At Advanced Kiosks we have been designing and manufacturing high quality interactive kiosks for over 15 years, and through those years we have learned a lot . One of the big things that we have learned is that no matter how good the hardware is, it is nothing without kiosk software for support and management. Custom software can often be an extremely expensive and time consuming proposition, and all to often it would become cost prohibitive for our potential clients. In order to better serve our clients, we had to find another way.
In our search for a better solution to custom kiosk software we realized:
- Most of our customers needs could easily be met within the confines of a website without the need for “a custom software application”
- Many of our customers were simply trying to use their kiosks to duplicate functionality that they already had in place on an existing website; for them the kiosks were simply a matter of providing accessibility to users either for compliance reasons (HR, etc.), or for the three L’s (Location, Location, Location)
- Our clients that were looking to take payments often already had merchant services infrastructure in place online, and would benefit from being able to use their existing infrastructure and accounts to avoid extra paperwork
- Many of our clients already had existing relationships with web designers, and an ever increasing number either had the expertise in house, or had made use of some of the great and inexpensive resources available online today to build and maintain their own sites
- Quite frankly, a bill from a web designer frequently has a few less 0’s on the end of it than a bill from a software developer
Zamok Foundation: Lockdown Kiosk Software
It quickly became evident that offering a web based solution could satisfy the needs of the vast majority of our clients (while incurring little to no additional expense) and that is how Zamok Foundation was born. Zamok Foundation is a completely functional, full screen web browser, without the URL address bar and the navigational functionality that you are accustomed to with other browsers like IE, Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. The address that is displayed and made accessible is defined by the administrator, and the software does the rest. Setting up a kiosk is as simple as connecting it to the internet, and pointing it at your content.
Quite often, when our clients hear the words “web browser” they immediately become concerned that someone will simply go browsing the internet, check their Facebook, or somehow leave the kiosk on a page that isn’t exactly “family friendly”. If you speak with one of our friendly kiosk project consultants, you will likely get a quick “Interactive Kiosk 101” rundown. This rundown explains that in the simplest terms, an interactive touchscreen kiosk is at it’s core a Windows 7 Professional computer with a touchscreen, in a secure enclosure. The key is to make the software as secure as the steel enclosure the computer is housed in. Once set up, Zamok runs full screen, with no access to the desktop, to the settings, or to an address bar. This is what we call lockdown kiosk software. It requires a username and password to exit the program, or to access any of its settings. As an additional layer of security, we developed another application called Uncrashable that constantly monitors the system status, and in the event of the computer becoming unstable or crashing for any reason, it immediately ends and restarts the application, while denying access to the desktop and to any settings.
Over the last 8 of our 15+ years, we have grown from a hardware manufacturer into a complete solutions provider, and we have realized that our most valuable asset is our customers, and their feedback. During these past 8 years our software has been installed on thousands of kiosks for nearly every application you can imagine, and some I’m sure you never would have thought of in your wildest dreams. We have used the feedback from thousands of customers to constantly add to, and develop, numerous solutions and modules to increase the functionality of our software, and in turn our kiosks. Over time we have added the optional functionality of printers, document scanners, credit card readers, driver’s license scanners, barcode readers, biometrics, VOIP, cloud management and much more.
Other Software Solutions We Would Like to Highlight
GreenTimer – Some of the more innovative programs we have written have been fueled by necessity, and the desire to do what we can for the environment, like our GreenTimer program. Anyone who has ever made the mistake of leaving a Windows based computer on for weeks at a time without restarting it can attest to the fact that the system becomes unstable, and unresponsive over time. This happens because of things called “cache files” building up in memory over time, until there is not enough memory left available for the OS and the applications. This happens slowly, but it does happen, and the only solution is to restart the computer, which clears the cache. GreenTimer solves this issue by scheduling a restart daily, while getting the “green” portion of it’s name by setting a schedule for low power hibernation of the kiosk outside of regular business hours, with the restart happening when the kiosk wakes up for the day. Like any of our software offerings, GreenTimer is exceptionally intuitive and easy to use.
