printing a boarding pass from his home computer.

    "I had been thinking about doing it for a long time," he says. "I'm so conditioned to having [a boarding pass] that prints out of their system."

    His concerns mirror those of other air travelers.

    "Airlines do face a big challenge with Web check-in," says Henry Harteveldt, principal analyst at Forrester Research in San Francisco. "They really need to educate travelers not only that the service exists but that there are benefits to its use. If they don't, they risk that consumers may, somehow, perceive that Web check-in is either less effective, less valid or riskier than airport check-in."

    The widespread availability of Web check-in was spurred partly by changing Transportation Security Administration rules that went into effect earlier this year. Passengers are required to have a boarding pass to get through security checkpoints. Some passengers, especially those who are not checking their bags, find it simpler to use the Web to have their boarding pass in hand.

    So Gay gave it a shot. Using his home computer, he went to the American Airlines Web site, clicked "flight check-in," entered his frequent-flier number and password, and printed his pass.

    He figures he saved as much as 40 minutes round trip. "At the airport I got out of the car and went directly to screening," he says. "The screener looked at it and my ID and sent me right through."

    Web check-in may be growing in popularity, but it's dwarfed by the popularity of another recent technology innovation: self-service kiosks.

    Kiosk check-in is now offered by most major domestic airlines, and its usage far exceeds that of Web check-in. Delta reports 7.4 million passengers used the kiosks in 2002, and 14.2 million passengers have used them so far in 2003, nearly 13 times the number of fliers who used Web check-in.

    Experts say the airlines could be doing more to get people to use Web check-in, such as rewarding Web check-in with opportunities to earn frequent-flier miles.

    "One major flub has been that airlines offer only a limited number of opportunities to earn bonus miles with Web check-in," Harteveldt says.

    Gay was attracted to Web check-in by an offer of 500 bonus frequent-flier miles. Now he's a convert.

    "I really like it," he says, after using it for his last three trips.

    "It's one less stop you have to worry about if you got held up in traffic. It's an extra cushion at check-in."

    Here are some tips on using the Internet to get a boarding pass. (The steps vary by airline, so check the carrier's Web site.)

    Finding Web check-in: Go to your airline's home page; the check-in is usually very evident. You'll need an electronic ticket, and some airlines require you to be a member of their frequent-flier programs.

    Printing the boarding pass: This requires only an inkjet or laser printer and standard 8 1/2-by-11 white paper.

    Checking bags: You can check luggage at curbside or at the kiosk baggage check counter.

    Getting a seat assignment: Many airlines allow you to check and change your seat assignment. If your airline's site does not support seat assignment, you will have to speak to an agent.

    Getting an upgrade: Many of the airlines' systems support electronic upgrades. If you want to upgrade using frequent-flier miles or need to pay for it, you will probably have to speak with an agent.

    Replacing a lost boarding pass: You'll have to see an agent at the airport to get a duplicate.

    Navigating changes in your schedule: If you can't make your flight or have changes, call the airline. All the usual fees for changes apply, though there are no penalties for having used Web check-in.

    Flying internationally: Only Northwest allows Web check-in for select international destinations. American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways do not.

    Posted by Craig at 05:16 PM

    October 16, 2003

    Chain Drug Stores: Nice Article on CVS and Rite Aid

    Both have developed a group of young, bright, eager and talented middle managers who are being allowed, even encouraged, to think in ways that chain drug retailing often discouraged in the past. As a result they have come up with new ideas, new products and new ways of serving and satisfying the customer.

    Story Link

    In the East, it's very much a CVS, Rite Aid world
    By David Pinto

    The coming chain drug store battle for sales, shoppers and market share will have as its venue the eastern United States. It will have as its opponents CVS and Rite Aid.


    These two drug chains, which have traditionally taken a back seat to Walgreens superior results and more aggressive storeopening strategy, have come into their own. Both are stronger, more exciting and more competitive than theyve been at any time in their history. And in an increasing number of East Coast markets both have begun, or will soon begin, seriously competing against each other.


    No drug chain is getting more things right today than CVS or marketing its stores and brand more creatively. After a period in which the execution didnt always match the creativity or grandiose thinking of the chains marketing programs the Woonsocket, R.I.-based drug chain has gotten the right people with the right ideas into the right jobs. As a result, excitement and enthusiasm two qualities that sometimes proved elusive in the past abound.


    Moreover, there is much to be excited about. The retailers newest beauty care sections are the best in the industry. The Lumene cosmetics and skin care line now rolling out to 1,000 stores shows every initial indication of exceeding the retailers fondest hopes for it.


    The chains new skin care centers are attracting customers who have never before bought skin care products at a CVS or in a drug store. Moreover, they are lured not only by the assortment but by a range of support services that includes beauty advisers equipped to offer diagnostic testing. This excitement is reflected in the stores, most notably the recently opened 20,000-squarefoot unit in Wakefield, R.I., and a new concept store which, after a stunning debut this summer, will shortly be expanded.


    As for Rite Aid, that retailer faced a different set of challenges. Specifically, it had to climb out of the deep hole previous management had dug for it. Driven by some of the brightest top managers in chain drug retailing, a clear set of objectives that put the customer first, a series of innovative programs designed to motivate store personnel to build on the retailers strengths while striving to eliminate its weaknesses, Rite Aid has emerged from the brink of bankruptcy with a flourish to rejoin the ranks of healthy U.S. drug chains.


    Along the way, the retailer has rediscovered customer service and has reinstilled in its workforce a sense of pride in doing a good job well that had deserted it during the dark days of the late 1990s. The stores, by turns either unappealing or difficult to shop, have come alive with new products, new marketing and merchandising strokes, new enthusiasm and new opportunities, and a new emphasis on core drug store categories.


    But perhaps the two elements these exciting chain drug retailers share in common are what really set them apart. First, both have developed a group of young, bright, eager and talented middle managers who are being allowed, even encouraged, to think in ways that chain drug retailing often discouraged in the past. As a result they have come up with new ideas, new products and new ways of serving and satisfying the customer. Second, both have learned that suppliers are not the enemy but a potential partner in their effort to serve and satisfy the customer, a powerful ally who understands that if the customer wins, they win. Until now Wal-Mart was virtually alone among mass market retailers in grasping that fact. Now CVS and Rite Aid get it too.


    Rite Aid is using a group of suppliers in a formal advisory board setting to help the retailer become more efficient in serving the customer. Utilizing supplier thinking, Rite Aids marketing people are developing a more profitable market basket and more potent advertising vehicles, and so driving more, and more-profitable, customers to Rite Aid.


    As for CVS, it has made suppliers partners in developing marketing and merchandising strategies uniquely suited to chain drug retailing and especially applicable to the new CVS stores. To that end, suppliers are designing products, packaging, merchandising and promotional programs that work best in a drug store setting.


    This view of major and even some smaller suppliers as partners is a refreshing change from the days not so long ago when the retailersupplier relationship was adversarial to the point of bitterness. The relationship still needs fine-tuning, but this is, at the least, a beginning.


    And now the fun part: Rite Aid and CVS competing for customers with the best that chain drug retailing has seen in some considerable time.




    Note: KIS has years of experience in the Chain Drug sector with a variety of services and application kiosks for this market.
    If you are interested please contact info at gokis.net

    Posted by Craig at 07:03 PM

    Airline Kiosks and US Airways

    US Airways has added new features to its Self-Service Check-In kiosks today, which now enable customers to choose either English or Spanish for their kiosk transaction, as well as reroute and reissue tickets if their scheduled flight is cancelled.

    US Airways Enhances Self-Service Check-In Kiosks

    ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- US Airways has added new features to its Self-Service Check-In kiosks today, which now enable customers to choose either English or Spanish for their kiosk transaction, as well as reroute and reissue tickets if their scheduled flight is cancelled.

    The enhanced kiosks also now alert customers if In-flight Cafe meals are available on board their flight. The kiosk informs the customer of the price, includes a picture of a sample meal, and advises the customer that meals may be purchased on board the aircraft. Additionally, customers can view requests for assistance already present in their reservation at the Confirmation screen. The assistance request display is informational only, and cannot be modified at the kiosk.

    In the event that a customer's original flight is cancelled, Self-Service Check-In kiosks will now reroute the customer on alternate US Airways, US Airways Shuttle or US Airways Express flights and reissue the ticket with the new itinerary. The process will be initiated when the "Check-In and/or Baggage Check" or "Change Flight" button is selected. Changes apply to flights within the U.S., San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix only.

    Additionally, the Dividend Miles bonus has been extended until March 31, 2004. Dividend Miles members will earn 1,000 bonus miles the first time they use Self-Service Check-In to either purchase tickets or check in for flights. Members also receive 50 bonus miles for each subsequent kiosk use.

    Customers are already able to check in, select seats, purchase tickets, use E-Upgrades, and change flights on the day of travel at Self-Service Check- In kiosks. US Airways has 443 kiosks in 83 airports throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, visit usairways.com/kiosk.

    SOURCE US Airways

    /CONTACT: Amy Kudwa of US Airways, +1-703-872-5100/




    Note: KIS works with the airlines and has qualified products for this market. If you are interested please contact
    info at gokis.net


    Posted by Craig at 05:00 PM

    Target Preparing Loyalty Campaigns for Smart Card Customers

    Having already publicly distributed approximately 10 million of its Target Visa credit cards containing smart chip technology, Minneapolis-based Target will seriously begin leveraging the payment solution this fall by launching.....

    Story Link

    FMI Retail Electronic Payment Systems: Target Preparing Loyalty Campaigns for Smart Card Customers

    WASHINGTON (October 16, 2003) - Having already publicly distributed approximately 10 million of its Target Visa credit cards containing smart chip technology, Minneapolis-based Target will seriously begin leveraging the payment solution this fall by launching a multitude of customer loyalty campaigns involving the co-branded cards, according to Tom Swanson, controller, Target Financial Services.

    The discount retailer recently introduced kiosks in its stores that allow eligible customers to download coupons onto their cards and receive targeted offers as a reward for their patronage. Cardholders who visit Target.com can even use a card reader connected with their own computer to receive good deals.

    After youve made 10 purchases of Pampers it gives you free diapers on your eleventh purchase, said Swanson, offering up a hypothetical scenario to attendees yesterday at the Food Marketing Institutes Retail Electronic Payment Systems Conference, held here. Swanson wouldnt reveal any further details about the campaigns, but he did indicate that the card would provide some entertainment value. We have to make the card fun, he said.

    Brad Barth

    More News on Target [Executive Technology]



    Note: Kiosk Information Systems offers chip card capability for all of its products along with the conventional magstripe. Being able to transact either/both is a significant advantage. You can request more information by contacting info at gokis.net

    Posted by Craig at 04:43 PM

    EMV and Northampton

    ACI supports Barclays during UK chip card trial for EMV

    Story Link

    ACI supports Barclays during UK chip card trial
    16 Oct, 2003
    Back News Archives

    LONDON ACI Worldwide, an international provider of transaction processing software, says that its BASE24 platform was successfully used by Barclaycard Merchant Services (BMS) to verify and authorize EMV chip and PIN card transactions throughout the recent chip and PIN trial in Northampton, UK.

    More than 200,000 chip-based cards were issued during the six-month pilot with more than 1,000 participating retail outlets, ahead of the UK's national rollout of EMV chip cards by the end of 2004.

    According to a news release, BMS played a significant role in the Northampton town trials, working closely with other participating banks and retailers. BMS placed the first live chip and PIN acceptance terminal in March and eventually supplied more than 30 percent of all bank-owned retailer terminals in the trial.

    BMS and ACI began working together more than 15 years ago when ACI supported the development of BMS's customized transaction infrastructure, which was built on ACI's core BASE24 technology

    The scalability of BASE24 allows BMS to support the increased complexity of processes inherent in EMV chip cards and the greater levels of data transmitted, which is four times greater than that contained on traditional magnetic stripe cards. BASE24 ensures that the processing time of transactions is not increased despite the complexity of chip cards, according to the release.

    BMS's transaction infrastructure is in place and ready for national rollout. BMS began a nationwide deployment of chip acceptance terminals in August and intends to go into full-scale rollout of up to 500 terminals a day this month.

    Nigel Mapletoft, senior project manager for BMS' chip and PIN program, said in the release, "We have all the back-end processes ready, and now we're concentrating on rolling out retailer terminals. Our rollout program will take some 15 months to complete. During this time we will work closely with ACI to ensure that we have capacity to handle the increased volume of chip transactions."

    Posted by Craig at 04:24 PM

    Loyalty Programs and Airlines

    Airline loyalty programs need boost, not cutbacks [USA Today]

    Story Link

    Airline loyalty programs need boost, not cutbacks
    By Christopher Elliott

    Is a magnanimous mileage program the key to saving the airline industry?
    Why do business travelers feel betrayed by recent changes in airline loyalty programs?

    Ask frequent fliers, and they will tell you that the airlines' revisions make it difficult and more often, impossible to reach those coveted elite levels.

    The only way to qualify for the most sought-after flier perks, such as seating upgrades and complimentary lounge access, is to buy pricier tickets.

    Some thanks that is for their allegiance, they say.

    "That's funny. I thought it was called a frequent flier program, not a 'big spender' program," said Dave Liesse, a software-quality manager from Oswego, Ill. But airlines seem genuinely perplexed by the hostile reaction. Delta, for example, saw a passenger lawsuit and a grassroots campaign called "Save SkyMiles" emerge after the airline overhauled its loyalty program earlier this year. Of all people, the airlines figured, business travelers would understand that airlines have businesses to run and can't just keep indiscriminately granting preferential treatment to road warriors who buy bargain fares.

    Or can they? Sure, restructuring mileage programs saves money. It might even encourage a few travelers to buy higher-priced tickets in the long term. (But probably not in the short term. Delta, the first major airline to revamp its program, has suffered adjusted losses of more than $400 million since its changes.) Perhaps business travelers refuse to spend more because it's bad for their businesses.

    Preserving the current mileage benefits perhaps even boosting them might make more sense.

    What better way is there to thank those road warriors who stood by your airline after 9/11, amid unprecedented travel-budget cutbacks, and who resisted the temptation to take their business to your no-frills rivals? The carriers engaging in these program cutbacks might be well served to take a step back and try to see things from the passengers' perspective.

    On balance, the current cuts appear to be more trouble than they're worth. Delta's revisions, which last month were mimicked by Continental, have proved to be a public-relations disaster. More travelers complained to the federal government about Delta's mileage program during the first half of this year than about any other airline. The Atlanta-based carrier finally buckled to the pressure and revised its program again in an effort to placate its platinum-level passengers. Any carrier contemplating similar moves must be wary of repeating the experience.

    "There is a small but very vocal group of frequent fliers that doesn't like change," said Hal Brierley, a loyalty program consultant with Brierley & Partners in Dallas.

    Indeed, travelers such as Liesse have jumped programs as a result of the recent changes. But those switches represent only "a small percentage" of frequent fliers, according to Brierley.

    A far more difficult case to make is that the changes have helped make business travelers more loyal or driven them to spend more money on their tickets.

    Interestingly, most air travelers polled by Brierley agree that passengers who shell out more for their tickets should be rewarded more generously than bargain-hunters. "But that doesn't mean they want the airlines to reward people who travel frequently any less," he added.

    Holding the line on loyalty programs, as many airlines have done despite the recent industry downturn, is thought to be a more sensible course.

    Randy Petersen, who publishes InsideFlyer magazine, believes the "wait-and-see" approach represents the future for most loyalty programs after two turbulent years in which business travelers were afraid their airlines would cut benefits, limit award redemption or go out of business. Keeping things as they are also draws an important distinction between the airlines that made cuts and the ones that refused to do so.

    "Not following the negative changes gives an airline a kind of competitive advantage," said Tim Winship, editor of Frequentflier.com. There's one other option: Go the other direction. Why not raise the stakes? Granted, making it easier to reach elite status the holy grail of any loyalty program could be troublesome. There are only a finite number of first-class seats, and there's a limited amount of space in an airline lounge. If Delta and Continental are deflating the value of their miles, then an airline that tried to be more generous might run the possibility of point inflation.

    Consider the benefits, though. Any airline that decided to lavish its top travelers with additional rewards would differentiate itself from the carriers that have left their programs intact never mind the ones that have been whittling away at their benefits. It also would further distinguish the carrier from the low-fare, no-frills airlines, whose own programs are more tightfisted.

    Being big-hearted makes business sense, says Joel Widzer, author of the book The Penny Pincher's Passport to Luxury Travel. "During the mid-1990s, which is the last time the frequent flier programs were really generous, frequent travelers were treated like royalty. They could tell a ticket agent, 'I don't want to pay this change fee,' and the change fee would be waived," he said. That kind of special treatment made business travelers fiercely loyal, which, in turn, helped lift profits.

    Could it be that simple? Is a magnanimous mileage program the key to saving the airline industry? Well, maybe not entirely. But then again, neither is trimming your loyalty program until your best customers feel cut off.

    Christopher Elliott is National Geographic Traveler magazine's ombudsman and a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

    Posted by Craig at 04:16 PM

    Bedside Manner Goes High-Tech

    From their beds, patients can access the Internet, concierge services, health-related education programming, television and movies, as well as their own medical records and billing info. There is also a Web cam for friends and family who can't make it to the hospital.

    Story Link

    Bedside Manner Goes High-Tech

    Baptist Hospital, operated by Baptist Health South Florida, is a 551-bed facility in Miami conducting a pilot program that may well presage a transformation in patient care. Its transformation of a hospital bed into a highly personalized technology center is driven by a suite of computerized equipment and software installed at each bedside in the hospital's 51-bed Cardiovascular Step-down Unit. The unit monitors patients with complex heart diseases.

    "I have been a nurse for 30 years and I don't think there is any one product or opportunity to pilot that I have been more excited about," says Joan Clark, Baptist Hospital's VP for Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer. "It's break-through technology."

    Clark is referring to PatientStation, from Cardinal Health subsidiary Pyxis Corp. (which competes with Omnicell, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen's Bridge Medical). It consists of a networked computer next to the patient's bed with a flat screen monitor that swings over the bed. It not only brings information, but also dispenses appropriate medications and supplies, individually personalized for each patient at the point of care.

    The monitor is a portal for both patients and caregivers. From their beds, patients can access the Internet, concierge services, health-related education programming, television and movies, as well as their own medical records and billing info. There is also a Web cam for friends and family who can't make it to the hospital.

    Doctors can use the system to access the patient's records, test results, x-rays and ultrasounds on the spot. They can also access databases that offer specialized medical information pertaining to the patient's treatment, and can instantly send prescriptions to the hospital pharmacy.

