POS Keyboards: More Functionality, Less Space
Today's keyboards offer a host of built-in features such as biometric fingerprint readers and bar code readers. Find out how selling the right keyboard can impact your bottom line.
Integration. That's the predominate trend with today's point of sale (POS) keyboards. Unlike their off-the-shelf counterparts, POS keyboards are designed to make both the end users' and VARs' jobs easier. End users benefit from built-in features while VARs have fewer integration issues.
Jackson Lum, president of Logic Controls (New Hyde Park, NY), notes that keyboards now include biometric fingerprint readers, smart card readers, bar code readers, and Internet shortcut keys. Logic Controls is a privately held manufacturer of POS peripherals including keyboards and pole displays. The trend toward more built-in devices is driven in part by the technology and in part by market competition. "Built-in devices also solve the problem of too few I/O (input/output) ports on POS terminals for multiple peripherals," says Lum. "You can use one port for a multifunction keyboard, rather than separate ports for the keyboard and other devices, such as stand-alone card readers."
Cost is also an issue. "The cost of a keyboard with built-in devices is less than the total of individual units purchased separately," adds Lum. For example, a keyboard with a built-in bar code reader costs less than a POS keyboard and a bar code reader combined.
Lum admits that despite POS keyboards' new features, touch screen sales have impacted the keyboard market. "Touch screens will never fully replace keyboards because they are cost prohibitive for many applications," explains Lum. "There are many applications where keyboards are more suitable for entering data than are touch screens."
Don't Skimp On Keyboards
When it comes to selling POS keyboards, Lum advises VARs to consider the return on investment (ROI) of what they are selling. "A cheap keyboard cuts into the VAR's margin," says Lum. "A more reliable POS keyboard saves the end user money in the long run, in terms of reliability and functionality. The advantages a POS keyboard offers an end user include faster checkout and a shorter learning curve (fewer keystrokes to learn). VARs have to convince their customers that spending the extra money for a quality keyboard will result in a profit in a relatively short period of time."
Aesthetics also factor into keyboard sales. A cheap keyboard and messy cabling from several peripheral devices can cheapen the look of an entire POS system. "An off-the-shelf keyboard can look unprofessional," notes Lum. As an example, Lum points to a big-name chain restaurant in his area. The restaurant uses off-the-shelf keyboards with white tape labels marking the keys. The alternative would be to use POS programmable keyboards with clearly marked keycaps. Each key has a function, replacing the sequence of keystrokes required using an off-the-shelf model. In addition to hospitality, Lum notes an increase in hotels using keyboards in conjunction with Internet access.
Plan For Smart Card Adoption
There is no question that built-in devices will continue to be popular, says Kevin Rafferty, keyboard sales and marketing manager, Cherry Electrical Products (Pleasant Prairie, WI). The company manufactures proprietary and custom electronic keyboards, custom electrical switches, and sensors for the worldwide automotive, computer, and consumer and commercial markets. Cherry is banking on the widespread adoption of smart cards in the United States. Rafferty explains why. "The credit card companies lose billions each year due to fraud. The smart card is a minicomputer on a plastic card with built-in security features. Even though smart cards cost four or five times as much as magnetic stripe credit cards, they offer a huge savings in fraud reduction for credit card companies." Rafferty sees an increase in the use of smart card-ready keyboards in "closed loop" environments such as universities and government.
Rafferty also notes that touch pads and track balls are being incorporated in POS keyboards for kiosk applications. It's impractical to use a mouse in a kiosk because they get stolen. A track ball allows kiosk users to input additional information such as their names and addresses.
Rafferty advises VARs to consider quality when choosing between a POS keyboard and an off-the-shelf keyboard. "A keyboard is a commodity product. You can buy a $5 keyboard and when it breaks, you can replace it," says Rafferty. "A keyboard can also be a premium product when it has integrated features. VARs can gain an advantage over their competition by selling the value add of POS keyboards."Questions about this article? E-mail the author at LisaK@corrypub.com.