Zamok Homepage Solution – The Zamok Homepage solution is the most user friendly content management system you could ever imagine. The first screen presented to the user with our homepage solution is a fully customizable screen with 1-8 clearly labeled buttons. These buttons can be linked to web addresses, local content, .pdf files, or even videos, and customizing these buttons is as simple as filling out 2 fields. The first is “what do you want the button to say” and the second is “where do you want the button to go”. This interface makes it incredibly easy to add to and modify functionality of the kiosk. Rather than have the kiosk tied down to one web site, or web application, using our homepage solution, the kiosk is now transformed from a purpose driven device, to a multipurpose device. A good example is Churches who had purchased kiosks with the sole intent of using it for either child check in or accepting donations, can now do both with the same kiosk, as well as adding in event registration, visitor information, special donations, access to their website, and any other functionality they may desire. Buttons can be added and later removed for special events without having to “hard-code” anything. Simply label the button and point it at the new content and you’re off and running.
Zamok Credit Card Solution – As our software is web based, and quite frequently it is used for credit card transactions, so we took a good look at how web based transactions work. There are 6 pieces of information required to process a web transaction at checkout.
1 – Card type
2 – Name as it appears on card
3 – Card Number
4 – Expiration date
5 – CVC code (the code on the back of the card)
6 – Billing Zip Code
People making a transaction at a kiosk generally expect the transaction to be quick and painless, and oddly enough will often look at any kiosk based transaction that takes over 60 seconds to be long and drawn out. In order to streamline credit card transactions at kiosks, we have developed an intelligent form filler application, which uses the information stored on the magnetic strip of a credit card to fill out the first 4 pieces of the required information, leaving your customer to simply need to punch in a 3 digit code and their 5 digit zip to verify the transaction. The form filler app works seamlessly with almost any shopping cart checkout we have encountered, and makes for a quick and painless user experience.
Zamok Cloud Management Solution – The cloud management solution gives you the ability to monitor and maintain a kiosk, or a group of kiosks remotely using a single login. You can view useful data on your users’ activities, showing when they are using it, what they are doing with it, and keep track of information on usage of peripherals like number of pages printed, VOIP minutes used, etc. It also gives you the ability to modify the various other module’s functionality, like the homepage example for Churches mentioned above. If your kiosk project involves multiple kiosks, sometimes dozens or even hundreds, it also makes it easy to roll out setting changes to multiple units simultaneously, all from the comfort of your own desk, without having to physically go to each kiosk to make the changes.
At Advanced Kiosks, we’re not shy about the fact that we make great hardware, and we’re not afraid to tell you that it is not the least expensive hardware out there. We make no compromises when it comes to hardware. Ours is commercial grade and categorically built to last. Every component is hand selected and assembled with the intent of exceeding our industry best 3 year warranty on the kiosk enclosure, computer and software. In this industry, your hardware is only as good as the software that runs on it. One of the many advantages that we offer at Advanced Kiosks is that in addition to being a leading hardware manufacturer, we are also supply great software. Zamok Foundation (lockdown kiosk software), Green Timer, and Uncrashable are all included software that you receive with the purchase of any of our kiosks, with the additional modules offered as relatively inexpensive monthly services.
What we find really unfair in the interactive kiosk industry (and that we have seen recently from clients who are coming to us for a second opinion) are quotes from other kiosk manufacturers for tens of thousands of dollars, with maintenance fees of thousands of dollars a year, simply to duplicate the functionality of a client’s already existing website (all on a kiosk that would still require internet connectivity to function). These kiosk manufacturers are satisfied with stopping at being hardware providers, and either leave you to your own devices as far as software, or outsource to software companies for custom development, which often comes back costing more than the kiosks themselves! Their kiosk customers who fall into the trap of saving a little bit of money on the hardware are then left spending thousands of dollars on software, including lockdown kiosk software which we believe should come installed on every model before it leaves the factory. If (or when) they have a problem with their interactive kiosk they are left playing “monkey in the middle” with the software company saying “it’s a hardware issue” and the hardware company saying “it’s a software issue”.
Our kiosks are designed and manufactured by one company, Advanced Kiosks, and we develop and support our software. If you have any questions or support issues, whether they be hardware or software related, you dial the same number. To quote President Truman, “The buck stops here.” We are truly a one stop shop, and while our kiosks are certainly not the cheapest, this is one of those cases where the old adage “you get what you pay for,” certainly applies. We firmly believe that great hardware + great included software = the best value you’ll ever find.