    The most revolutionary aspect of the system, Clark says, is its ability to dispense medications and supplies. "A problem we have had with nursing workflow back to the Dark Ages is that the supplies and the medications aren't necessarily where the nurse needs them in order to provide a timely response to the patient," says Clark. "I was constantly walking back and forth to get the equipment that I need, to get the supplies that I need, and to get the medications that I need."

    Now, these items, as specified for each individual patient, are placed in secured cubicles stored in locked, computer-operated drawers attached to the system that the nurses have nicknamed "minibars." When a patient needs medication, the nurse validates it on the screen, and a drawer opens containing a bar-coded "cubie" enclosing the exact medication and dose prescribed for the patient.

    Patient safety and the timely delivery of care are significantly improved. Studies suggest that as many as 98,000 patients per year die from medical errors and the average award in a lawsuit involving a medication error is $636,844. Further, the performance of doctors, nurses and pharmacists -- those people with the most critical and costly skills in the hospitals -- is enhanced. The system streamlines operations while personalizing the patient's stay.

    Patient data is very sensitive, so security is paramount to the success of the pilot. PatientStation offers various levels of access depending on the sensitivity of information, supplies and medications. It employs a combination of ID badges, passwords and fingerprint technology for security.

    As a result of the pilot project's success, Baptist Health South Florida plans to install consoles at every bed in its five-hospital network, a $33 million investment over the next 10 years.

    Posted by Craig at 04:08 PM

    October 15, 2003

    Wi Fi and a Coffee

    Starbucks now offers its customers wireless access to the Internet in most of its U.S. stores and expects to have the service in some 2,700 locations by the end of this year.

    story on Stores

    On the Menu: Latte, Biscotti and Wi Fi
    Starbucks teams with HP and T Mobile to provide patrons with anywhere, anytime wireless Internet access

    By MICHAEL HARTNETT

    Michael Hartnett is a Brewster, N.Y.‑based business writer.

    Starbucks Coffee joined the ranks of Fortune 100 companies on the strength of its ability to provide an excellent cup of coffee, in seemingly limitless variations, to millions of happy customers who make the retailers comfortable coffee houses a part of their lifestyles.

    But the appeal of Starbucks extends beyond a few quiet moments of coffee, confections and contemplation. In fact, many loyal customers have come to view the stores as convenient places to get some work done, especially if one of the companys 3,500 locations is closer than their own offices.

    That explains why Starbucks now offers its customers wireless access to the Internet in most of its U.S. stores and expects to have the service in some 2,700 locations by the end of this year. Simply stated, Wi Fi (wireless fidelity capability) allows patrons who have a wireless card in their notebook computer or PDA to gain access to the Internet while sipping a latte and munching a biscotti at Starbucks, all without the aid of a hardwire connection.

    The demand for anywhere, anytime Internet access isnt limited to a handful of computer geeks. Research conducted by Starbucks shows that its stores are a magnet for traveling salespeople, real estate agents, students and many other demographic groups who seek out their favorite coffee house as a place to do real work and keep in touch with headquarters. For those customers, Starbucks and the Wi Fi network have become an important productivity tool.

    The inspiration for us to form a relationship with HP and T Mobile to create a wireless network was to make Starbucks a better place to be for our customers, explains Lovina McMurchy, director of Y5 business and alliances for Seattle based Starbucks. We have 20 million customers, and they tend to be high income and managerial. They are twice as likely to have a cell phone and a laptop. A large number of them have PDAs.

    Although HP and T Mobile put Starbucks at the forefront of wireless services to customers with an initial launch in summer 2002, McMurchy says that for some time Starbucks customers had been asking if they could have convenient access to the Internet as a side order to their coffee and snack.

    Starbucks is a comfortable, relaxing environment where our customers do work. For quite a few years we have had comments from them about hooking up to the Internet, McMurchy explains. For us, that was the inspiration making Starbucks a better place to be for our customers.

    HOTSPOT SERVICE
    This Wi Fi access for Starbucks customers and company employees was made possible through the retailers partnership with HP (formerly Hewlett Packard), headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., and T Mobile USA, based in Bellevue, Wash.

    The required hardware includes a server and router at individual stores, and a wireless card in the customers laptop or pocket PC. The system is backed up by high speed T1 connections from T Mobile that provide the hotspot service. The service allows Starbucks customers to visit the web, check their e mail and, if they choose, watch streaming video or download multi media while sipping their coffee. The wireless high speed connection is 40 to 50 times faster than standard dial up Internet access.

    To sweeten the deal, T Mobile is offering Starbucks customers a free, one time, 24 hour trial of the service with a new qualifying subscription. For Starbucks, the Wi Fi access is a customer service thats delivering an almost immediate payback.

    When store comps increase, its sometimes hard to know what drives them, but at Starbucks we have found strong same store comps of 10 percent, and those are coming on top of strong comps from previous years, says McMurchy, noting that the companys senior managers attribute the gains to the hotspot service, as well as other company programs.

    A Starbucks customer survey seeking comments about how the new service has affected their frequency and duration of stays reveals that 40 percent of those who use the service do visit more often and a larger number stay longer.

    There is a clear acceleration in the adoption of new technologies as people have to do more with fewer resources and are expected to be more productive, says Leigh Morrison, HPs vice president of retail sales and solutions, U.S. I would equate wireless technology to ATMs and cell phones. The adoption rate of cell phones was so much quicker than ATMs, and the adoption rate for wireless will be faster than for cell phones. Within the next year or two, wireless penetration will be at least 50 percent more than it is today.

    Through HPs relationship with Starbucks and T Mobile, the company is building critical mass for wireless networks, and Starbucks, with its thousands of store locations in the United States and internationally, is part of that foundation.

    As a company, Starbucks still has room to grow, even in the U.S., and we want to be there with them. Its a foundation for us, not only in the retail segment, but also in airport clubs and the hospitality sector, says Morrison. As wireless technology continues to improve and people become more secure in it as an environment, it will continue to grow. Its still in its experimental stages in supermarkets and foodservice, but wireless is probably going to be a better fit with the hospitality industry.

    Morrison cites the new open air shopping center in Santana Row, adjacent to the Hotel Valencia in San Jose, Calif., as one example. With HP teaming up with Cisco Systems to wire the whole area in and around the hotel and the shopping center, shoppers and hotel guests inside the hotel or outside can log on to the Internet whenever or wherever they choose. Morrison suggests that such Wi Fi access could soon become the norm, rather than the exception.

    GET ON BOARD
    Although Starbucks appears to be leading the pack in making wireless Internet access available at thousands of locations, its clearly a bandwagon that has attracted many other retailers that are now running to get aboard.

    McDonalds, for example, announced this summer that it is offering high speed wireless access for its customers in some 100 restaurants in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets. This expansion follows similar launches under the Golden Arches in the San Francisco Bay area and New York. The retailer teamed up with Toshibas Computer Systems Group and Intel to provide the service.

    Panera Bread, based in St. Louis, is offering the same access in 70 of its bakery caf locations, with plans under way to equip the rest of its 505 company owned and franchised locations. Panera has separated itself from other providers by offering the service free, rather than as an introductory offer.

    Other companies joining the Wi Fi bandwagon include Schlotzskys Restaurants, Steaming Bean Coffee Shops and The Lassiter at North Hills shopping center in Raleigh, N.C., whose tenants include Starbucks and Schlotzskys.

    As a practical matter, Starbucks must devote the vast majority of its store space to customer seating and the preparation and serving of coffee and other products. However, McMurchy says that the company recognized that it will be bringing in new technologies during the next five years, so Starbucks carved out several square feet of valuable back of the house space for the hardware.

    We put in some 6 ft. high racks to house the wireless hardware and some other technology that we see coming in future years, she explains. At Starbucks, we view ourselves as not just being in the coffee business. We are in the experience business. We have long known that Starbucks is a place where people meet to work and relax, and this hotspot service takes that to a whole new level.

    The Wi Fi systems benefits also have another dimension: increased productivity among the companys 600 district managers. We have used this wireless network to improve the efficiency of our own workforce. There are two sides to it: theres the enhanced service to our customers, and theres our own district managers who have to stay connected to the corporate network, explains McMurchy.

    HP was our partner in launching the service to our district managers, each with 10 to 12 locations. They spend a lot of time on the road and were not able to stay connected with the functions they needed to take care of while traveling, McMurchy continues. Our district managers are now connected to the Wi Fi network and they say its the best thing Starbucks has ever done. Its saving a lot of travel time and become an important productivity tool.

    Posted by Craig at 08:10 PM

    New POS Terminal by Radiant

    Radiant announces new POS terminal (picture)

    Announced at NACS and for reference

    Blurb: Radiant P1500 Series POS terminal combines retail-hardened design with the latest high-performance open technology, including the integral components of Intel Centrino mobile technology, to bring retailers and restaurateurs exceptional speed, reliability, and flexibility.

    Posted by Craig at 02:32 PM

    EWI Prepaid and WebRaiser Technologies

    Joint Marketing Agreement; Collaboration Leverages Best-of-Breed Technologies and Solutions into Retail, Vending and Fast Food Markets

    SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 15, 2003--EWI Prepaid, a leading global provider of advanced prepaid services and technologies, today announced a joint marketing agreement with WebRaiser Technologies, Inc. Together with WebRaiser, a software provider and system integrator to the self-service industry, EWI will provide its patented prepaid kiosk payment technology to retail, vending and fast food markets nationwide.

    "EWI is pleased to be collaborating with WebRaiser Technologies, a longtime pioneer in self-service technology," said Patrick Hazel, CEO, EWI Prepaid. "We anticipate a rapid return on this joint marketing agreement in the form of new opportunities for both companies, particularly in the fast food arena. The opportunity to leverage the leading brands to open new doors represents tremendous growth possibilities. More and more, retailers are recognizing that self service from kiosks and ATMs is the perfect way to sell prepaid services, and EWI technology like the patented PinXpress(TM) transaction platform is setting the standard in these environments."

    "WebRaiser believes strongly in partnering for success," said WebRaiser president, David J. Gonsiorowski. "The combined market leadership positions held by both companies will accelerate our sales and marketing penetration in our targeted verticals and result in significant success."

    Designed and built for a wide variety of retail environments and uses, including ATMs, networked point of sales systems, credit card terminals and Web services, the PinXpress transaction platform from EWI is the standard for the real-time delivery of PIN codes in the prepaid environment. PinXpress processes an unlimited array of products and services for a diverse client base including major retailers, distributors, merchant acquirers and re-sellers both in the U.S. and abroad.

    About EWI Prepaid

    EWI is a leading global provider of advanced payment processing technologies to the prepaid and cash payments sectors. With EWI's patented systems, the delivery of prepaid services such as prepaid wireless, utilities, long distance and wireless content can now be transacted and settled in real time, a vast improvement over prior manual processes. Based in San Diego, California, EWI is a privately held company. For more information, visit www.ewiprepaid.com.

    About WebRaiser Technologies, Inc.

    WebRaiser Technologies, Inc., developers of the award winning Total Self-Service Enterprise software suite; a universal platform for developing, deploying and managing self-service devices, relationships, applications, transactions and content. WebRaiser is a complete solution provider with products and services uniquely suited to address government, healthcare, human resources, retail, and vending needs. WebRaiser has been focused solely on self-service since 1997. Additional information is available at www.webraiser.com.

    CONTACT: EWI Holdings, Inc., San Diego
    Patrick Hazel, CEO, 858-560-7373
    phazel@ewiprepaid.com

    Posted by Craig at 02:21 PM

    October 14, 2003

    The Internet Kiosk

    KIS has added new pages to corporate website. The Internet Kiosk and also Interactive Kiosks.

    The internet kiosk has been around for probably longer most applications. Interactive kiosks and internet terminals have gone hand in hand for over 10 years. Kiosk Information Systems is one of the most experienced providers in this self-service application with dozens of projects and products serving this market.

    The Interactive Kiosks pages also includes resources and even some Interactive Kiosk trivia.

    Internet Kiosk page
    Interactive Kiosks

    Posted by Craig at 07:17 PM

    World's First Completely Self-Serve Restaurant

    International Automated Systems, Inc. (IAUS.OB) ("IAS") announced today the successful debut of its automated technology at Chefplex, the world's first completely self-service order and pay restaurant.

    OREM, Utah--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 14, 2003--International Automated Systems, Inc. (IAUS.OB) ("IAS") announced today the successful debut of its automated technology at Chefplex, the world's first completely self-service order and pay restaurant.

    IAS's OrderXCEL system allows customers to order and pay using cash, check, credit or debit without the need for a cashier.

    Chefplex (www.chefplex.com) opened its doors September 2003 to popular reviews. It features five independent authentic restaurants under one roof. Customers get a gourmet selection of authentic Mexican, Italian, Thai, American and Ice Cream on a single ticket.

    Each authentic restaurant featured at Chefplex is owned and operated independently with its own kitchen area and chef. Customers simply touch pictures of food on the OrderXCEL's monitor to order menu items from any of the different restaurants and pay automatically with cash, check, credit or debit.

    Chefplex has already financially committed to an additional 20 OrderXCEL terminals for its next two locations. The company intends to open several restaurants over the next year.

    About International Automated Systems, Inc. (www.iaus.com; IAUS:OB)

    Founded in 1988, International Automated Systems, Inc., develops high-technology products for diverse markets such as energy production, wireless communications, consumer purchasing and financial transactions. The company, founded by a former AT&T communications engineer, is based in Salem, Utah.

    Note: Statements contained in this press release that are not strictly historical are forward-looking within the meaning of the "Safe Harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements are made based upon information available to the company at the time, and the company assumes no obligation to update or revise such forward-looking statements. Editors and investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements invoke risk and uncertainties that may cause the company's actual results to differ materially from such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, demand for the company's product both domestically and abroad, the company's ability to continue to develop its market, general economic conditions, and other factors that may be more fully described in the company's literature and periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    CONTACT: International Automated Systems, Inc.
    Randy Johnson, 801-423-8132
    randy@iaus.com

    Posted by Craig at 03:30 PM

    HR deployment

    Syncrude Deploys Plumtree Enterprise Web Suite, Assembling 150 Enterprise Web Applications for Over 5,000 Employees, Partners and Contractors

    Portal Centralizes Access to Hundreds of Systems Across the Enterprise,
    Reducing Hardware and Training Costs and Helping Improve ROI on Existing
    Systems

    HOLLYWOOD, Fla., Plumtree Odyssey User Conference, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Enterprise Web leader Plumtree Software (Nasdaq: PLUM) announced today that Syncrude Canada Ltd., the largest single-source producer of oil in Canada, has deployed the Plumtree Corporate Portal, Collaboration Server and Search Server to over 5,000 employees, partners and contractors. Since installing Plumtree's Enterprise Web solution in January of 2002, Syncrude has assembled 150 Enterprise Web applications in the portal for streamlining processes, enhancing employee self-service and providing managers and executives with a real-time dashboard of production performance and costs. Syncrude reports that the portal has made back-end systems more accessible and easier to use, improving ROI on Syncrude's existing technology investments and reducing training costs across the business. Syncrude also avoided thousands of dollars in anticipated hardware costs by providing kiosk and remote access to the Web portal for plant and field workers rather than personal computers. Syncrude will be showcasing its deployment at Plumtree Odyssey this week, the largest gathering of Enterprise Web visionaries and portal customers in the world. The public can read more about Plumtree's customers in the energy and utilities industry at http://www.plumtree.com/customers/industries/energy_utilities/

    "Syncrude has hundreds of independent information systems, and had more than 20 separate intranet sites across the enterprise," said Darcy Daugela, Web Services Team Leader at Syncrude. "With Plumtree, we have been able to bring together the information that workers need from across the enterprise, in a way that makes it quick to find and easy to use. Plumtree has been very popular with IT as well as employees for improving productivity, while reducing the costs associated with supporting multiple independent systems."

    What's in Syncrude's Enterprise Web? Production Dashboards, Self-Service HR, Cost Tracking, Desktop and Workgroup Tools, Safety and Work Management, Engineering Databases

    Prior to deploying Plumtree's Enterprise Web software, each department's systems and intranet sites were managed separately, so it was difficult for groups to leverage the electronic information and services of other groups. Employees often had difficulty finding the information they needed, and were often unaware of systems and data available in other parts of the organization.

    To overcome this limitation, Syncrude chose an integrated portal and collaboration solution that could provide a common, extensive framework for sharing systems and information throughout the enterprise. Syncrude has built 150 Enterprise Web applications, some of the most popular are:

    An Organizational Unit Cost Application where managers, executives, and trading partners:

    -- see real-time personalized cost reports on the 10,000 daily transactions that occur across the company;

    -- drill down into the details of the transactions;

    -- compare and track actual costs vs. budgeted costs; and

    -- view outstanding spend vs. contracted levels.

    A Production Information Application where plant employees and managers:
    -- view real-time production performance at each plant, reported
    directly from plant instrumentation;
    -- review daily operating procedures, machine reliability statistics
    and up-to date safety statistics;
    -- access plant engineering drawings; and
    -- submit work orders.

    An Employee Services Application where employees:
    -- calculate pensions and monitor retirement savings plans;
    -- change benefit choices and file expense reports;
    -- review and apply for internal job postings;
    -- apply for the Syncrude-sponsored computer purchase program;
    request vacation leave, travel, and review time and attendance; and
    -- search for employees and contractors in the portal phonebook.

    An IT Application where IT support staff:
    -- log, track and work support issues through integration with Remedy;
    build self-service portlets for helping end users with common
    issues, such as security software monitoring;
    -- view which systems enterprise-wide will be up or down through a
    change request portlet; and
    -- collaborate on projects, share documents and engage in threaded
    discussions for initiatives such as software upgrades.

    "Syncrude has deployed portal, collaboration and search technologies in one Enterprise Web solution, reducing in the time and cost required to deliver over 150 new Enterprise Web applications," said, John Kunze, CEO of Plumtree Software. "This is a perfect example of how Plumtree and its customers share a vision of the Enterprise Web as the way to share resources between many different Web applications, whose components are hosted on many different application servers. The difference between an Enterprise Web filled with applications and an empty portal offering links to different systems is what separates Plumtree and its customers from the rest of the pack."

    Why Plumtree?

    Syncrude chose Plumtree for its Web Services Architecture that was open to integrating resources from the company's diverse systems and development environments. Syncrude also chose Plumtree for its cohesive suite of Enterprise Web technologies, which could be deployed quickly and at low cost.

    About Enterprise Web Applications

    Enterprise Web applications are applications hosted on different application servers, but managed within one framework. Enterprise Web applications differ from traditional applications in three ways. First Enterprise Web applications combine existing data and processes from diverse enterprise systems with new shared services, providing greater return on assets. Second, Enterprise Web applications are assembled dynamically, incorporating new capabilities on the fly, allowing for greater agility in solving business problems. Finally, Enterprise Web applications are designed to be integrated into an enterprise-wide environment, providing greater economies of scale: users can easily navigate between or search across applications, and Web services developed for one Enterprise Web application can be re-used as-is in other applications.

