Kiosk Components: The Ins And Outs Of Receipt Printers
The interactive kiosk market is expected to top $3 billion by 2006. You have to know your system components - including receipt printers - to cash in on this growing market.
It seems as though kiosks are everywhere these days. Once only a staple of the banking industry, kiosks have moved into shopping malls, airline terminals, grocery stores, and movie theaters. How many times have you used a kiosk in the past week? How many times have you simply walked past a kiosk? Your answers to these questions help illustrate a point made by Mike Pruitt, product manager for printer mechanisms at Epson's System Device Division (Long Beach, CA). "There is a lot of talk about kiosks, especially about nonfunctional, or marketing kiosks," says Pruitt. "People are just walking by those kiosks - versus the functional kiosks, like ATMs." Epson manufactures receipt printers for functional kiosks for the banking and gaming markets. "Many failed kiosk rollouts were marketing- or advertising-related as opposed to transaction-based," adds Pruitt. Kiosks are most effective, he says, when used to reduce the amount of time people have to wait in line for something. "That's why ATMs are so successful," notes Pruitt. "People don't want to wait in line in a bank. Automated checkin at a busy hotel is another example of a successful kiosk application."
Kiosk Market To Top $3 Billion
So who is selling these kiosks to the banks, hotels, malls, and airlines? Pruitt points out that companies like Factura and Gem City are manufacturing kiosk housing and adding system components. Companies like these work with software developers to create kiosks for specialized applications. "Most deals are done on a contract basis, say for 50 kiosks of a certain type for a specific customer," says Pruitt.
That's not to say that VARs couldn't - or shouldn't - grab a slice of the kiosk market. One Frost & Sullivan report predicts revenue from the interactive kiosk market will reach more than $3 billion by 2006. Particularly "hot" markets for interactive kiosks are retail, financial, and telecommunications, according to the same report. An industry analyst says in the report that the challenge for market participants is in "meeting the demand for large kiosk orders within a quick time frame."
Epson's Mike Pruitt notes kiosk receipt printers need to be more rugged than POS printers. "A kiosk printer is a chassis mounted to a frame," he explains. "A POS printer is enclosed in a plastic case. However, overall cost, life cycle, and performance of the two types of printers are relatively the same."
Point of sale (POS) VARs can adapt much of what they use in traditional POS to kiosk solutions. That's not to say that all POS components can simply be placed inside a kiosk cabinet to create a kiosk. Receipt printers used in kiosks are not the same as those used in traditional POS. Whether informational or transactional, almost all kiosks print something, such as maps, coupons, tickets, and receipts.
"Thermal printing has become the standard for kiosk applications," states John Gomersall, northeast region sales manager for Telpar, Inc. (Dallas). The company manufactures and distributes direct thermal and impact kiosk and specialty printers. Why are thermal printers the number one choice for kiosks? "Thermal printers offer a higher degree of reliability due to fewer moving parts," explains Gomersall. "Thermal printers don't require toner, ink cartridges, or ribbons in order to print."
Know The Differences Between Kiosk And POS Printers
Unlike their POS counterparts, kiosk printers require some sort of document presenter. A document presenter holds the receipt inside the kiosk until printing and cutting is complete. "This eliminates jamming that can result when a kiosk user tries to remove the receipt before printing is complete," adds Gomersall. "Because kiosks are generally unattended devices, status monitoring is another important receipt printer feature." Status monitoring alerts the person servicing the kiosk that the receipt paper supply is low or an error has occurred. The alerts can be sent remotely via the Internet or they can simply be audible beeps.
"Kiosk printers must accommodate a larger paper supply than POS receipt printers," Gomersall continues. "A larger paper roll decreases the frequency of service calls for paper replenishment." Traditional POS receipt printer paper rolls are three inches in diameter compared to an 8- or 10-inch diameter paper roll for kiosks.
Both Pruitt and Gomersall say that kiosk receipt printers will soon feature faster print speeds (up to 6 inches per second) and two-color thermal printing. Gomersall also predicts that printers will incorporate USB (universal serial bus) and that bidirectional parallel communications with the printer will become standard. Pruitt notes that kiosk applications such as self-checkout will gain popularity.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at LisaK@corrypub.com.