Tablet - Terminal Terminator?
Are you also one of the people who have already acquired one of those handy companions that let you manage your calendars, surf the Web, watch videos, edit presentations, create tables and many other exciting things? We do, of course, not refer to cell phones, laptops or netbooks but to tablet computers. It does not matter whether you own an iPad, Android tablet, RIM Playbook or, perhaps, a future Windows 8 tablet, there is one thing all of these devices have in common: they are fascinating.
Tablet vs. Terminal
Let us shift our attention, for a second, to the world of kiosk and self-service terminals and picture a typical terminal that is used, for instance, as a station providing product information. Now, try to imagine what your favorite tablet would look like when placed next to this station. What differences do you see? Well, there is one aspect that is blatantly obvious and that is the difference in size. You do not have to think hard to find additional differences:
1. The tablet cannot be beaten when you compare the price of a terminal and that of a tablet computer. You can buy a good-quality tablet for as little as EUR 300 to EUR 400.
2. All tablets already come standard with multi-touch user interfaces and can be controlled by finger gestures. This type of control has become a new standard and is, to many, as natural as using a mouse.
3. Another key aspect of mobile devices such as tablets is their low power consumption. This makes it possible to use these devices for hours and in places where getting hold of a power source is difficult, if not impossible.
4. Tablets often also support cellular data networking such as UMTS or the new coming standard LTE. This means that they can provide easy Internet access without the need for any additional networking equipment such as WiFi access points.
5. Its mobility allows the tablet to offer a level of flexibility that had not been available in previous applications. Not only is it possible to mount them in a fixed location, but they can also be issued to customers, placed more easily in otherwise hard-to-reach places (and act as advertising displays) and are a synch to replace.
6. As mentioned earlier, tablets bestow a certain aura of captivation on their users, which makes them more attractive than any classic terminal could ever hope to be. While it may wear after a while, especially in light of the fact that new tablet users are added every day, this effect plays an important role – at least for the time being.
You will certainly be able to name numerous other benefits that a tablet offers in comparison to the classic solutions we are familiar with today. We would also like to mention that tablets are not only perfect for implementing interactive solutions; they also work well as passive advertising banners. An even more exciting possibility is the use of tablets in combination with interactive Digital Signage content, which involves customers to an even greater extent and provides them with information more effectively.
The End for Terminals?
So, will tablets fully replace the classic kiosk and self-service terminal in the future? We do not think so. Tablets, at least in their current shape, do not fully have the ability to cover the entire range of possible requirements a customer may have. First of all, the size of a tablet is a limitation to customers needing larger canvases who are, therefore, forced to look for other solutions. Another important aspect is the option to connect external hardware. This is an area where PC-based solutions are certainly still at an advantage as they offer more (wired) ports and a large selection of widely used software and drivers. That said, it is fair to assume that this advantage is only temporary and may evaporate soon given the increasing number of tablets that are used in the self-service sector.
The possibilities are endless when you start thinking about the potential uses of tablets in the self-service and Digital Signage sector. Here are only a few suggestions you may want to explore:
1. Digital menu: Allow your guests to choose their meals on a tablet.
2. Product information: Customers can use the tablet camera to scan bar codes or QR codes and receive interactive product descriptions and videos on how to use the product.
3. Surveys: Give your customers a tablet loaded with a survey app to determine their response to a new product and how satisfied they are.
4. Product shelf display: Draw attention to products in the immediate vicinity and show useful information about these products.
We are convinced that tablets will gain an enormous amount of momentum in the self-service sector and soon make up a significant portion of the solutions used in this sector. We have already launched a product that secures Android tablets in such a way that they can be used in combination with browser-based kiosk applications. The use of tablets in the self-service sector is and will remain an exciting topic in the future. A lot will happen in this area, and we look forward to our role in shaping this future.