    About Plumtree Software

    Plumtree Software is the Enterprise Web leader. Plumtree's mission is to create a comprehensive Web environment for employees, customers and partners across the enterprise to interact with different systems and work together. Plumtree's Enterprise Web solution consists of integration products for bringing resources from traditional systems together on the Web, shared services such as collaboration, content management and search for building new Web applications, and a portal framework for delivering these Web applications to broad audiences. Plumtree's independence and its Web Services Architecture allow this solution to span rival platforms and systems, helping maximize customers' return on their existing technology investments. With offices in more than a dozen countries, Plumtree has licensed over 550 customers, including Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Procter & Gamble and the U.S. Navy.

    NOTE: Plumtree is a registered trademark of Plumtree Software, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries. All other registered and unregistered trademarks in this document are the sole property of their respective owners.

    SOURCE Plumtree Software, Inc.

    /Web site: http://www.plumtree.com/

    (PLUM)

    Posted by Craig at 03:18 PM

    Prepaid Technology Alliance

    Info Touch Technologies Partners with EWI Prepaid to Deliver PIN-Based Products across North American Retail Kiosk Networks

    SAN DIEGO & BURNABY, B.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 14, 2003--Info Touch Technologies, North America's leading kiosk Technology Company, (www.infotouch.net) (IFT: TSX Venture Exchange) has entered into a strategic alliance with EWI Prepaid, a leading global provider of advanced prepaid services and technologies to deliver a PIN-based line of prepaid products on retail kiosk networks across North America. Through this partnership, Info Touch has integrated EWI's PinXpress(TM) payment processing solution into its proprietary kiosk security and management platform, Surfnet Premiere.

    Info Touch is utilizing EWI's patented PinXpress technology to sell and deliver any PIN-based products or services to consumers in public locations. Consumers are empowered to pay for PINs in cash, credit card, debit card, check or any other payment modality supported by Surfnet Premiere. Although there is no limit to what kind of products and services can be sold, PINs are ideally suited for prepaid goods such as:

    -- Prepaid Long Distance

    -- Prepaid Wireless Top-up

    -- Prepaid Local Dial-tone

    -- Prepaid Mobile Content (graphics, games, ring-tones, etc.)

    -- Prepaid Wi-Fi Access

    -- Prepaid Directory Assistance

    Info Touch is currently offering an assortment of the aforementioned prepaid telecom-based products in hundreds of kiosks in the United States through its various kiosk networks in a variety of public settings including convenience stores, malls, airports, wireless products retail stores, hotels, etc.

    "We are thrilled to join forces with EWI Prepaid. Its PinXpress technology enables Info Touch to literally stock the virtual shelves of its various kiosk networks that utilize Surfnet Premiere with tangible and valuable products and services," said Hamed Shahbazi, chairman and CEO of Info Touch Technologies Corp. "Info Touch can now virtually fulfill PIN-based products in a secure and robust way in any public location, which will help Info Touch grow revenues and improve the ROI for kiosk operators that use our technology."

    "EWI is pleased to be working with Info Touch, a company that sets the standard for kiosk technology," said Patrick Hazel, CEO, EWI Prepaid. "We are confident its use of our patented PinXpress payment solution will deliver the competitive advantage needed to prosper in the retail environment. More and more, retailers are recognizing that self-service kiosks are a superior and cost effective way to sell prepaid services and PinXpress is the standard for these environments."

    About PinXpress

    Designed and built for a wide variety of retail environments and uses, including ATM terminals, networked point of sales systems and Web services, the PinXpress transaction platform is the standard for the real-time delivery of PIN codes in the prepaid environment. PinXpress processes an unlimited array of products and services for a diverse client base including major retailers, distributors, banks and re-sellers both in the United States and abroad.

    About EWI Prepaid

    EWI is a leading global provider of advanced payment processing technologies to the prepaid and cash payments sectors. With EWI's patented systems, the delivery of prepaid services such as prepaid wireless, utilities, long distance and wireless content can now be transacted and settled in real time, a vast improvement over prior manual processes. Based in San Diego, California, EWI is a privately held company. For more information, visit www.ewiprepaid.com.

    About Info Touch

    Recently named one of Canada's Profit 100 and Deloitte and Touche's Fast 500 (in North America) companies, Info Touch is North America's leading provider of kiosk software based security and management solutions. Surfnet Premiere, its flagship software platform, is the Fortune 1000's preferred solution for public Internet access. Established in 1997, Info Touch provisions premiere kiosk technology solutions that help drive bottom-line benefits through the convergence of online and offline operations. Info Touch clients include: Chapters Indigo, Coca Cola Corp, Future Shop/Best Buy, Macs/Couchetard, ConocoPhillips/Circle K, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, KB Home, Chase Manhattan Bank, Merrill Lynch/HSBC, MCI, the U.S. Army, Marines Corps and Navy.

    CONTACT: Info Touch Technologies Corp.
    Behshad Hastibakhsh, Media Relations
    604-298-4636, Ext. 250
    Toll Free: 888-679-3322
    pr@infotouch.net
    or
    Linear Capital Corp.
    (Investor Relations -- Info Touch Technologies Corp.)
    John Lewis, 416-364-2266
    Toll Free: 1-877-600-6001
    jrlewis@linearcapital.com
    or
    EWI Prepaid Services
    Patrick Hazel, CEO, 858-560-7373
    phazel@ewiprepaid.com

    Posted by Craig at 03:15 PM

    October 13, 2003

    Self-service checkout and labor relations

    Forty-four Kroger stores in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky were scheduled to close at midnight Monday regardless of whether employees vote to strike, a company official said Monday.

    story link

    Kroger could close stores; union holding strike vote
    Associated Press

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Forty-four Kroger stores in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky were scheduled to close at midnight Monday regardless of whether employees vote to strike, a company official said Monday.

    If employees vote to walk out, the stores will remain closed until the strike is over. If they vote to accept a new contract, the stores will reopen at 6 a.m. Tuesday, said Archie Fralin, a Kroger spokesman in Roanoke, Va.

    More than 20 of the affected stores close at midnight normally, Fralin said. "This was just an attempt the standardize it based on what is going on."

    Employees scheduled a vote Monday in Charleston and Clarksburg on what Kroger calls its final contract offer to United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400. It takes a two-thirds majority to authorize a strike, said Nelson Graham, regional coordinator for Local 400.

    The union represents about 3,400 workers for the Cincinnati-based chain in 37 stores in West Virginia, five in Ohio and two in Kentucky. The Ohio stores are in Belpre, Gallipolis, Marietta, Pomeroy and Proctorville.

    Union officials are encouraging their members to reject the contract.

    If they do, workers could set up picket lines as early as 9 p.m. Monday, said Jim Lowthers, president of Local 400 in Charleston.

    Kroger has proposed a $9 million increase in what it pays into a health and welfare fund administered by a third party on behalf of the company and union. An independent actuary determined the fund needs an additional $29 million, Lowthers said.

    Union members would have to pay more for health care or suffer cuts in benefits if Kroger's proposal is approved, he said.

    Pete Williams, president of Kroger's Mid-Atlantic region, wrote a letter to employees over the weekend saying the company offers generous benefits compared to nonunion grocers like Wal-Mart "who want our business and want your jobs."

    "Our business simply cannot support that kind of cost," Williams wrote. "You know this!"

    After a strike, some stores may not reopen, Williams said.

    The Charleston Gazette obtained a copy of the proposed new contract, which includes:

    _Hourly pay raises of 20-25 cents per hour this year and in 2005, along with lump-sum payments of $300-$500 in 2004 and 2006.

    _An increase in the number of full-time employees by 50 a year for four years, unless store closings or sales reductions make the plan unfeasible.

    _Rules about how the company must try to find new jobs for workers displaced by new technology, like self-service check-out lanes.

    Kroger made $542 million in profits through the end of August, down $27 million from 2002.

    In California, Kroger and two other major supermarket chains hired replacement workers to keep their stores open Sunday as thousands of striking grocery workers picketed outside.

    ON THE NET

    www.kroger.com

    Posted by Craig at 03:39 PM

    Netshift Chosen in Large Project

    Compuware Corporation (NASDAQ: CPWR), the software and services provider, has chosen NetShift as one of its strategic partners for a project with Torfaen Borough Council. The 1.1M contract, won by the software and services provider......

    Original Release

    Compuware Chooses NetShift for Torfaen Borough Council Project


    London UK, 13 October, 2003 - Compuware Corporation (NASDAQ: CPWR), the software and services provider, has chosen NetShift as one of its strategic partners for a project with Torfaen Borough Council. The 1.1M contract, won by the software and services provider Compuware, is for the development and deployment of a community portal within the Torfaen Borough in South Wales. Torfaens portal, being introduced as part of a pilot project in the area, will provide information and services under the following headings: Public Service, The Community and Business. The portal will be branded Webster and is being funded by the European Regional Development Fund, The Welsh National Assembly, The Welsh Development Agency and the Council itself.

    30 Internet kiosks will be installed across the Borough providing information and services to its citizens. NetShift will be responsible for designing the user interface which will look to attract and encourage people to use the kiosk. NetShift will also provide remote management technology enabling continual monitoring, fault diagnosis, problem management, content management and reporting.

    The portal will be launched in January 2004 and will initially operate for 18 months; however the council is already exploring funding opportunities to sustain the portals future. Although the concept of a community portal is not new, this project is widely viewed as ground-breaking due to the involvement of the community and the breadth of services planned. Public and voluntary sector organisations will be able to provide and maintain content and interactive services via an easy to use content management interface. Torfaen County Borough Council will also be integrating existing public services, with information provided by community groups and other local organisations. To assist them in providing content these groups will receive at least one PC, a broadband Internet connection (where available), an e-mail account, access to two community outreach workers and a training programme free of charge. Businesses will be offered similar incentives to provide content for the portal. Chat rooms and discussion boards will also be formed to encourage community groups and business to share ideas and thoughts. Also planned is a teaching and learning section, which will deliver information of interest to teachers, pupils, parents and training organisations.

    Being in the position of prime contractor for this project meant that we needed to be sure that not only the price of the kiosk solution was competitive, but it also had to be of the highest quality and reliability, comments Steve Jobson, Vice President UK and Ireland, Compuware Ltd. NetShift demonstrated a thorough understanding of how to build, deploy and run kiosks in a local government environment. They also worked extremely hard to make sure the solution was the right one which mirrors our own ethic.

    Posted by Craig at 03:01 PM

    October 10, 2003

    Automating Admissions in Education

    Automating admissions, registration, accounting and course enrolment for univeristy students (UK).

    story link

    SAP chosen to improve student support
    By Rachel Fielding [09-10-2003]
    Newcastle University says reduced admin burden means more time for counselling


    Newcastle University has been able to devote more staff time to student support services after implementing the SAP Campus Management module.

    The university is the first in the UK to use the system, which automates admissions, registration, accounting and course enrolment for all students, allowing records to be created in seconds.

    Professor John Goddard, deputy vice chancellor at the university, told vnunet.com that reducing the administrative burden on staff and providing increased support and a better service to students was a key priority.

    "Having a single view of who the students are is key to all our teaching and learning processes as well as getting money in quickly," he said.

    "It means that all the issues surrounding student administration can be determined instantaneously."

    The new system also allows the university to send itemised bills to fee payers. "It makes the parents happier," added Goddard.

    The university registered more than 13,600 students in September using the system, four per cent more than the previous year.

    The module links to SAP finance and human resources applications which have been in use by the university since 1999. Its implementation is the latest part of a project, started in 1996, to replace legacy systems developed for use across UK universities.

    "We're not capturing more information, but we're making a better job of it and improving the quality of management information," said Goddard.

    "In time we're hoping this will become a self-service application to allow students to do some of this themselves."

    But Goddard admitted that the support implications and the need for a larger user base in the UK were a concern.

    Newcastle University is only the second site to go live with SAP Campus Management, after Mississippi in the US.

    Assistance Program for Families of Critically Ill Patients Expands Across The U.S.

    ICUs. Families with loved one in hospital intensive care units.

    Story


    Assistance Program for Families of Critically Ill Patients Expands Across The U.S.

    The CHEST Foundation Expands ICU Program and Creates Replication Toolkit

    NORTHBROOK, Ill., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- A multidisciplinary program that provides support for families with loved ones in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) and education to the health-care teams is now expanding across the country. The Critical Care Family Assistance Program (CCFAP), created by The CHEST Foundation and the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, was developed in 2001 to respond to the unmet needs of families of critically ill patients in hospital ICUs. After implementing the program in two pilot sites last year, The CHEST Foundation and the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation are in the process of expanding the CCFAP to nine sites across the U.S. and have developed a replication toolkit to allow hospitals to implement the program in their ICUs.

    Over seven million Americans are caregivers to family members, mostly to parents, who are suffering long-term illnesses in intensive care units. The strain of traveling four hours on average, sleeping on waiting room couches, and eating from vending machines takes its toll on family members, making life and death decisions more difficult. The CHEST Foundation and Eli Lilly and Company Foundation recognized this problem and created the Critical Care Family Assistance Program to provide families with stronger support and resources during a loved one's ICU stay.

    Pilot programs implemented last year at Veterans Administration Medical Center in Oklahoma City, OK, and Evanston Hospital in Evanston, IL, proved to be an important component of the ICU, impacting the delivery of critical care and outcomes for patients and families. The programs also found an increased level of staff satisfaction, therefore increasing staff retention and the ability to attract high quality staff.

    Due to the success of the pilot programs, The CHEST Foundation and Eli Lilly and Company Foundation have expanded the program to Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston, TX, and Highland Park Hospital, in Highland Park, IL, and anticipate five additional sites by 2005. Program elements vary for each site but may include a computerized kiosk that provides information about specific diseases, hospital services, and the critical care environment; staff, pastoral, and social services; parking and wayfaring maps; and recommendations for local hotel accommodations and dining. Communications devices, motel and meal vouchers, taxi coupons, bus tickets, and phone cards for family members, and family sleeping and consultation rooms, are other core program components.

    As part of the expansion, The CHEST Foundation is offering a replication toolkit to provide hospitals with critical information and tools for implementing the CCFAP in their own ICUs. The replication toolkit takes ICUs through all the steps of the program, including design and planning, implementation, evaluation, and sharing data, as well as providing an extensive checklist for program coordinators. The design section lays out the plan and explains how to get organized; the implementation section demonstrates success factors. The evaluating and improving sections outline critical components of the replication process and the sharing section provides tools to facilitate communicating the success to other institutions. The new toolkit will be available by spring 2004 both in hardcopy and on CD- ROM.

    "We are very pleased with the success of the pilot programs in Oklahoma and Illinois," said Diane Stover, MD, FCCP, President of The CHEST Foundation. "We hope this toolkit will guide other critical care units that would like to respond to the needs of family members of critically ill patients."

    For caregivers to qualify for the program, they must have an immediate family member in the ICU, with the patient expecting a long-term stay, and be traveling a long distance to get to the hospital. Both family members and health-care professionals are given a chance to provide feedback about their ICU experience in a survey that they can fill out either on the computer kiosk or on paper. The collected data will be used in a study to help guide future ICU services for families.

    "Lilly Critical Care wanted to go beyond just providing treatment for critically ill patients, and extend that commitment to the families who must face their loved one's illness everyday," said Vince Mihalik, Acute Care Business Unit Leader for Eli Lilly and Company. "It is our hope that critical care units across the country will incorporate similar programs."

    The CHEST Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). The Foundation's mission is to improve lung health for patients and communities through education focused on public health issues. Many of ACCP's 15,700 members are critical care specialists who provide clinical, respiratory, and cardiothoracic patient care in the U.S. and throughout the world.

    Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, established in 1968, is a nonprofit corporation made possible by the profits of Eli Lilly and Company. It is the major source of the company's support for nonprofit organizations. The Foundation's contributions place Lilly among the top 10 most generous companies in the world.

    SOURCE American College of Chest Physicians

    Posted by Craig at 07:00 PM

    The Shopping Buddy

    Wireless technology makes food shopping easier
    Stop & Shop and CueSol, a Massachusetts-based technology consultant, have teamed up to create a "shopping buddy," a cart-based wireless shopping aide that aims to speed and simplify the food-shopping experience. Available in three Stop & Shops in suburban Boston, the system links the retailer's loyalty card and the shopping history it collects to a computer touch screen that performs several functions, including keeping a running total, identifying sales items and suggesting food combinations.

    Story Link

    The Shopping Buddy-
    By David Pinto

    QUINCY, Mass. A groundbreaking, technology-powered food-shopping revolution is gathering momentum in the suburbs of Boston, an advance, powered by a cart-based wireless shopping aide, that is irrevocably transforming the supermarket experience. The breakthrough is being driven by Stop & Shop Cos. and its partner, CueSol, a Quincybased technology consultant.


    The revolution turns on the use of a wireless, web-enabled shopping buddy to speed and simplify the food-shopping experience. As now practiced in three Stop & Shop supermarkets in suburban Boston, including the most-recent addition in the retailers Quincy store, it dwarfs anything that has preceded it including the much-touted future store unveiled last summer in Germany by retailer Metro AG.


    The Stop & Shop shopping buddy relies on wireless technology to walk and talk the customer through the shopping experience. More specifically, it utilizes the retailers loyalty card and the shopping history it collects, linking the card and its personal shopper history to an 8-inch by 11-inch tablet that houses an 8.5-inch computer touch screen. At the Quincy store the shopper enables the system by retrieving a tablet from a dispensing rack at either of the stores two entrances, setting it into a specially designed handle on her shopping cart and activating it by scanning her loyalty card across the units bar code reader.


    Once enabled, the touch-screen does indeed function as a shopping buddy. The wireless browser and ceiling-embedded sensors enable the tablet to send and receive data that speeds and simplifies the shopping experience. Some examples:

    As the customer begins to shop, she is alerted as to which items in the retailers weekly circular she has previously purchased and might want to buy again while they are on sale. She also is informed of products that, though not on sale, are being offered to her at a special price because her shopping profile indicates a preference for these items. Finally, as shopper and cart wend their way through the store, sale merchandise and items of possible interest (based on the shoppers purchasing profile) in the aisles currently being shopped are highlighted on the computer screen. As the customer fills the shopping bags in her cart and scans the items the running total is recorded on the computer, as well as the amount saved by buying sales items. Perhaps most revolutionary, the customer does not need to unload the cart or empty her shopping bags at the conclusion of the shopping trip. Because the products have been scanned as they were selected, the shopper need only pay the amount recorded on the computer screen, which she is encouraged to do electronically, at a self-checkout register. As she does, her shopping history is updated. Should the customer want to purchase products from the service deli during her shopping trip, she can do so without stopping by the often-crowded deli. Rather, she can order the items directly from the computer screen, which not only instructs her on the selection of products (and reminds her which items she purchased on her last trip, personally or electronically, to the deli counter) but also helps her determine quantities and, in the case of deli meats, the thickness of the slices. As the customer completes her deli order, the computer assigns the order a number. When the order is ready for pickup, the computer screen notifies her by order number. If the customer needs to locate a product, she has only to type in the products name. The computer announces the aisle location, then reminds her when she reaches that aisle.


