Tablet kiosks require dual-security

I was out of town one recent weekend and despite my best efforts wasn’t able to escape mobile technology — the growth of tablet computing in particular. Two stores in the beach town I visited were using tablets in retail kiosks to engage customers seeking more information on their wares and to sign up for store mailing lists.

When I got back home, the mobile blogger side of me did some investigating, and I found a whole hardware and software sector devoted specifically to tablet kiosks, especially those using the iPad.

Touchscreen kiosks used to be a very high-ticket item, but, thanks to current technology, can now be set up for a fraction of the price. Kiosks have many uses in hotels, restaurants, museums, and retailers, according to an article in Smashing Magazine. They can streamline information-gathering processes like mailing list sign-up, making reservations, ordering products, and check-in and check-out. This frees employees to spend their time on more valuable tasks and keeps customers from waiting in line or on hold.

Some widespread deployments are happening in large venues like airports. OTG Management, a company that operates airport restaurants, has a big iPad kiosk deployment in progress, described in a CIO.com article. OTG has spent $10 million in the past two years on iPads located in passenger waiting areas and on dining tables, and it expects to deploy 7,000 more devices by the middle of 2014. Patrons are able to order restaurant food but can also check flight times, access the web and social media, and play games.
Regardless of whether a tablet kiosk is in a small retail store or on a scope such as OTG Management’s deployment, successful implementation depends on a combination of physical and traditional mobile security.

The physical element of tablet kiosk security is well on the way to becoming an industry unto itself with a full range of accessory vendors including the usual suspects like Griffin Technology. More specialized companies are developing enclosures that encase or display tablets in varying ways and physically lock them into position. These can also include features that restrict access; for example, covering the home button on a device is common practice. This prevents shoppers from disturbing the kiosk software and device setup.
Some other options to seek in a kiosk enclosure include:

  • Impact resistance
  • Security screws to lock the kiosk in place on a stand
  • Secure power cable enclosure and protection
  • Secure base that locks onto a tabletop

Software configuration and security apps are available to control the home screen and lock down access and network settings. There are also iPad kiosk apps like Kiosk Pro and Mobile Kiosk that link the device to a website and allow the integration of features like data collections via forms, displaying digital signage, and providing access to product catalogues.

The consumer-oriented user experience of tablets makes them fairly easy to maintain inside a retail store. Backing up devices in case of catastrophic failure or device theft can be accomplished using iCloud for the iPad or another online backup service.

Will the interactive kiosk trend continue to grow? What are some other advantages or challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image by freeimages.com user: Linder6580

This post was originally published on The Mobility Hub on May 11, 2013

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data.

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