    What weve tried to do is simplify and personalize the shopping experience and make it fun, says Mike Grimes, vice president of sales and marketing for CueSol. We believe weve succeeded.


    The system has certainly succeeded in simplifying and personalizing the shopping experience, primarily by customizing the experience to the shoppers purchasing history. In that way, it continuously reminds the customer of the products she might need and those which she has possibly forgotten, based on her past purchases.


    It also is a master at marketing and suggestive selling, reminding the customer, for example, that the eggs she has just purchased might go well with the ham currently on sale. Equally impressive, it condenses for the customer the 8- or 16-page weekly circular, highlighting for each electronic shopper only those products that shopper is known to have previously purchased and displaying them on the computer screen (along with items specially selected for her) as the customer activates the tablet.


    The hurdles thus far uncovered in the three-store test are those common to any new technology. Foremost among them is getting the customer to use the tablet.


    Some 20% of the customers at the Quincy store use the system, points out Stop & Shop technical support staffer Maryann Sclafani. What weve found is that the first time a customer uses it shes confused, the second time shes comfortable and by the third time shes ready to teach other shoppers how to use it.


    To help, Stop & Shop has redshirted employees circulating throughout the store ready to offer assistance.


    Another potential drawback is the often-compelling nature of the constantly changing body of information and purchase inducements to which the shopper is exposed, a flood of data capable of easily distracting the customer from her primary job of doing the shopping she entered the store to do.


    Then too, the system only makes sense when used in conjunction with the retailers loyalty card, though Sclafani notes that 90% of the stores customers already possess a loyalty card. Most customers carry loyalty cards from all the supermarkets in the area, she explains. One objective of this system is to encourage the loyalty-card shopper who uses Stop & Shop as a secondary supermarket to begin using us as her primary supermarket.


    The retailer plans to test the system in the three Boston-area stores on into next year before determining whether and when to roll it out to the entire chain.

    Meanwhile, it is by far the closest that supermarket retailing has come to simplifying the always-tedious and sometimesdaunting food-shopping experience, and turning a chore into an exercise closely resembling a pleasant experience.

    Posted by Craig at 06:44 PM

    McD franchisee in Colorado Experiment

    McDonalds in Colorado Springs employing several innovative ways to provide more efficient customer service including internet kiosks.

    McD franchisee in Colo. routing orders through call center
    SunTimes Article


    October 9, 2003

    BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporter

    A McDonald's restaurant operator in Colorado is funneling customers' orders through a telephone call center to improve service speed and accuracy.

    Here's how it works: Customers at six McDonald's restaurants in Colorado Springs, Colo., call in their orders on telephones sitting on each table.

    The employees at the call center electronically relay the orders, as well as orders made at the drive-through, to the appropriate restaurant's kitchen. The orders appear on a screen in the kitchen, and identify the table or car where the order originated.

    Inside the restaurants, McDonald's employees take the orders to the tables and collect payment. Customers at the drive-through pay for their orders and pick them up as they always have.

    A seventh McDonald's restaurant, this one in Brainerd, Minn., recently set up the high-speed data line necessary to run its customer orders through the Colorado Springs call center.

    Though the call center employs as many as eight workers -- it reaches a peak during busy times -- the system halves the 35 to 40 cents in costs that a restaurant normally incurs to take a customer order at the counter, said Craig Tengler, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Exit 41, an Andover, Mass.-based firm that supplies the system's software.

    The call-center workers are trained to urge customers to buy more, so an average order is 10 to 15 cents greater under the new system than an order taken at the counter, Tengler said Wednesday.

    Corporate executives in Oak Brook are impressed enough by Colorado Springs franchisee Steve Bigari's idea to expand the call-center test to as many as four additional restaurants by early 2004, said McDonald's spokesman Bill Whitman.

    "We see that it has some potential to help reduce customer wait time," Whitman said, declining to release numbers. "It also reduces order time."

    Those are magic words to McDonald's, which has consistently ranked at the bottom of customer service surveys and consistently lagged in speed-of-service surveys. CEO Jim Cantalupo, who took over in January, has begun efforts to grade each restaurant's quality and hold the managers accountable.

    Bigari could not be reached for comment, but Tengler said Bigari intends to expand the initiative to include cell phones. It's hoped that by early next year, customers will be able to call in orders on their cell phones, with those calls also being routed to the call center, Tengler said.

    One possibility is to let a customer hit a number on his cell phone to relay his most frequent order, without having to say anything.

    The Colorado Springs restaurants already have set up new drive-through services to speed order times and improve accuracy.

    Digital cameras are set up at the drive-throughs to take a photo of each car. The photo is matched to the order that the driver made.

    The restaurants also feature new Zoom-throughs.

    The Zoom-through drive-throughs have no menu boards, so customers must know what they want. Customers place their order, swipe a credit card, bypass the drive-through line, and pick up their orders at a window separate from the normal drive-through pickup window.

    Plans call for a Virtual Zoom-through sometime in the future, in which customers would call in their orders and the payment would be deducted from a prepaid McDonald's card.

    The Colorado Springs restaurants also each have an Internet kiosk, and most tables have Internet access hookups.

    Separately, McDonald's announced Wednesday it will provide its New York, New Jersey and Connecticut customers with literature and information on how to order their favorite McDonald's food and still stay on a low-fat, low-calorie or low-carbohydrate diet.

    The program, to start in January, is part of McDonald's "Real Life Choices" initiative. It is being created in part by nutritionist and wellness coach Pamela Smith.

    Posted by Craig at 05:31 PM

    October 08, 2003

    C-Store Battle Shifts to Coffee

    Forbes.com: 7-Eleven's Lack Of Coffee Credibility

    7-Eleven's Lack Of Coffee Credibility
    Aude Lagorce, 10.07.03, 10:09 AM ET

    NEW YORK - With overall profits slumping and an abundance of outlets for consumers to choose from, the convenience-store industry has seen better days. In the face of such a slump, the largest players are reacting in different ways: some choosing to consolidate while others reinvent themselves.

    The $290 billion (sales) industry is dominated by 7-Eleven (nyse: SE - news - people ). But it's feeling pressure from inside and outside the sector. Rival Alimentation Couche Tard is quickly gaining market share. Monday, the Montreal firm agreed to acquire rival convenience-store chain Circle K from CoconoPhillips (nyse: COP - news - people ) for $830 million. The deal will give Couche Tard 4,630 stores in North America.

    More on 7-Eleven
    Tear Sheet

    Forbes 500s




    7-Eleven's strategy to remain top dog: coffee. The Dallas-based company, which operates or franchises about 5,800 stores in the U.S. and 19,000 more worldwide, announced today that its stores' coffee stations are getting an upscale makeover. Will the 76-year-old franchisor succeed in convincing customers to come to its stores for gourmet coffee?

    7-Eleven has been selling coffee to go by the cup for more than 40 years, but it recently lost its grip on the sector as it failed to catch the industry's trend towards customization. By ignoring the booming consumer demand for lattes, chai and other sophisticated coffee-based beverages, 7-Eleven may have forsaken its ability to become a significant player in the $8.4 billion specialty-coffee sector.

    "Their coffee program hasn't gone anywhere in years," says Mark Husson, an analyst with Merrill Lynch (nyse: MER - news - people ). "Look at the menu at Starbucks. 7-Eleven offers customers a choice between regular and decaf. They need coffee credibility."

    The company says its coffee stations have long had different brews, cappuccinos and cocoa. But the consumer perception unfortunately remains that 7-Eleven offers only basic coffee. The new program is meant to remedy that impression.

    Quality cups of joe could be the jolt the convenience-store industry needs. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, overall sales increased in 2002, but profits were down by 24%. 7-Eleven is faring better than the industry. Its stock, at $14.50, is only 0.9% off its 52-week high, and 2003 earnings per share are estimated to rise 64% to 74 cents per share from 45 cents last year.

    Still, millions of dollars are at stake for 7-Eleven, which derives about 5% of its $10 billion yearly sales from its coffee operations, according to Husson. Merchandise--including Slurpees, beer, perishables and tobacco items--accounts for more than 75% of sales. As the reigning coffee king, Starbucks (nasdaq: SBUX - news - people ), starts to open locations with drive-throughs, 7-Eleven has been spurred to launch its new program. Starbucks already has 350 drive-throughs in North America and plans to open more.

    At 7-Eleven's new "hot beverage stations," customers will have a choice of more than 1,300 combinations. A minimum of five varieties of coffee, four flavored syrups, seven different tea bags, five toppings, creamers, sweeteners and all types of milk will be available at each station. The key distinctions between it and traditional coffee houses are service and price. 7-Eleven's customers will make the drinks themselves, guided by store suggestions, thus avoiding waiting in line to order. The drinks will cost about $1 per cup instead of the typical coffee house prices hovering between $3 and $4.

    "This isn't going to work," says Alex Fisenko, an independent coffee consultant with Espresso Business, of 7-Eleven's overhaul. He believes that people only get coffee for the sake of coffee between 6 A.M. and 9:30 A.M. The rest of the time, "coffee is the admission price to do something else: read, meet a friend, do business, whatever." 7-Eleven won't get any of that business as it doesn't offer seating areas. Fisenko also says it will be hard for franchisees to keep the new bars clean as people serve themselves without the assistance of a barrista.

    Bruce Milletto, a coffee consultant with Bellissimo Coffee Info Group, couldn't agree more. "It's going to be impossible to keep the equipment clean and working. The machines that make espresso and cappuccino need a lot of maintenance. Are they going to have a trained employee do that full time?"

    7-Eleven says each store is in charge of appropriately staffing the stations. Since the chain is a franchise, it doesn't impose the new program on its members. But "over 95% of our franchisees are participating," the company says.

    Starbucks is far from being 7-Eleven's only competition in the gourmet sector. Several domestic players are drawing lessons from the success of the Seattle-based mermaid and are being inspired to make more of their java operations.

    Boston-based Dunkin' Donuts, which is owned by Allied Domecq (nyse: AED - news - people ), embarked on its own coffee campaign on Sept. 30. The No. 1 retailer of coffee by the cup in the country--it says it sells 2.7 million cups per day--launched an "Espresso Revolution" in its 1,500 New England stores. Lattes, cappuccinos and espresso are coming to the stores where staff promises that ordering a cup won't require Italian-language skills.

    Privately owned Sheetz, which has 292 convenience stores in five states, mostly in the East, is launching an espresso program with coffee-based drinks and also fruit smoothies. Each station will be full service, with barristas preparing the drinks, but the current self-service "brewed coffee program" will be maintained. Tammy Dunkley, the corporate advertising manager for Sheetz who worked on the new program, emphasizes that the chain will be going for the same quality as a Starbucks. "We're not cutting any corners. People often think that with convenience stores they will have to sacrifice quality, but they won't. We believe speed and quality can go hand in hand."

    The jump onto the coffee train for all the new entrants may be too late. In its press release Monday, 7-Eleven cites a 2003 study that takeout coffee consumption declined 6% last year while in-home coffee consumption increased, partly due to a slow economy, rising unemployment and weakened consumer confidence. Gourmet coffee consumption, while down in 2003, is still at a higher level than three years ago, the study discovered.

    If the economy doesn't rebound and consumers continue belt-tightening, 7-Eleven, with its self service and $1 cups, might be in the best position, but it will still have to convince coffee snobs that a convenience store can offer up a good skinny mocha java.

    Posted by Craig at 07:21 PM

    HR Technology Conference and PeopleSoft


    PeopleSoft news on upcoming conference

    PEOPLESOFT HCM EXECUTIVES PRESENT AT HR TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE & EXPO 2003 IN PHILADELPHIA

    WHO:

    Doug Merritt, vice president and general manager, PeopleSoft Human Capital Management

    With more than 15 years experience in the software industry, Doug Merritt leads PeopleSoft's HCM organization. PeopleSoft is the world leader in providing HCM applications that streamline HR business processes, deploy self-service to employees and align the workforce with corporate goals and objectives.

    Jenni Lehman, vice president of Global Product Strategy, PeopleSoft Human Capital Management

    Previously a leading analyst at Gartner, Jenni Lehman has deep domain expertise in HCM and is responsible for PeopleSoft's HCM product strategy division.

    Jason Averbook, director of Global Product Marketing, PeopleSoft Human Capital Management

    Jason Averbook is responsible for marketing PeopleSoft's industry-leading HCM solution. Averbook interacts closely with customers and prospects to ensure that PeopleSoft's HCM solutions are meeting the needs of organizations today.

    WHAT:

    Customer Success Session -- Leveraging Systems: UPS Delivers HR Services, Too

    This session will feature PeopleSoft's Doug Merritt and Barry Lacy, VP of Information Services, UPS. The presentation will address how the world's largest package delivery company leverages PeopleSoft technology to manage 360,000 employees, 50 pension plans and more than 275,000 personnel data changes per year. The session will also offer organizations of all sizes tips and techniques developed by UPS for managing its leading HR system.

    Session - Portals & Self-Service: Industry's first Portal & Self-Service Shootout

    The most highly attended session at the HR Technology Conference over the past three years, this year's Shootout will focus on portals and self-service technologies. PeopleSoft's Jenni Lehman and Jason Averbook, as well as other portal vendors, will demo powerful HR technology that reduces administrative costs and drives workforce productivity. All vendors will be asked to perform the same tasks based on a scripted scenario created by Bill Kutik, technology columnist and co-chairman at HR Executive magazine.

    Exposition Hall - PeopleSoft will be demonstrating its Enterprise and EnterpriseOne Human Capital Management, formerly J.D. Edwards Workforce Management, solutions throughout the conference.

    WHEN:

    Customer Session (LS2): Wednesday, October 8, 3:15 - 4:30 p.m.

    Session (PSS3): Thursday, October 9, 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

    WHERE:

    HR Executive's HR Technology Conference & Expo 2003

    Pennsylvania Convention Center

    Philadelphia, PA

    PeopleSoft Booth: # 301

    For more information on HR Executive's HR Technology Conference & Expo 2003, please visit: http://www.hrtechconference.com/attend.html

    Posted by Craig at 07:09 PM

    Packaged Speech Applications

    WorkForce Technologies and Nuance Team to Deliver Packaged Speech Applications

    October 08, 2003 12:44 PM US Eastern Timezone

    WorkForce Technologies and Nuance Team to Deliver Packaged Speech Applications

    MENLO PARK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 8, 2003--

    WorkForce Technologies' Human Resources, Government, Education, and Healthcare Speech Solutions To Be Available on the Nuance Voice Platform

    Today WorkForce Technologies and Nuance (Nasdaq:NUAN), the speech experts, announced Workforce's plans to deliver a Nuance-enabled suite of packaged speech applications specifically tailored to meet the requirements of the HR, government, education and healthcare markets. WorkForce Technologies' speech solutions will be made available on the Nuance Voice Platform(TM), the industry's first open, standards-based software platform optimized for speech solutions.

    "Our wealth of experience has allowed us to build applications that address the real challenges faced by these sectors," said Rick Thompson, president, WorkForce Technologies. "Our voice-based solutions, coupled with Nuance speech recognition and voice authentication engines provide the recognition, accuracy, scalability, and robustness required to deploy successful natural language and large vocabulary voice-enabled applications."

    "Packaged applications are becoming increasingly important for enabling enterprises to quickly and cost-effectively deploy high-quality speech solutions," said Chuck Berger, president & CEO, Nuance. "The combination of WorkForce Technologies' speech solutions and the Nuance Voice Platform will offer our mutual customers the ability to increase productivity, cost savings, and realize a rapid return on investment."

    Nuance Voice Platform

    Nuance Voice Platform is the industry's first open, standards-based software platform optimized for speech solutions. Designed to deliver maximum business benefits including cost savings, increased customer satisfaction and new revenue from voice-driven services, Nuance Voice Platform offers a broad range of speech specific capabilities, including the industry's first real-time Return on Investment (ROI) measurement and reporting tool. With the ROI Tracker(TM), Nuance Voice Platform monitors speech system performance in real-time, providing business managers with an accurate view of the effectiveness of their customer care initiatives and the intelligence needed to make strategic business decisions.

    About WorkForce Technologies

    Founded in 1994 and based in Herndon, VA, WorkForce Technologies is a leader in providing interactive, voice and web-based self-service solutions for Human Resources, Employment, Finance and Customer Service needs for large to small enterprises. These scalable solutions can be customized to fit the client's specific needs. Using best-of-breed technologies, WorkForce provides the tools and expertise to organizations to empower their customers, employees, or membership with self-service solutions to streamline communication and enable enhanced business services. For more information call 413-567-4259 and ask for Gail Toti or visit our web site at www.wftech.com.

    About Nuance

    Nuance is the speech expert. Nuance's speech software solutions enable automated access to everything from account balances to flight information, email reading to voice activated dialing -- accessed using nothing more than the power of voice and an ordinary phone. In markets around the world, leading enterprises and telecommunications carriers -- including British Airways, Nomura Securities, OnStar, Sprint PCS, United Parcel Service, Vodafone, and many more -- work with Nuance to reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction and retention, create new sources of revenue and improve security. Nuance is headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. and has offices around the world. For more information, visit www.nuance.com or call 1-888-NUANCE-8.

    This press release contains forward-looking statements, including, for example, those relating to the benefits attainable by using speech products and applications and the capabilities of Nuance's partner alliances. There is no assurance that the results contemplated by any forward-looking statements will be realized. The following factors, risks and uncertainties, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from those described or implied in this press release's forward-looking statements: the risk that anticipated benefits, cost savings and/or customer adoption of speech solutions may not be realized in some or all circumstances, the risk that Nuance's partner alliances will not produce anticipated results in some or all circumstances and other factors described in Nuance's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including but not limited to Nuance's last-filed quarterly report on 10-Q. Nuance does not undertake to update any oral or written forward-looking statements that may be made by or on behalf of Nuance.

    Note to Editors: Nuance is a trademark of Nuance Communications, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

    Contacts


    Nuance
    Gwen Murphy, 650-847-7131
    gmurphy@nuance.com
    or
    WorkForce Technologies
    Gail Toti, 413-567-4259
    gail.toti@wftech.com
    or
    Eastwick Communications for Nuance
    Becky Quinlan, 650-480-4032
    becky@eastwick.com

    Posted by Craig at 07:07 PM

    Payroll Management and Hotels


    Hotels and Payroll

    October 08, 2003 01:07 PM US Eastern Timezone

    GuestHouse Inns selects Payroll Online ESN; GuestHouse Managers Sleep Well at Night!

    BELLEVUE, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 8, 2003--Payroll Online and GuestHouse Inns announce that Payroll Online is providing web based integrated payroll, HR and tax outsourcing services to GuestHouse Inns. Guest House Inns owns and operates 13 hotels through out the Pacific Northwest and has over 300 employees.

    "We are excited to utilize the ESN(TM) platform from Payroll Online. We chose Payroll Online because their web-based software allows GuestHouse to efficiently manage payroll and human resource tasks locally. Managers can now administer employee information and enter payroll easily from each hotel. These efficiencies help us meet payroll deadlines easier and reduce the cost and time spent collecting employee information and payroll data," said Kristine Tanaka, Controller at GuestHouse Inns. "Payroll Online uniquely provides user friendly technology, exceptional service, and cost savings which enables GuestHouse Inns to confidently outsource our payroll, tax and HR services."

    Under the terms of the customer agreement, Payroll Online will provide GuestHouse Inns with ongoing payroll processing, tax, and HR administration services through its Employer Services Network(TM) (ESN(TM)) technology platform. ESN delivers integrated online payroll processing, tax-filing, time and attendance reporting, and human resource services in a secure, hosted environment." We are delighted to be working with GuestHouse Inns. As they continue to grow and expand their business we look forward to the opportunity to assist in meeting their business process outsourcing needs," said Paul Johnson, Vice President of Payroll Online.

    About Payroll Online Corporation

    Payroll Online is a privately held company providing business process outsourcing web-services to small and medium-sized businesses nationwide. Payroll Online's proprietary Employer Services Network (ESN) technology platform delivers integrated online payroll processing, tax-filing, time and attendance reporting, and human resource services in a secure, hosted environment. ESN self-service features bridge the organizational resource gaps in managing a dynamic workforce. Payroll Online's ESN web-services increase employee productivity and reduce employer administrative costs with the speed and convenience of the Internet.

    GuestHouse Inns

    GuestHouse Inns based in Milton, WA owns six hotels under their own brand, four as a franchisee under Guest House International and one as a franchisee of Choice Hotels International. GuestHouse Inns has hotels in Washington, Montana, Alaska and Colorado. The concept behind GuestHouse International(R) is simple: we treat travelers with the same warm hospitality that we would give a guest in our own house. And although each property is individually owned and operated under the quality guidelines of GuestHouse Inns International, each location is designed to reflect the personality of the locale. It is our unique approach to service -- and site selection -- that sets us apart from the typical "chain" hotel.

    Employer Services Network and ESN are registered trademarks of Payroll Online Corporation.

    Posted by Craig at 07:06 PM

    Airlines

    Delta Air and Song highlights

    Noted that one of the services Song provides customers is:

    -- Personal video monitors at every seat with "touch screen" technology and credit card "swipe" capability.

    Posted by Craig at 07:03 PM

    Home Automation

    First Capital Intl., Inc., Appoints a New Vice President of Technology

    October 08, 2003 09:05 AM US Eastern Timezone

    First Capital Intl., Inc., Appoints a New Vice President of Technology

    HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 8, 2003--First Capital International, Inc. (OTCBB: FCAI), the Designer and Manufacturer of its prepackaged VIP Systems(TM) (www.VipHomeSystems.com) - a state-of-the-art Home Automation, Media Distribution and Video Observation system, announced today that the Company has appointed Mr. James C. Gooch Sr. as Vice President of Technology.

    "We are pleased to have Mr. Gooch as our Vice President over Technology," said Alex Genin - President and CEO of the Company. Mr. Genin went on to further state: "Mr. Gooch's extensive background in the IT industry, as well as, the IT educational business, will make him an excellent addition to the Company's Management Team."

    Mr. Gooch was a Professor at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business under their Decision and Information Sciences department, as well as, has had several years of extensive IT software and hardware management experience with numerous firms.

    About First Capital International, Inc.

    First Capital International, Inc. is a rapidly expanding International Technology company with its headquarters in Houston, Texas. The Company has developed a new Video Conferencing, Media Distribution and Home Automation Center - the VIP Systems(TM) (patent pending). The System (www.VipHomeSystems.com) is a fully interactive Internet device complete with touch-screen LCD monitor with full CPU and video camera observation system, which is built into the wall of a home and has full Web capabilities. The VIP Systems(TM) was featured as the main Home Automation Control Unit at the Bob Vila's dotCom dreamHome Project in Las Vegas, Nevada in April 2002, as well as, at the NextGen Home Project (http://nextgenhome.ishow.com/p_touch.cfm) in January 2003. Additionally, the Company's product line was recently awarded one of the best 50 Home Automation Products of the year by the Home Automation Magazine.

    This press release contains forward-looking statements that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. In addition to those factors already discussed, important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements are, among others, fiscal operating strategy and the availability of financing.

    Contacts


    First Capital International Inc., Houston
    Natalia Kotliartchouk, 713-629-4866
    Fax: 713-629-4913
    investor@firstcap.net

    Posted by Craig at 06:59 PM

    Border gets new CIO - People

    Borders gets a new CIO.

    Borders Group Books Johnson as SVP, CIO

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. (October 8, 2003) - Frederick Johnson stepped into his new post Tuesday as Borders Groups senior vice president and chief information officer, a newly created position.

    He takes over responsibilities previously held by Mark Winterhalter, VP of information technology, who left the company. In the expanded role, Johnson will head up efforts to enhance the customer shopping experience, create selling opportunities and improve upon supply chain effectiveness. He reports to Rick Vanzura, president of Waldenbooks and corporate information technology.

    Prior to joining Borders Group, Johnson was CIO and operations executive for floral retailer FTD.com, Downers Grove, Ill. He also was SVP of information systems at Jo-Ann Stores, Hudson, Ohio.

    Borders Group here operates Borders superstores in the United States, United Kingdom and Pacific Rim; Books stores; and Waldenbooks stores.

    Posted by Craig at 06:50 PM

    Personalization Strategies

    Is Web-Page Customer Personalization a Bust?

    Several years ago, just before the bubble burst, the term "one-to-one marketing" was all the rage. Capturing information about every site visitor and customer was crucial, because marketers assumed that using that data to serve up highly customized Web pages would vastly increase what a customer was willing to buy.

    Well, things did not work out exactly that way, and many companies became disillusioned with the whole project. And since the days of the one-to-one marketing revolution may be over, many are wondering if personalization is going down the drain along with it.

    Segmentation Before Personalization

    Not necessarily -- but enterprises will have to change their thinking about what personalization can do for them, Aberdeen Group research director Guy Creese told CRMDaily.com. Segmentation, a more pedestrian marketing technique, is a necessary first step to an effective personalization strategy, Creese stressed. "You can think of segmentation as personalization on training wheels," he said.

    Companies go through stages of maturity in their marketing development, explained Creese. He pointed to JC Penney as an example.

    "Four or five years ago, they sent their catalogue to everyone," he noted. Now, the retailer has developed a set of smaller catalogues targeted to specific segments of customers. The customers are more likely to buy from a more manageable catalogue that includes just those items in which they are interested, the logic goes. JC Penney also saves money by not mailing those huge tomes of yesteryear and by mailing catalogues only to interested people.

    This is an example of effective segmentation, said Creese. Before beginning a personalization strategy, enterprises should make sure they can plan and execute this type of marketing well.

    Low-Tech Options

    There are some instances, of course, where an even finer grain of detail can serve both the enterprise and the customer -- for example, an online grocery retailer that tallies which products a customer buys most frequently. When the customer signs on, the retailer can prefill the customer's cart with those products.

    "This is a relatively low-tech task," Creese said. "There's no wild data mining going on in the background." But for a harried shopper -- exactly the type of person inclined to use on online grocery retailer -- the convenience can make the relationship.

    Vertical Difference

    Companies in some vertical industries are more likely to have achieved a good view of their market segmentation needs than others, Tareef Kawaf, product manager with ATG (Nasdaq: ARTG) , told CRMDaily. Media and entertainment is one; retail is another.

    In retail, companies are applying analytics to learn how to use information on customer behavior -- frequency of site visits, for example -- to gain more revenue from each customer. That is one of the instances where one-to-one personalization might be profitable, said Kawaf, but those occasions are few and far between. In general, one-to-one marketing is "not something that you want to engage in," he added.

    Applications Versus Technology

    Some level of personalization functionality has become "mainstream" in CRM software, ATG's CTO Fumi Matsumoto told CRMDaily. Thus, many companies use personalization features without necessarily buying personalization software. This gives a somewhat artificially negative spin to the term -- because, in fact, the pure-play personalization technology vendors are having a tougher time than other vendors that incorporate such tools into multifunction suites.

    ATG customers justify personalization tools only as part of other systems, according to Matsumoto, such as e-commerce and customer service.

    "In the past, lots of personalization vendors offered engines with algorithms or rules that did things like making product recommendations -- and that was all." Now, he said, enterprises are looking for ways to wrap the information they gather back into their marketing efforts more quickly.

    That bodes well for personalization as a marketing approach, but not necessarily as a software niche.

    Posted by Craig at 06:44 PM

    October 07, 2003

    Unicru Announces Total Workforce Acquisition Solution

    workforce recruiting, selection and hiring solution e

    October 07, 2003 09:05 AM US Eastern Timezone

    Unicru Announces Total Workforce Acquisition Solution Integrating Innovative Selection Science and Workforce Intelligence

    HR Technology 2003

    PORTLAND, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 7, 2003--

    Market Leader in Workforce Selection and Optimization Announces First Solution to Maximize the Quality and Business Impact of Hiring Decisions for Professional, Managerial and Hourly Staff

    Unicru(R) Inc. today announced its first workforce recruiting, selection and hiring solution to provide an ongoing link between staffing strategies, business objectives and financial goals: the Unicru Total Workforce Acquisition solution. Exploiting a new generation of proprietary selection science, workforce intelligence and flexible Web services technology, Unicru is the only enterprise staffing solution designed to optimize the ongoing workforce quality of high performing professional, managerial and hourly staff. It is also the only solution to integrate industry-specific knowledge with closed-loop workforce performance analytics, providing continuous validation of selection strategies on business goals.

    "Unicru's approach of using selection science to obtain people with the skills and attitudes to achieve business objectives has long delivered incredible value for companies that rely on hourly employees as the face of their business," said professor Jeffrey Pfeffer of the Stanford Business School and author of The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First. "By bringing these same advantages to the entire enterprise, Unicru dares the staffing technology industry to go beyond frequently misleading and inappropriate recruiting efficiency measures to focus on actual workforce performance, and how a company's people can actually execute strategy and deliver productivity, customer loyalty, and profitability."

    Total Workforce Acquisition Solution

    Unicru's Total Workforce Acquisition solution provides business unit and human resource executives, hiring managers and recruiters with objective insight into the likely fit and performance of candidates before the hiring decision is made. This is achieved through a unique combination of industry-specific knowledge with leadership technologies in scientific employee matching, assessment and selection, hiring manager decision-support, workforce intelligence and closed-loop process optimization. Unicru maps to key performance measures and the job-specific attributes that contribute to consistently achieving business success. For over six years Unicru has proven the effectiveness of its methodology, having electronically assessed and managed over 18 million applicants in partnership with leading corporations. Unicru's solution is used by six of the 40 largest employers in the US, more than any other staffing technology vendor.

    Unicru SmartMatch: A Breakthrough in Salaried Recruiting

    Designed to address a central issue that has blocked improvement in the quality of staffing processes, Unicru SmartMatch is an advanced, proprietary search and match engine that interacts with a recruiter and hiring manager to rapidly and accurately identify the most qualified candidates in a large pool of applicants. Using unique and innovative methods, Unicru SmartMatch builds a rich, objective profile of an applicant from their resume, application, screening questions, assessments and other information. Hundreds of attributes about a candidate are evaluated simultaneously leveraging a knowledge base containing industry, recruiter and hiring manager expertise to identify the best matches among thousands or millions of applicants in seconds.

    SmartMatch 'understands' the structure of resumes enabling it to detect employment patterns, such as over-qualified candidates, and can alert recruiters to frequent 'job hoppers'. SmartMatch automatically learns more advanced concepts and predictive relationships with use, building its knowledge of jobs, skills, industries and their relationships. Optimized for each client's organization, SmartMatch can be taught each value in an employee and will improve its predictions based upon the performance of hires in that organization.

    Unicru SmartMatch complements Unicru's validated behavioral assessment technology, SmartAssessments, providing a powerful and unique tool set for organizations to scientifically select workforces that align with business objectives. Third party assessments and services can also be integrated into the system.

    Workforce Intelligence: Linking Selection to Business Performance

    The second key advancement of the Unicru Total Workforce Acquisition solution is its robust workforce performance analytics tools and services that identify the direct impacts of workforce selection strategies on business metrics, such as workforce productivity, total staffing costs, sales and customer service performance. Unicru is the only staffing technology vendor to use continuous closed-loop feedback on the performance of hires within the customer's environment. Unicru reports on metrics of interest to both the VP of HR as well as CEO. These insights are then applied to provide decision support to individual hiring decisions as well as recommended optimization strategies that can improve the corporate bottom-line. New workforce intelligence tools and services are continuously developed by Unicru's world-class team of PhD I/O Psychologist, HCM Analytics, and AI researchers.

    The Unicru Total Workforce Acquisition solution is available as an integrated solution or as separate Salaried and Hourly solutions.

    Unicru Salaried Solution

    The foundation of Unicru's Salaried Solution is a proven talent management platform that leverages advanced Microsoft .NET Web services to enable rapid, low cost, configuration, integration and implementation of advanced recruiting workflows. The product of over three years of collaborative design and engineering with leading global corporate staffing organizations, Unicru's Salaried Solution is designed to optimize quality outcomes in the sourcing, screening, matching, assessing, interviewing and hiring of professional and managerial staff. Its underlying talent management functionality offers:

    -- A robust online candidate experience, enabling applicants to apply for positions online, manage personal profiles, and check the status of their applications.

    -- Completely configurable workflows for all stages of the candidate relationship, giving each user the flexibility to manage the different processes they require.

    -- Streamlined requisition and offer approvals for hiring managers and recruiters.

    -- Assisted communication and collaboration between hiring managers, recruiters and candidates, including Microsoft Outlook integration.

    -- Deep integration of advanced selection science into the recruiting process, including Unicru SmartMatch and Unicru SmartAssessments.

    -- Integration with HRIS, ERP, payroll, sourcing and employment service providers.

    Unicru Hourly Solution

    Unicru is also announcing significant enhancements to its Hourly Solution, including a broader SmartAssessments portfolio, support for re-hire processes, drug screening integration, and robust new self-service workforce quality and compliance reporting tools. The Unicru Hourly Solution enables employers of frontline workers to consistently apply best hiring practices across all locations, giving managers more time to focus on customer satisfaction by enabling them to more quickly and efficiently hire the candidates that provide an excellent customer experience. The Hourly Solution lowers hiring and labor costs by presenting only the best candidates -- with insight into their strengths and weaknesses -- to hiring management, streamlining tax credit capture and minimizing the payment of non-qualifying unemployment claims, among other benefits. The system also features job-specific employee selection modules, which focus on the key personality traits and skills associated with job success within managerial and frontline positions in different industries.

    Availability

    The Unicru Total Workforce Acquisition solution will be available December 2003 with vertical market editions for the Retail, Grocery, Hospitality, and Dining industries.

    About Unicru

    Unicru is the leading provider of Total Workforce Acquisition solutions that enable enterprises to systematically select the highest quality employees across job roles throughout the enterprise to positively impact corporate outcomes through workforce initiatives. Unicru combines scientifically-proven employee selection assessments, applicant recruitment, hiring management decision support, and complete data capture for measurement and continuous improvement of business results, for over 60 enterprises including Albertsons, Bennigan's, Universal Studios, Blockbuster, Marriott, CVS, Kroger, and Southeastern Freightlines. For more information, visit www.unicru.com.

    Unicru is a registered trademark of Unicru, Inc.

    Contacts


    Unicru
    Kim Beasley, 503-596-3409
    kbeasley@unicru.com

    Posted by Craig at 02:47 PM

    The World of Wal-Mart

    The World of Wal-Mart | NACS Daily

    The World of Wal-Mart
    October 7, 2003

    BENTONVILLE, AR -- A trip to a Wal-Mart Supercenter may also mean a visit to McDonald's, the bank, the eye doctor, Krispy Kreme, the nail salon and H&R Block.

    Diversity it seems is a key part of Wal-Mart's strategy for success.

    "It adds variety. We're looking to make the shopping experience exciting and fun," Wal-Mart spokesperson Tom Williams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    NACS Daily previously reported that Wal-Mart is partnering with Krispy Kreme and H&R Block on in-store operations.

    Wal-Mart has said it plans to open 230 new Supercenters in the United States in 2004, or about 50 million square feet of retail space--equal to that of approximately 36 shopping malls.

    The possibility of reaching some 138 million shoppers each week has made many retailers eager to set up shop within the walls of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, say analysts.

    "Where else would you want to be? There's more traffic and more people spending money than anywhere else," said Jack Plunkett, president of retail research firm Plunkett Research. "It has gotten to the point where Wal-Mart could literally make you or break you."

    A company such as Krispy Kreme, which is already a hot commodity, may not seem to need the added sales oomph of Wal-Mart's Supercenter, but the doughnut maker said it is hoping the partnership will expand its appeal even further.

    "There is a lot of opportunity. We want to see how it works," Krispy Kreme Senior Vice President of Marketing Stan Parker told the Journal-Constitution. "This is a period of learning for us."

    If the Supercenter-based Krispy Kreme stores do well, the partnership may grow to include Wal-Mart's Neighborhood Market concept.

    The Journal-Constitution compiled a list of chains that have operations inside Wal-Mart:

    McDonald's
    SmartStyle
    Budget Rent-a-Car
    Thrifty Rent-a-Car
    Jackson Hewitt
    National Vision
    National Bank of Commerce
    California Nails
    Regal Nails
    Hometown Threads
    PCA Portrait Studio

    Concepts in the testing phase:

    * Krispy Kreme stores will open in five locations this month
    * H&R Block is set to open 800 locations in January

    Posted by Craig at 02:43 PM

    Couche-Tard Inc. has bought the Circle K chain


    Couche-Tard Inc. has bought the Circle K chain

    Tuesday, October 07, 2003
    CREDIT: Francois Roy, The Canadian Press

    Couche-Tard CEO Alain Bouchard announces the acquisition of 2,000 U.S. Circle K stores yesterday.

    ADVERTISEMENT

    MONTREAL - Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has bought the Circle K chain from oil giant ConocoPhilips Inc. in a deal that will make the Quebec company one of the largest retailers headquartered in Canada and position it to rival 7-Eleven as the continent's largest convenience store operator.

    Couche-Tard will pay US$830-million ($1.12-billion) to buy just over 2,000 Circle K stores in a belt of 16 U.S. states that runs down the west coast and crosses the country's sunbelt to the Atlantic.

    The largest concentration of stores are in Arizona (523 stores), Florida (366), California (158) and Louisiana (151). The company already has 700 stores in the U.S. Midwest after a string of acquisitions since mid-2001.

    "It's a massive acquisition," said CIBC World Markets analyst Michael Van Aelst. "But the company has made large acquisitions before and consolidated them with great success. There's no reason to believe they can't do it now."

    Investors bid up Couche-Tard's subordinated voting stock by 22%, or $3.90, to an all-time high close of $21 after management said it could produce at least US$50-million in annual cost savings and immediately increase margins and earnings per share.

    Meanwhile, chairman and chief executive Alain Bouchard signalled the deal has done little to quell his appetite for expansion in the U.S.

    "We're already the leading consolidator in a fragmented industry and ... tremendous opportunities for growth remain," he said. "We've got a clear vision of the future ... and we'll be a buyer again" -- likely after the company finishes integrating this purchase within two years.

    The purchase had been widely expected, only its size surprised some analysts, who had expected Couche-Tard might buy a few hundred of the Circle K stores.

    The deal, due to close in December, will give Couche-Tard a total of 4,630 stores, about 2,700 of them in the U.S., and make the company the fourth-largest convenience store operator in North America, about 1,200 stores behind 7-Eleven Inc. (The industry leader has an additional 18,000 international stores).

    The deal will more than double Couche-Tard's annual revenue to about $8.8-billion, leapfrogging stalwart Canadian retailers Hudson's Bay Co. (parent of The Bay and Zellers), Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. in size. Only Wal-Mart's Canadian operation and the Loblaw and Sobey's grocery chains are bigger.

    "Given the other deals they've done I don't think this is that much of a piece," said Jason Hornett, an analyst with Bissett Investment Management in Calgary. "They are excellent store operators and they've proven in the past they can go into the U.S., make the acquisitions and make them succeed."

    It's the second time Couche-Tard has more than doubled its size with an acquisition that transformed the company. In 1999, the company bought Mac's and Beckers owner Silcorp Ltd. for $220-million, tripling its size and establishing Couche-Tard as a cross-Canada player and the domestic industry leader.

    The latest deal will result in Couche-Tard deriving three-quarters of its revenue from the United States, up from just 40% before the deal, and zero in early 2001.

    After a string of would-be consolidators failed in the past three years, Couche-Tard remains one of the only North American-based buyers of stores in a market flooded with sellers. Industry watchers believe gasoline giants -- which dominate the list of top convenience-store owners -- are looking to sell about one-third of their stores as they continue to focus on their core business, as ConocoPhillips has done. "It's like they're above looking down, and they're cherry-picking what they want," Mr. Van Aelst said.

    Couche-Tard is paying 5.4 times Circle K's operating earnings, a multiple that falls to four times after factoring in the expected cost savings. "It's dirt cheap," said Mr. Van Aelst.

    Meanwhile, Couche-Tard has been acting as if it's operating in an entirely different industry than its competitors. While the industry is known for standardized, "cookie cutter" stores that are managed centrally, the Montreal company takes a decentralized approach, customizing store designs and merchandise offerings to local tastes, and leaving regional management teams to run complements of no more than 700 stores. The company has derived huge sales increases by adding fresh food and restaurant counters and renovating dozens of stores each quarter. Earnings have grown by an average 79% annually over the past 11 years, running counter to its peers, which have suffered from declining gas and cigarette margins.

    Couche-Tard executives said Circle K was one of the best-managed and located chains in the industry, with lots of stores in high-population growth areas in the South.They determined the company's brand is so strong they will keep the banner, rather than changing it to Mac's, as they have done elsewhere in the United States.

    Jeff Lenard, a spokesman with the National Association of Convenience Stores in the United States, said the two companies will complement each other well, as Circle K management have dabbled in innovations such as adding lottery and video e-mail kiosks to stores. "The combination will make for a robust set of stores," he said.

    But they will likely substantially trim the headcount at Circle K's head office and split Circle K into four divisions, each with its own growth strategy. Analysts said Texas and California likely represent the best growth opportunities for the company. In addition, only one-third of Circle K stores have bar-code scanners, something the new owners will change.

    Couche-Tard will pay for the deal with a new $1.2-billion credit facility and a private placement of 13.5-million subordinated voting class B shares for proceeds of $223-million. The company plans to immediately cut debt by $300-million by selling 300 of its stores and leasing them back.

    TOP VARIETIES: Number of convenience stores*:

    1 7-11 Inc. 5,829

    2 Royal Dutch./ Shell Group of Companies 5,372

    3 BP PLC 4,900

    4 Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.** 4,630

    5 Exxon Mobil Corp.** 2,799

    *Based on data collected in 2002

    **Ranking after deal closes.

    Source: Convenience Store News

    bgibbens@nationapost.com; ssilcoff@nationalpost.com

    Posted by Craig at 02:40 PM

    October 06, 2003

    Airport Spend Levels

    Airports with highest retail sales

    Monday, July 14, 2003
    Top ten airports for consumer spend level.

    Also see http://www.airportretailnews.com/2003_best_concess.pdf for best concession awards and http://www.airportretailnews.com/2003_best_airports.pdf for best airports large/medium and small.

    Monday, July 14, 2003

    FLY BUYS.(airports with highest retail sales)
    The Daily News Record


    Those two-hour advance check-ins and endless security delays are starting to
    pay off for airport retailers. Despite a tough economy and the aftermath of
    9/11, airports are holding their own as a source of retail revenue. Reports
    from industry experts say there was a slow but definite takeoff in traveling
    over the past year and, with it, a surge in sky mall shopping. According to
    Airport Revenue News of West Palm Beach, Fla., these are the 10 airports
    with the highest retail sales, excluding duty-free products, for 2002.

    1) ATLANTA HARTSFIELD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $184.6 million

    Boarding passengers: 38 million

    Hartsfield has about 200 concessions on its huge, well-organized concourses,
    and shopping them is no problem because it's also got an underground transit
    system that would put most cities to shame. Among the national names: The
    Sports Zone, Johnston & Murphy, Wilsons Leather and Brookstone.

    2) LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $174.2 million

    Boarding passengers: 30.9 million

    Accessorize at LAX? Why not? Your options here include: Via Voyage sunglass
    shop, Sunglass Hut, Watch Station and Spirit of the Red Horse, which sells
    American Indian-themed jewelry and gifts.

    3) CHICAGO O'HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $161.5 million

    Boarding passengers: 33.3 million

    One of the nation's busiest airports, O'Hare's retail mix includes
    Montblanc, Tie Rack, Sunglass Hut, Watch Station and Wilsons Leather.

    4) JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $139.7 million

    Boarding passengers: 14.6 million

    Terminal One's international travelers have lots of disposable income. And
    last year they spent it at shops such as Coach, Ferragamo and Hermes, and
    restaurants like Anton's Bistro Cafe, Brooklyn Beer Garden and Napa Valley
    Grill.

    5) DALLAS/FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $126.9 million

    Boarding passengers: 28.8 million

    Texas-themed souvenir stands and down-home, Southern-style eateries join
    shops such as Brooks Brothers, Fossil, PGA Tour Shop, Official Dallas Cowboy
    Pro Shop, Sharper Image and Wilsons Leather.

    6) SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $119.1 million

    Boarding passengers: 17 million

    Here you can buy local or national. Coast-to-coast retailers like Montblanc,
    Sunset Shades, Discovery Channel Store and Wilsons Leather get a shot of Bay
    Area color from the San Francisco Museum of Art Store, The Crab Pot,
    Tomokazu, Allegro Restaurant and Willow Street Woodfired Pizza.

    7) LAS VEGAS McCARRAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $116.2 million

    Boarding passengers: 17.5 million

    If travelers don't want to spend their change at the dozens of slots around
    McCarran Airport (which ring up $30 million a year), they can shop at stores
    like Fossil, Lids and the PGA Tour Shop.

    8) MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $111.7 million

    Boarding passengers: 16.5 million

    Miami is upgrading its retail operations with 37 new stores in 39,000 square
    feet of space. Management says it's going after high-end jewelry and
    designer labels. Opening in October: Brasif, a store selling leather
    apparel, and fine soaps and scents.

    9) NEWARK LIBERTY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $111.1 million

    Boarding passengers: 15.2 million

    Men's fashion brands dominate at Newark, where you can wait for your gate
    announcement while shopping the likes of Kenneth Cole, DKNY, Johnston &
    Murphy and Occhiali da Sole.

    10) DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    2002 sales: $105.1 million

    Boarding passengers: 18 million

    The airport's diverse mix of retailers includes Bikekulture, Tie Rack,
    Discovery Channel Store, Sunglass Hut, Sunshades and the Colorado
    Collection, which does a $3 million-a-year business in jewelry made by local
    artists.

    Source: AIRPORT REVENUE NEWS, West Palm Beach, Fla.

    Posted by Craig at 08:44 PM

    October 04, 2003

    Bedside Manner Goes High Tech

    Baptist Hospital, operated by Baptist Health South Florida, is a 551-bed facility in Miami conducting a pilot program that may well presage a transformation in patient care.

    BEDSIDE MANNER GOES HIGH-TECH
    By Ted Kinni, Contributing Writer

    Baptist Hospital, operated by Baptist Health South Florida, is a 551-bed facility in Miami conducting a pilot program that may well presage a transformation in patient care. Its transformation of a hospital bed into a highly personalized technology center is driven by a suite of computerized equipment and software installed at each bedside in the hospital's 51-bed Cardiovascular Step-down Unit. The unit monitors patients with complex heart diseases.

    "I have been a nurse for 30 years and I don't think there is any one product or opportunity to pilot that I have been more excited about," says Joan Clark, Baptist Hospital's VP for Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer. "It's break-through technology."

    Clark is referring to PatientStation, from Cardinal Health subsidiary Pyxis Corp. (which competes with Omnicell, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen's Bridge Medical). It consists of a networked computer next to the patient's bed with a flat screen monitor that swings over the bed. It not only brings information, but also dispenses appropriate medications and supplies, individually personalized for each patient at the point of care.

    The monitor is a portal for both patients and caregivers. From their beds, patients can access the Internet, concierge services, health-related education programming, television and movies, as well as their own medical records and billing info. There is also a Web cam for friends and family who can't make it to the hospital.

    Doctors can use the system to access the patient's records, test results, x-rays and ultrasounds on the spot. They can also access databases that offer specialized medical information pertaining to the patient's treatment, and can instantly send prescriptions to the hospital pharmacy.

    The most revolutionary aspect of the system, Clark says, is its ability to dispense medications and supplies. "A problem we have had with nursing workflow back to the Dark Ages is that the supplies and the medications aren't necessarily where the nurse needs them in order to provide a timely response to the patient," says Clark. "I was constantly walking back and forth to get the equipment that I need, to get the supplies that I need, and to get the medications that I need."

    Now, these items, as specified for each individual patient, are placed in secured cubicles stored in locked, computer-operated drawers attached to the system that the nurses have nicknamed "minibars." When a patient needs medication, the nurse validates it on the screen, and a drawer opens containing a bar-coded "cubie" enclosing the exact medication and dose prescribed for the patient.

    Patient safety and the timely delivery of care are significantly improved. Studies suggest that as many as 98,000 patients per year die from medical errors and the average award in a lawsuit involving a medication error is $636,844. Further, the performance of doctors, nurses and pharmacists -- those people with the most critical and costly skills in the hospitals -- is enhanced. The system streamlines operations while personalizing the patient's stay.

    Patient data is very sensitive, so security is paramount to the success of the pilot. PatientStation offers various levels of access depending on the sensitivity of information, supplies and medications. It employs a combination of ID badges, passwords and fingerprint technology for security.

    As a result of the pilot project's success, Baptist Health South Florida plans to install consoles at every bed in its five-hospital network, a $33 million investment over the next 10 years.

    http://www.1to1.com

    Posted by Craig at 11:47 AM

    October 03, 2003

    CVS Raise the Bar


    Newest CVS

    Newest CVS: Everything a drug store should be

    WAKEFIELD, R.I. CVS Corp. has raised the bar.

    The drug chains newest store, largest in the company at 19,500 square feet (selling), which opened last month as a replacement for a smaller CVS in this southwestern Rhode Island community, is everything todays promotional drug store should be and then some.

    Some of the elements that set it apart and above include:

    --A crisp, bright, pastel-oriented graphics and lighting package, the primary function of which is to clearly tell customers what is in the store and where it is located.

    --A low-profile configuration that sacrifices product height and density to perform the more important task of providing the customer with a clear view of the entire store and its merchandise from anywhere within the store.

    --Clear, bold aisle and product signage that leaves no doubt what is on each gondola.

    --An extensive (65-foot) beauty care run, possibly without equal in chain drug retailing, which offers options for every consumer, regardless of her outlook, tastes, preferences, proclivities, or the size of her pocketbook. In addition to including the basic drug store cosmetics and toiletries assortment, the mix runs the gamut from such French imports as Pierre Fabres Avene skin care line and

    LOreals Vichy brand both marketed under a Healthy Skin Center logo and enhanced by a beauty consultant to CVS just-launched Lumene line of color cosmetics, skin care and spa products.

    --A pharmacy counter that wraps its way around the rear of the store, offering customers a variety of drop-off, consultation and pickup points, while conveying professionalism and efficiency.

    --A prescription waiting area outfitted with a plasma-screen television.

    --A photo counter, located at the front of the store that emphasizes digital photography with all its possibilities again highlighted by a well-trained and knowledgeable staff and offering a full range of photo services.

    --A vitamin assortment organized not by supplier or vitamin but by health need, encouraging the customer to purchase specific vitamins, minerals or nutritional products to counter specific health care concerns.

    --Such consumer conveniences as a clearly visible (along the rear wall), 12-foot chilled beverage case and a Wellness Information Center offering (for purchase) an extensive assortment of health care books, magazines and literature.

    As for the rest of the store, it utilizes its full complement of space wisely, not by expanding the mix but by enlarging assortments and widening the aisles within the basic mix. In that sense it remains, despite its size, a basic drug store. But the attention it devotes to simplifying the shopping experience one that includes an in-store greeter who hands out a store directory is again all too rare in todays chain drug store environment.

    In Wakefield CVS has got it right. It only remains to be seen if the retailer can sustain the momentum and customer delight it has succeeded in achieving in this dramatically exciting and efficient promotional drug store.

    Posted by Craig at 06:22 PM

    Workforce Ideas Report


    workforce idea PDF

    Special study bu NRAEF and Coca Cola on strategies for hospitality and restaurant industry. 52 pages.

    site link is http://www.nraef.org/solutions/ideas/download.asp

    Posted by Craig at 04:55 PM

    Orbitz Terminates Worldspan agreement


    Airline NEWS

    Orbitz to terminate Worldspan agreement
    Dateline: Friday October 03, 2003

    Orbitz, the airline-owned online travel site, yesterday delivered a "notice of termination" of its agreement with Worldspan effective Oct. 31.

    According to Worldspan, which announced the termination, Orbitz took the action "because of a material service level failure by Worldspan," a claim the global distribution system denied. "Worldspan has provided and continues to provide a superior level of service and Orbitz does not have the right to terminate the agreement," the company said in a statement, adding that it "is currently considering its remedies against Orbitz, including with respect to wrongful termination of the agreement."

    However, a statement from Orbitz said only that the company is "discussing service level issues with Worldspan, and given our long and constructive relationship, expects to find a mutually agreeable resolution."

    Michele McDonald, editor of e-newsletter Travel Technology Update, said disagreements between the companies should be viewed in the broader context of Orbitz's desire to increase its so-called "direct connect activity [direct links] with suppliers."

    In a recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Orbitz noted that it "is obligated to meet minimum volume guarantees" with Worldspan "for any year in which we utilize Supplier Link [direct connect]." If Orbitz does not meet "specific quarterly thresholds," it must "pay Worldspan a segment fee for each segment that we fall short."

    Worldspan is owned by Travel Transaction Processing Corp., which was created by Citigroup Venture Capital Equity Partners and Teacher's Merchant Bank, the private equity arm of the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan. It was sold to the company earlier this year by its three airline owners--American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines--all of whom also were involved in the founding of Orbitz (ATWOnline, July 2)--Perry Flint

    Posted by Craig at 04:34 PM

    October 01, 2003

    Where is the ATM headed?

    Where is the ATM headed?

    Where is the ATM headed?
    by Mark Grossi, NCR's chief technology officer 30 Sep, 2003
    Back News Archives

    For more than 300 years, banking was a simple branch-based operation. However the introduction of the ATM in 1967 and the introduction of on-line teller terminal systems has completely changed customer expectations -- the ATM displacing the cashier/teller, the telephone and Internet replacing the branch and surface mail, and electronic cash replacing cash.

    The branch has been attacked, beaten and is evolving. It can survive -- but not as a bank administration office. The branch has to become a retail store operation with full branding, retailing, sales and marketing capabilities to survive.
    < _IMAGE _ >

    With each wave of technology, we have seen massive opportunities for banks, non-banks and IT vendors to reinvent the industry. We have also seen massive challenges. For example, just moving from a branch-based banking operation into a call center-based operation was dramatic. Obviously, most banks run both types of operations, branch and telephone.

    This works to their advantage, as they can provide consumers with channel choice. Yet they are often late to enter such market opportunities, and cannot be as lean, mean and fit as the newcomers who will specialize without being encumbered by other legacy channels.

    First Direct, the first and most successful UK telephone bank -- at one point growing by 100,000 customers per month -- is a good example, with their slogan: "the bank without branches." By the time the traditional large banks moved into telephone banking, they were five years behind First Direct and did not offer the same functionality or professional service.

    All of these factors combine to allow us to state categorically that there is more change taking place in the banking industry now and over the next five years than seen in the last 50. We must identify the next critical revolution in consumer banking delivery and ensure that we are leading the pack with appropriate solutions.

    Consumers in motion

    It is consumer acceptance of technology, rather than technology itself, that brings about widespread change. Consumers embrace technology that is convenient or that makes their daily lives more convenient. Technology enables change, but consumer behavior and acceptance drive it.

    So how are we changing as consumers? After all, as well as being bankers, technologists or whatever, the one thing we have in common is that we are all consumers.

    Our lifestyles are becoming more mobile. This shift is being supported and, to some extent, created by technology. The average U.S. citizen spends around 540 hours per year in his car, so perhaps it is not surprising that is where between 50 percent and 70 percent of all U.S. mobile phone calls are made.

    Following the ability to make voice calls on the move has come the technology enabling data on the move. Initially this was accomplished with slow, often unreliable wireless modems. However, more recent mobile Web solutions allow access to all the resources available on a desktop PC using new, faster communication infrastructures such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service).

    Next generation consumer

    Technology has become a symbol of status. This is not necessarily a cultural attribute; it is also a function of generation.

    Consider teenagers and mobile phones. Manufacturers of handsets have clearly recognized the trend of "technology status" and now release and actively market new models seemingly on a monthly basis. This drives a replacement cycle of 6-12 months, for no other reason than status and fashion, on devices that could easily function for five years.

    Entire industries have developed to exploit this change in behavior. As a father of three teenagers, I certainly wish I had developed the business around mobile phone ringtones: $3 each for the ultimate intangible, disposable, fashion accessory!

    Instant gratification

    These two factors, together with a number of others, combine to produce consumers with ever-increasing expectations, who are ever-more demanding. Consumers have gone beyond the search for convenience. They now demand instant gratification.

    On a business level, take e-mail. As recently as six years ago, it was seen as a revolution in fast written communication. Yet in some circumstances, it is not fast enough. We want instant response from our colleagues, hence the rise in real-time Instant Messaging via the Internet and SMS Messaging on mobile phones.

    Whatever we want, we want it now, or we will go somewhere else.

    Keys to success

    To succeed, a technology must be both useful and useable. Most consumers don't understand, or even want to understand technology.

    Consider this question: How big is the user manual on a Sony Playstation 2 games console? The answer: there is no user manual. The device is so simple to install and intuitive to use, it is unnecessary.

    The definition of a successful technology rollout might include the following:

    * In the hands of most
    * Consumers must be "an expert after using once"
    * Based on user-centred design
    * Awareness of the ability of the consumer

    What does this mean to us in NCR and the self-service industry as a whole? In NCR we ship ATMs to 120 countries. We have young and old end users; we need to accommodate many languages, varying degrees of literacy and a range of disabilities. Wouldn't it be nice to have an ATM that adapts to your capabilities? This is an idea I will come back to later.

    More mobility

    As we have already seen, our lifestyles are becoming more mobile. Unsurprisingly, mobile technology is proliferating to support this change. There are numerous statistics that demonstrate this, but perhaps the most telling are the predictions for mobile phone ownership.

    In Western Europe 70 percent of people have mobile phones. In Spain the number of mobile phones is greater than that of landlines. But most staggering, by the end of 2002 it is estimated that there will be 111 million mobile phones in China, growing to 360 million by the end of 2005. Translating this in western terms, this is more than one phone for every man, woman and child in the United States.

    Now consider what might happen if the mobile phone evolves into the Personal Trusted Device (PTD), a convergence of pocket PC and mobile phone. This can already be seen with some of the newer handsets such as Nokia 9210 Communicator.

    Consumer in control

    If consumers already possess an interface device, why not let them run the transaction? Consumers could select their ATM transactions when standing in the queue, or even sitting in their cars. As they reach the ATM, they transmit the pre-staged transaction either via the cellular infrastructure or using a Bluetooth-type technology with the ATM acting as the fulfillment device.
    < _IMAGE _ >

    NCR's prototype for an ATM that interacts with wireless devices has no screen or keypad.

    Approximately two years ago, NCR's Advanced Concepts Lab demonstrated the Freedom concept that executed ATM transactions in exactly this way. The concept was developed and has been deployed in a live pilot by a consortium of banks in Denmark.

    They want more

    Within the Lab, we recently undertook a research study of 12-15 year olds. Young people today have grown up with technology, whereas at least 30 percent of people in my generation are still unsure -- at least some of the time! What might these consumers of tomorrow expect of a self-service device?

    The major theme that ran through the research results was that cash is not the only item of value that could be dispensed through the ATM. Ideas included dispensing digital collectibles (e.g. Pokemon characters) or MP3 music files to printing digital photographs.

    The responses raise questions about what it means to dispense electronic value as well as physical value -- and what this means for ATMs and self-service.

    At first glance, these may not seem like core business to the banks of today, especially in the current economic climate. However, there has been clear evidence of convergence between retail stores and banks.

    The retail effect

    Richard Branson's UK company, Virgin, has both a finance division and a music retail division. If it deployed ATMs in stores that dispensed not just cash, but MP3 music, might this not threaten traditional banks' ability to attract and retain the next generation customers?

    The ATM is already a trusted device for dispensing cash. Could it not be extended to form a trusted point of payment and trusted point of delivery?

    As with the Freedom concept, the underlying principle of dispensing electronic value is already appearing. In a number of countries around the world, including Scandinavia and the U.S., it is becoming commonplace to top-up "pay-as-you-go" mobile phones at the ATM.

    Going where no ATM has gone before

    As consumer adoption of some of these technologies makes them ubiquitous, bankers and technologists are in a position to extend the infrastructure that supports the self-service channel. Again if we take mobile phones, or more specifically the communications infrastructure that enables mobile phones, new opportunities to extend the reach of ATMs become available.

    As the industry becomes freed from the constraints and cost associated with leased line, or even fixed line dial-up communications, ATMs become viable in new locations and new geographies.

    Some of the fastest-growing areas for ATM deployment are in emerging markets such as China and India. Countries such as these may not benefit from a robust fixed-line infrastructure, especially in rural areas. The wireless network in India, for instance, is more reliable than land lines.

    ATMs enabled with wireless communications technology could take advantage of this and be used to penetrate areas previously inaccessible to deployers. Banks that seize this opportunity would have access to an entirely new customer base.

    Playing the HARP

    In the Advanced Concept Lab we have recently announced a concept ATM called HARP (Handy Amounts in Remote Places). This small, lightweight unit incorporates not only wireless communications, but a range of self-contained power supplies from the latest battery technology to solar panels.
    < _IMAGE _ >

    NCR's HARP concept ATM, which can run on battery and solar power.

    By rethinking the traditional approach to powering the unit, not only is placement unconstrained by fixed communications, it no longer requires a fixed electricity supply -- again, this may be an issue in some rural areas of developing countries.

    Another business proposition considered in the development of HARP was the provision of ATM facilities in locations that have a short, but high, demand for cash dispense. Needing no fixed infrastructure, the secure portable units could be deployed for short periods of time at major sporting or cultural events. Increased brand presence and revenue generated through convenience fees could be two significant benefits to such deployments.

    While HARP is a concept, rather than an ATM available for purchase, the technologies described will be integrated into mainstream products within the next 18-24 months.

    OS/2 on the way out

    I touched earlier on the possibility of the idea of an ATM that recognizes the user. The ability to personalize the ATM is the visible face of a much more significant development, namely channel integration. This is the glue that holds all the new developments in ATMs together.

    The new Web Services technologies such as Microsoft .Net and IBM's WebSphere offer banks the chance to unify their technology infrastructure across all channels, enabling the institution to present a single cohesive view of all their interactions with an individual consumer.

    If ATMs are to be part of this brave new world, however, we must work to replace the legacy base of OS/2 driven machines with terminals running Windows NT or XP. Such a migration would allow banks to offer not only existing services in a manner customized to the preferences of the consumer, but also extend the range of functionality offered.

    A significant part of consumer acceptance is consistency. The ideal banking scenario, from the consumers' perspective, is that all touchpoints -- the Internet, the call center, the branch or the ATM -- interact with them in the same way.

    Banks, like any other industry, have a relatively small number of critical business drivers, including cost reduction and driving additional revenue. It is already clear that migration of teller-based deposit transactions offers significant cost reduction opportunities. A recent TowerGroup report, "Advanced ATM Functionality: Beyond Movie Tickets & Postage Stamps," estimates a possible additional $1 billion revenue stream from offering new fee-based services such as wire transfers and check cashing through the ATM.

    However, OS/2 must go if we are to take advantage of these new opportunities.

    To conclude...

    Through the years of the Internet explosion, many commentators suggested that traditional self-service technology was, at best, no longer strategic and at worst, obsolete, but you only need to look at the broader history of banking channels to see how unlikely that is.

    From the advent of branch banking in the 1700s, through the earliest ATMs in the late 1960s, then phone banking in the '80s and more recently the Internet and mobile commerce, the introduction of each new channel has been accompanied by predictions of doom for the existing customer interfaces. However, that this has not been the case. Each channel innovation has complemented rather than replaced the existing infrastructure.

    In the case of ATMs, I would go even further. I firmly believe the future of the ATM is bright and that it will play a significant strategic part in the overall channel strategy of retail banks. To borrow from Winston Churchill, I would say that this "is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning."

    Channel integration and the extension of ATM functionality to include physical fulfillment of "non-cash" transactions of value will ensure the ATM remains at the center of any successful retail bank's channel strategy.

    The author, Mark Grossi is chief technology officer for NCR's Financial Solutions Division. He heads up a team whose job it is to identify and explore consumer trends and technologies that will impact the self-service business over the next 3-5 years. He is also a member of ATMmarketplace's Future Trends Executive Roundtable.

    NCR has been the world leader in the manufacture of ATMs for the past 14 years.

    Posted by Craig at 07:02 PM

    Industry Veteran Joins Self-Service Leader Netkey to Drive Sales Growth

    Industry Veteran Joins Self-Service Leader Netkey

    10-01-2003 --

    BRANFORD, Conn. - Oct. 1, 2003- Netkey Inc., a provider of management software for self-service kiosks, digital signs and other remote devices, today announced the appointment of Pete Steiner as vice president of sales. In his role, Steiner is responsible for direct and indirect sales and expansion of Netkey solutions and services within existing and new markets.

    \"Pete\'s proven track record in successfully leading the sales efforts of several of the country\'s fastest-growing technology companies makes him the clear choice for Netkey,\" said V. Miller Newton, CEO of Netkey. \"We believe he brings the relevant experience, strategic thinking and customer focus that will help Netkey reach the next level as an internationally recognized leader for management software solutions for kiosks and self-service.\"

    Steiner brings more than 20 years of sales, marketing and business development experience to Netkey. He was previously vice president of sales at mGen Inc., a provider of training and learning software solutions. Prior to joining mGen, Steiner was senior vice president of sales at Monster.com (NASDAQ: MNST), a leading provider of online recruiting services. Steiner built and led Monster\'s sales organization and strategy, where over a three-year period revenue grew from $300,000 to $40 million annually and the sales force expanded from two to seventy-three professionals.

    \"This is an exciting time to join Netkey,\" said Steiner. \"This company has a growing roster of blue-chip companies and is poised for excellence. My primary objectives will be to continue to grow the market by helping businesses increase sales and reduce costs through the use of the Netkey software platform.\"

    Netkey provides a scalable and flexible software platform for the development, operation and management of networks of self-service kiosks, digital signs and customer and employee-facing terminals. Capabilities of the Netkey software platform include remote monitoring, content scheduling and delivery, system security, central administration, and reporting and analysis.

    In addition to his position at Monster, Steiner served as senior vice president of sales at Dice, Inc., an online recruiting service for technology professionals, and was also executive vice president of Lavastorm Technologies, a provider of revenue assurance software to the telecommunications industry. Steiner has also held various sales and marketing roles with companies including Engage and Hewlett Packard.

    About Netkey
    Netkey, Inc. is the premier provider of management software for extended self-service. Netkey software helps companies grow sales and increase worker loyalty by reducing the cost and complexity of delivering customer and employee facing services through kiosks, dedicated computer terminals, and digital signs. Netkey customers include America Online, BMW, Borders Books and Music, Fidelity Investments and Publix Super Markets. The company holds three U.S. patents for its self-service technology. For more information on Netkey, please contact the company at 1-800-443-7924, via e-mail at info@netkey.com, or visit Netkey on the Web at www.netkey.com

    Contact:
    Robert Ventresca
    Netkey
    (203) 483-2888
    rventresca@netkey.com

    Posted by Craig at 06:57 PM

    Digital Photography Kiosk Report Now Available!

    KNO - KioskNews.Org: Digital Photography Kiosk Report Now Available!

    Summit Research Associates, Inc., the leading consulting firm devoted to the kiosk and self-service industry, is proud to announce the publication of Kiosk Industry Sector Report - Digital Photography, their first report on one of the fastest-growing sectors in the kiosk arena. This sector has enormous potential. Why?
    In 2003, more digital cameras will be sold than film cameras
    Consumer digital photography is already a $1B business
    Less than 4% of all digital pictures are ever printed
    80 percent of all digital photos are printed at home but the cost of consumables is high and the print options are limited

    This report examines the current status and opportunities for growth for these units that are benefiting from the rapid acceptance of digital cameras. More than a dozen of the world's leading photo kiosks were tested, using a methodology designed to provide the most level playing field. Each kiosk tested was evaluated as a Case Study and includes pictures of the unit itself along with an example of the user interface. The same test pictures-employing the same storage medium-were used at each kiosk and compared for output quality. A number of charts are included covering the leading digital storage media accepted, the types of peripherals used, the most popular editing features and the leading print options. Almost every photo kiosk manufacturer is represented in this report. They include Kodak, Fujifilm, Sony, Agfa, Pixel Magic Imaging and Konica.

    Digital photography kiosks represent an area of enormous promise. But two critical questions must be answered: If you build it, will they (the customers) come and use it? And, just as important: If they come, will they be able to produce prints of their digital pictures? This report provides valuable insights into these issues, along with recommendations for maximizing revenue while minimizing the time spent at the kiosk.

    The Case Studies are evaluated using Summit's extensive Photo Kiosk Evaluation Checklist, which presents an overview of each kiosk project. It includes descriptions of, the enclosure, signage, user interface, peripherals, digital storage media accepted, print options available, image editing capabilities and any special features that make this kiosk stand out. A detailed evaluation of the kiosk-both positive and negative-follows the checklist featuring pictures of the unit and a sample screenshot of the user interface.

    Table of Contents
    I. Introduction
    II. The Opportunity
    III. Research Findings
    IV. Testing Methodology
    V. Evaluation Checklist and Descriptions
    VI. Digital Photography Kiosk Case Studies
    Agfa
    Applied Science Fiction
    Fujifilm
    Kodak
    Konica
    Lucidiom
    Noritsu
    Olympus
    Photo-Me
    Pixel Magic Imaging
    Polaroid
    Sony
    TouchPoint Solutions
    VII. Appendix


    Table of Figures
    Figure 1. Leading Storage Media Used in Photo Kiosks
    Figure 2. Print Options Offered in Photo Kiosks
    Figure 3. Leading Editing Options Offered in Photo Kiosks
    Figure 4. Leading Features Found in Photo Kiosks
    Figure 5. First Test Picture
    Figure 6. Second Test Picture
    Figure 7. Photo Kiosk Evaluation Checklist
    Figure 8. Agfa e-box
    Figure 9. Agfa e-box Editing Interface
    Figure 10. Applied Science Fiction DigiPIX Image Station
    Figure 11. Applied Science Fiction DigiPIX Specialized Editing
    Figure 12. Fujifilm Freestanding Aladdin Unit
    Figure 13. Fujifilm Instructions for Printing all Pictures
    Figure 14. Kodak PictureMaker PictureMaker Unit at Wal-Mart
    Figure 15. Kodak PictureMaker Print Size Options
    Figure 16. Konica Digital Input Station
    Figure 17. Konica White Border Option
    Figure 18. Lucidiom Touch Prints Unit
    Figure 19. Lucidiom Payment Options
    Figure 20. Noritsu CT-1 Digital Camera Terminal
    Figure 21. Noritsu Print Selection
    Figure 22. Photo-Me Digital Photo Kiosk
    Figure 23. Photo-Me Print Enhancement
    Figure 24. Pixel Magic Imaging iStation 100 Media Choices
    Figure 25. Pixel Magic Imaging iStation 100 Images and Output Options
    Figure 26. Pixel Magic Imaging iStation 200 Editing Options
    Figure 27. Pixel Magic Imaging iStation 200 Customer Options
    Figure 28. Polaroid Instant Digital Prints Kiosk
    Figure 29. Polaroid Selection Options
    Figure 30. Olympus True Print Kiosk
    Figure 31. Olympus Print Style Options
    Figure 32. Sony PictureStation at Kinko's
    Figure 33. Sony PictureStation Media Choices
    Figure 34. TouchPoint Solutions quickPIX Digital Photo & Film Processing Center
    Figure 35. TouchPoint quickPIX Fun Stuff Editing Options

    You might also be interested in our consulting services (including general workshops and briefings on the kiosk industry; strategic planning; as well as application, interface, usability and content evaluations.) Please contact me if you are interested or if you have additional questions. For further information on Summit Research Associates, please visit our Website, www.summit-res.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Warm Regards,

    Marta Mendelsohn
    Director of Marketing
    Summit Research Associates, Inc.
    7728 Warbler Lane
    Rockville, MD 20855-1034 USA
    www.summit-res.com
    marta@summit-res.com

    Phone: 301-670-0980
    Fax: 301-670-1006
    Phone (Europe): 34-93-659-37-68

    Posted by Craig at 06:55 PM

    September 30, 2003

    Wal-Marts Turner Outlines Mega-Retailers Leadership Philosophies

    Executive Technology

    NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (September 30, 2003) - Kevin Turner, a man who advanced from a store cashier to become president and CEO of Sams Club and executive vice president of Wal-Mart, opened Executive Technologys CIO Leadership Summit here by explaining the meaning of leadership -- done the Wal-Mart way.

    In a wide-ranging discussion of both building personal leadership skills and instilling them in other employees, Turner told a room full of CIOs and other high-ranking retail and technology executives that leading effectively means internalizing a sense that improvement, like change, is perpetual.

    The only job security any of us have is our individual commitment to personal development, Turner said. You get better or worse every day. The choice is yours.

    Concerning the tutelage of future corporate leaders and the motivation of more junior employees, Turner said Wal-Marts philosophy involves instilling a belief in the retailers greater cause improving Americans standard of living, for example and giving employees the authority to make their own decisions to achieve those ends. He cited Wal-Marts efforts to drive actionable operations data down to the store management level as a technological initiative that supports those goals.....

    Posted by Craig at 03:41 PM

    September 26, 2003

    Linebusters at Gas Pumps

    Saving Time at the Pump September 26, 2003
    CHICAGO -- ExxonMobil's latest venture truly proves that time is money.

    ExxonMobil has partnered with Timex on a Timex Speedpass Watch, which incorporates the retailer's transponder payment technology.

    The Timex Speedpass Watch works the same as ExxonMobil's regular Speedpass. Customers wave their watch at the pump or in the store at the "Place Speedpass Here" sign to make purchases, reports trendwatching.com.

    The Speedpass watch can be used at 7,500 Exxon and Mobil stations across the country, as well at more than 440 McDonald's restaurants in Chicago and northwest Indiana.

    Although trendwatching.com writes that it "has never been a fan of James Bond-like gadgets posting as 'consumer goods of the future,' but an easy-to-use payment system built into mundane have-to-wears like watches and phones

    http://www.nacsonline.com/NACS/News/nd0926038.htm

    Posted by Craig at 03:32 PM

    New Focus for Kodak

    Kodak slashes dividend, targets digital markets

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - Eastman Kodak Co. slashed its generous $1.80 annual dividend to 50 cents a share -- the first cut in over a century -- as it struggles to accelerate growth in digital photography to offset sliding film and camera sales.

    The move, announced Thursday, is aimed at reducing spending and boosting investment in digital markets by as much as $3 billion over the next three years. Kodak wants to drive up sales from $12.8 billion last year to $16 billion in 2006 and $20 billion by 2010.

    Investors didn't like what they heard, sending Kodak's stock price down $3.47 or 13 percent to $23.52 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

    The world's biggest photography company is trying to quickly widen its range of digital products in the consumer, commercial and health imaging fields as it shifts away from investing in the chemical-photography businesses that turned it into a 20th-century icon.

    ``This is probably the biggest turning point in our recent history, certainly a major turning point for a 120-year-old-plus company,'' chief executive Dan Carp told investors at a meeting in New York.

    ``The decline that became evident for sure in the second quarter of this year to the historic film-based businesses can be managed,'' Carp said. ``It requires hard work, a different model ... heavily driven on cost reduction and then selected investments for growth.''

    Kodak said in July that it was eliminating up to 6,000 jobs this year -- shrinking its global payroll to around 62,000 from a peak of 136,500 in 1983. It blames the three-year slump in film sales on a sluggish economy and the rapid rise of filmless digital picture-taking.

    By the end of the year, industry analysts expect digital cameras to begin outselling film cameras for the first time in the United States.

    Cutting the dividend by 70 percent will give Kodak extra financial flexibility, said Robert Brust, Kodak's chief financial officer.

    ``This reallocation of cash will help us achieve our revenue targets while carrying an amount of debt that's appropriate for the goals we intend to pursue,'' he said.

    Kodak's dividend yield -- which was 6.67 percent based on its closing stock price Wednesday -- was the highest among the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones industrial average. Its payout reduction is the first since Kodak introduced a dividend in 1902, spokesman Gerard Meuchner said.

    In July, Kodak said it expected to end up with $500 million of free cash this year after dividend payments and debt reduction. But its $500 million buyout that month of PracticeWorks, an Atlanta-based company that provides information technology systems for dental offices, would leave Kodak with no free cash, analysts said.

    The company expects to winnow down its debt from $3 billion at the end of June to between $2.1 billion and $2.4 billion at the end of this year.

    As the switch by consumers to digital photography comes on faster than expected, cutting deeply into the film, paper and photofinishing businesses that anchor Kodak's profits and image, the company has chopped jobs, consolidated its divisions and made large-scale changes in top management.

    It hired Hewlett-Packard veterans Antonio Perez in April and James Langley in August to help guide its development of digital businesses.

    The consumer and professional photography businesses, which account for about 60 percent of Kodak's annual sales, were combined this summer in an effort to pool resources.

    http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/6858250.htm

    Posted by Craig at 02:49 PM

    September 24, 2003

    Gift Cards and Considerations

    Gift cards, depending on how they are done, can be a good and a bad thing for consumers.

    Guarding against gift card traps
    By Lisa Munoz
    ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

    So much for hassle-free gift-giving.

    That's what Norman Vinson thinks.

    Last Christmas, Vinson, 67, a retired insurance broker from Brea, bought his wife, Arlene, several $50 gift cards at the Brea Mall.

    The cards seemed easy enough to use, but when she tried to pay for $109 worth of lingerie at a mall department store with two of the cards and $9 in cash, her cards were declined because they weren't worth enough.

    "I was totally embarrassed," she said.

    The couple called the toll-free number on the back of the cards to check the balances. They learned they were being charged a $2.50 monthly service fee for not using the entire value of the cards within six months.

    And the phone calls, it turned out, cut the cards' value further by 50 cents each.

    "Here's the whole thing about the whole shootin' match: You go in and buy a $50 gift card, and you assume you're buying someone a certificate that they can use for $50," said Vinson.

    That's not necessarily true, he has learned.

    Gift cards have steadily grown in popularity with both retailers and consumers since the late 1990s.

    But the Vinsons, and an increasing number of other consumers, have learned that gift cards can come with many strings attached.

    Consumers like gift cards mostly for their convenience. Retailers like them for many reasons. The cards save sales that otherwise would be lost if a shopper cannot find an appropriate gift, they give retailers access to consumers' dollars until recipients use the cards, and, if a recipient never redeems the card, the retailer has made pure profit.

    In addition, about two-thirds of gift-card recipients spend 15 percent to 20 percent more than the face value of the card, just as Arlene Vinson was trying to do.

    The cards have also cut down significantly on fraud because, unlike gift certificates, they cannot easily be forged, said Rob Markey, a director of Boston consulting firm Bain & Co.

    Since 1997, sales of gift cards have grown 15 percent to 35 percent annually, with 2003 sales estimated at $42 billion to $45 billion, according to a Bain & Co. study.

    The success of The Gap's gift-card program in 1998 inspired other retailers to follow suit, Markey said. Gift cards now constitute 5 percent of retail sales at stores like J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart, according to investment bank Salomon Smith Barney.

    Technologically, pre-paid calling cards were the predecessor of current gift cards. In recent years, advances in technology made gift cards more efficient, which increased their appeal among merchants.

    "The gift-card industry has been dominated by larger retailers, but over the course of the last several years, the technology for offering gift cards has evolved so that it's enabled smaller and smaller retailers to offer them economically," Markey said. "Now you can be a medium-sized regional retailer and actually afford a gift-card program."

    From clothing stores to home-improvement centers to restaurants, retailers of all types now offer gift cards.

    The Bank of America-issued cards resemble a credit card and can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. Customers purchase them in values ranging from $20 to $500, but unlike many retailer-issued gift cards, the card is not reloadable. Customers can buy a Bank of America Visa gift card directly from one of the bank's branches.

    The cards that Vinson bought his wife were Visa gift cards sold by Minneapolis-based Simon Property Group, which owns the Brea Mall.

    "We sell a lot of them. We sell millions of them," said Darren Thomas, the Brea Mall marketing director for Simon Property Group. The mall is currently promoting the cards with parents as a way of letting their teenagers do their own back-to-school shopping, while imposing a spending limit.

    The growing popularity of the gift cards has led to the gradual replacement of paper gift certificates, except for at mostly smaller, non-chain, local retailers.

    As large national retailers such as The Gap, Pacific Sunwear, Target and Macy's phase out paper gift certificates, a legal issue has arisen: -- Are gift cards covered by the state laws that regulate gift certificates? In California, for example, state law prohibits any gift certificates issued in the state from having an expiration date.

    In April, Los Angeles consumer attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit over gift-card policies against Simon Property Group, Brea Mall, Visa U.S.A. Inc., Bank of America and other malls that Simon owns.

    The suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court by the law offices of Kevin T. Barnes, alleges that, by charging monthly service fees, the cards defraud consumers and violate the state's gift-certificate law. The suit seeks repayment of money lost in expired cards, attorney's fees, and punitive damages.

    rest of story

    Posted by Craig at 08:38 PM

    CRM Software Release by Kana

    Kana Debuts Next-Gen Customer Service Knowledge App

    Excerpt:
    Kana has announced the immediate availability of Kana IQ 8, a major software release -- in fact, IQ's most significant in a decade -- built on the Kana iCare platform and integrated with Kana Service 8.

    Kana touts IQ 8 as a next-generation customer-service knowledge product because of its significantly improved integration, its knowledge authoring and workflow, and its support for industry-specific knowledge. Kana expects these improvements to address the two most fundamental issues that concern its customers: lowering their own customer service-related costs and improving their customers' satisfaction levels.

    Being able to provide customers with faster, more consistent and accurate responses to their questions is how Kana expects IQ 8 to bring value. However, Kana declined to release benchmark data or say just how much faster and more accurate IQ 8 is than the current release, IQ 7.02.

    iCare Suite Sweeter Than Ever

    IQ is only a part of Kana's iCare suite of CRM products but with release 8, it becomes a more important part. "What we are offering is more of an integrated solution," says Jenifer Handler, senior product manager for IQ.

    "IQ has been completely rewritten for our J2EE iCare platform and also to be more standards-based," she told CRMDaily.com. "So, in addition to tighter integration with the rest of the iCare suite, we expect this platform will provide our customers with better performance and increased scalability."

    Key to Customer Satisfaction

    One of the drivers for customer-service CRM -- and, frankly, one that many companies struggle with -- is providing consistent experiences and responses to customer requests from one customer interaction to another. The proliferation of customer-interface points (salespeople, customer-service representatives, e-mail communications and Web sites) -- often managed by different groups within organizations -- has only multiplied the difficulty of providing customers with timely, consistent and accurate responses.

    Posted by Craig at 02:12 PM

    September 23, 2003

    A Colorado entrepreneur has developed a "dating kiosk" to make it easier

    story link

    By Roger Fillion, Rocky Mountain News
    September 22, 2003

    People looking for love in all the wrong places are about to get some help from modern technology.

    A Colorado entrepreneur has developed a "dating kiosk" to make it easier for strangers to find their soul mate - or just a dance partner - in a nightclub, bar or other social hangout.

    No more goofy pickup lines, guessing games, or excruciating blind dates . . . at least that's the hope.

    Instead, the touch-screen kiosk system is designed to allow people to meet immediately in a particular venue, once they've had a chance to anonymously check out each other's vital stats - including a person's gender, interests, expectations . . . and favorite quotation.

    The novel technology - which is wireless and uses the free Linux operating system - is expected to be rolled out next month in a handful of night spots around the nation.

    Developer Gary Schneider calls his dating system - dubbed the Meeting Place - a "fusion" of real-time personals, speed dating and intro services that try to fix people up.

    "The Meeting Place is for people who want to connect tonight. Right now," said Schneider, 43, whose Masonville startup is aptly named Soft Shoulder.

    "It can help people find a dance, a date, a short-term relationship or just someone to talk to," added Schneider, a software guru and former dam builder for the U.S. government.

    And the technology could have broader applications - such as permitting people to network at professional conventions, or allowing parents to reunite with lost children at a shopping mall.

    Here's how the dating kiosk system would work:

    Kiosks would be scattered around the club. Patrons would buy a magnetic-stripe card at the bar or from a self-service machine. The cost: $5-$10 for an evening.

    After swiping the card to log on, the patron would use a touch screen to enter some personal information - for example, gender, looks (athletic, perhaps, or slim), interests (say, hiking or skiing); and what he or she is looking for (a date, a dance, or maybe a short-term fling . . . or a long-term romance).

    Users would round out their profile with a quote. They could pick from a varied list: "The shortest distance between two people is a smile," for instance, or "What are you doing for sex tonight?"

    Alternatively, they could pen their own.

    The whole process takes three to five minutes, Schneider said.

    Users could then troll among other personal entries to find someone they're interested in and then propose a meeting right then and there at the club by zapping that person an electronic message.

    Users on the receiving end, after swiping their card and touching a "contacts" button at a kiosk, could see if they've gotten any nibbles.

    If so, they could respond: "Yes. "Let's meet near the bar. I'm wearing a red dress." Or instead say, "Thanks. But you don't seem my type."

    The information would get deactivated at evening's end but could be retrieved another night with the swipe of a card.

    A variety of events conspired to sow the seeds that led to the creation of the kiosk system.

    See rest of article

    Posted by Craig at 11:20 PM

    Self-Service Kiosk Transactions to Surpass $900 Billion Annually by 2007, Says IHL

    FRANKLIN, Tenn. (September 23, 2003) - The annual dollar value of transactions through self-service kiosk technologies will approach $1 trillion annually in North America by 2007, according to a new study from IHL Consulting Group.

    "Self-Service technologies are pervading all aspects of our lives in North America today," said Greg Buzek, president of IHL. "Self-Checkout systems at the supermarket, ticketing kiosks for transportation and entertainment and new self-service technologies being introduced into Fast Food/Quick Service are rapidly growing in acceptance. The growth rate is dramatically accelerating in the retail, transportation and government sectors as a way to lower transaction costs."

    According to the study we are on track for over $155 billion in transactions to be conducted at self-service kiosks that accept payment in North America in 2003.

    "When you consider that we excluded Pay-at-the-Pump and Internet transactions in the study, the dollar volume of the transaction growth we are seeing is simply staggering," added Buzek. "While we saw a major shift to value-conscious consumers in last five years, the next 5 years will see a similar shift towards self-service."

    http://www.executivetechnology.com/ViewStories.cfm#6745

    Posted by Craig at 03:13 PM

    September 19, 2003

    Airports - Hudson Acquires WHSmith in US

    Hudson Group Acquires WHSmith US Stores

    Hudson Group Acquires WHSmith.s U.S. Airport Stores

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (September 19, 2003) - Hudson Group here plans to expand its North American airport and commuter station retail operations by acquiring WHSmith.s U.S. airport retail business.

    Hudson Group signed an agreement to acquire 180 WHSmith stores in 23 airports for $64 million. The deal is contingent upon regulatory approval and the assignment of leases from the stores. respective airport authorities, Hudson said.

    The acquisition would put Hudson Group.s total store count at 450. Hudson currently operates shops using the Hudson News, Euro Caf and National Geographic names.

    WHSmith, London, will maintain no operations in the United States after February 2004, according to a company spokesman. In a separate announcement from the United Kingdom, where WHSmith is publicly traded, WHSmith said it will sell its U.S. hotel retailing operations to former management for $12.5 million.

    WHSmith.s annual sales have declined for four consecutive years.

    Posted by Craig at 03:37 PM

    September 18, 2003

    Kroger's Earnings Drop

    Kroger's Earnings Drop | NACS Daily

    Kroger's Earnings Drop
    September 18, 2003

    CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. said its second-quarter earnings dropped 28 percent compared with last year. The grocery-store chain attributed the drop to competition from discount grocers and last month's power blackout. The company also lowered its earnings outlook for the year.

    Kroger earned $190.4 million in the three months ended August 16 compared with $264 million a year ago. Sales for the quarter increased to $12.4 billion from $11.9 billion a year ago.

    Analysts said that the company is battling competition from grocers, including Safeway, Albertson's, Meijer and Publix, and general retailers that sell groceries, such as Wal-Mart.

    "There's a lot of good competition out there," Jack Russo, an analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., told the Associated Press. "I don't think it's anything Kroger is doing wrong....It's very tough out there."

    The company said that it lost $9 million for food and beverages that spoiled without refrigeration during the blackout and had to be thrown out.

    Kroger lowered its 2003 earnings projection to $1.50 to $1.58 per share and said earnings could be as low as $1.45 because of energy contract settlements, the blackout and accounting expenses, the sluggish economy and competition that may require additional investment.

    Kroger operates 2,519 supermarkets and multidepartment stores in 32 states under the names Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, King Soopers, Smith's, Fry's and Fry's Marketplace, Dillons, QFC and City market. The company also operates 794 convenience stores, 444 jewelry outlets, 412 supermarket fuel centers and 41 food-processing plants

    Posted by Craig at 06:08 PM

    IGT Terminals

    Pa. lottery to add 1,000 kiosks

    18 Sep, 2003
    Back News Archives

    CLIFTON, N.J. . IGT Online Entertainment Systems, Inc. (IGT OES) says that it has concluded a contract amendment agreement with its longtime customer, the Pennsylvania Lottery, that will extend the current contract by three years.

    According to a news release, IGT OES has reduced its online fee by 5 percent as part of the agreement.

    Under the extension, IGT OES will provide Pennsylvania with 1,000 Player-Activated Terminals (PATs) and related services. PATs, as they are commonly known in the industry, are self-service sales kiosks that will help expedite the player's purchase by placing virtually all online lottery solutions at their fingertips and eliminating the need to have a store clerk produce tickets.

    This is IGT OES' first implementation of the new product, according to the release.

    IGT OES will also provide the Lottery with software to offer their players a Lottery gift card program, which will be similar to those used in department stores and will provide an additional marketing tool to increase sales. The gift cards will be sold in $5 increments.

    IGT OES installed the first online system in Pennsylvania in March 1977 and has been the Lottery's sole online systems provider ever since.

    Posted by Craig at 06:05 PM

    September 17, 2003

    Vending machines in Oslo

    Oslo vending machines spark controversy

    Oslo residents have 23 vending machines which dispense video films. The service has left many citizens stunned, because the automats offer a bizarre selection, from children's films and cartoons to an assortment of piquant porn.

    Posted by Craig at 10:06 PM

    September 10, 2003

    Cool Video Projection

    Yahoo! News - Plugged In: Making a Video Screen Out of Thin Air

    The two inventions represent the latest front in advanced computer displays -- eliminating the screen altogether.

    While unlikely to replace the desktop computer monitor, so-called walk-through displays could eventually be put to use in product showrooms, museums, and military training facilities.

    Posted by Craig at 04:21 PM

    September 03, 2003

    Wireless Security

    Wireless Security: Is WPA Good Enough?

    For many IT managers, the question is not whether WPA is better than WEP -- that almost goes without saying -- but whether it is a sufficient improvement to justify taking a corporate network wireless sooner, rather than later.

    Posted by Craig at 03:24 PM

    September 02, 2003

    Supermarket Wars

    DallasNews.com | Dallas-Fort Worth | Business -- New concept stores combat Wal-Mart

    "Wal-Mart is a driver behind all these upgrades in Dallas," said Mark Chandler, principal at retail and consumer goods consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates.

    "Albertsons and Kroger, they're all making tremendous investments," he said. "All of this is being done to try not to be Wal-Mart."

    Wal-Mart's share of the Dallas grocery market was more than 16 percent last year, twice its share in 2001, according to annual data released this year by MarketScope, a publication of TradeDimensions International Inc.

    Wal-Mart is expected to rank No. 1 in the Dallas area, surpassing Albertsons, when year-end 2003 rankings are published.

    Posted by Craig at 04:49 PM