It's All About the Apps
Exclusive interview with Eckhard Reimann
KIOSK EUROPE: KIOSK EUROPE EXPO is now 5 years old. What changes have you noticed occurring in the industry since the first show?
Eckhard Reimann: The rise of digital signage is very marked. I see this also with my networking events – more and more young digital signage companies are taking part. And digital signage companies are becoming more and more interactive and are overlapping with the kiosk companies, what with eye-tracking, mobile phone integration and so on. With the integration of kiosk screens and digital signage screens, you can now say that an interactive digital signage screen could also be a kiosk.
KE: What were your thoughts on this year’s Open Forum programme?
ER: I think the participation at this year’s forum was very good. All the presentations which I moderated were excellent. Some were very technical, and this is what some people like to hear. But most had very broad appeal, with some excellent case studies and checklists of dos and don’ts for launching a self-service project. Overall, I think there was a very good mix. The workshops organised by Stephen Keith Platt were also very interesting. I think visitors are attracted to such specially tailored programmes.
A possible addition for future forum programmes might be a workshop on emobility. Companies like Rewe are installing charging stations for electric cars. You recently covered the topic in your magazine. But the kiosk industry is not the primary focus of the companies producing this hardware, so a workshop tailored to this industry would take time to set up. This year, Martin Klässner of Technagon talked about an emobility project in Austria, but I expect that next year this issue will be more prominent on the agenda. German and European politicians are keen to drive the development of emobility networks.
KE: Did you notice any new developments compared to previous years?
ER: Digital signage was quite dominant in the forum programme, but the distinction between the two is becoming less and less important, especially as digital signage moves from simply being an advertising platform to become an instrument of general communication. Younger generations, to whom mobile phones have always been simply a part of life, can communicate with signage through their mobile, and will increasingly expect to be able to do this. It is a must to address this young audience, which is far more willing to adopt interactive technologies. I noticed that some of the younger speakers don’t write their address on their presentation; they only include a barcode at the end of the slideshow. At the end, everybody was photographing the barcode with their smart phones.
KE: What sort of things have you covered in your recent book?
ER: In my book, I examine the various markets where kiosk and digital signage applications are used, for instance car retailers, clothes retailers, shoe retailers and so on. I don’t say whether projects are good or not good; I only note if they have been given any interesting awards. I describe any interesting features, for instance if the system is integrated with Facebook or Twitter, or smart phone apps. I also describe sound and light installations which evoke emotions in the user or passer-by. This goes beyond kiosks and digital signs.
Writing the books has allowed me to observe long term changes in the industry. When I look back on applications from the beginning of the kiosk age, the ideas were not bad, but the hardware often struggled to back the ideas up. Nowadays the hardware is much more sophisticated and ideas can be properly realised. So it is fair to say that ideas rather than technology have often been the driving force behind new developments.
This year I will publish more books looking at other markets which I have not yet addressed, and with updates about applications from this year.
KE: How did you get involved in the kiosk industry?
ER: I got involved in this industry in 1990. I worked for the Unisys Corporation. They produced the first kiosk systems for the banking sector. It was a time when the word ‘multimedia’ was appearing everywhere. I saw that it was a brilliant marketing idea. That was the starting point for me. I held a lot of lectures and conferences at that time, and I was writing a lot of articles. From that basis, I began to explore self-service applications.
I’m not interested in the hardware so much as the application. Hardware is necessary to catch a person’s eye, but once the person is standing in front of the screen, he only sees the application and the content. There are only a few seconds for the application to grab the attention of the passer by, so applications need a ‘wow’ factor in order to achieve this. Guillaume de la Tour of Blue Fox demonstrated this at the Open Forum. A picture or sound can be used to attract a person’s attention, and technology can certainly help here, but once you have their attention you must give them a chance to learn more, and this is where effective content is really important. The actual content depends on the target audience and should be tailored to suit them.
KE: Are you looking forward to next year’s show in Berlin?
ER: I certainly am. I think the move to Berlin is a good idea. It’s important to change after a while, and the move will give the opportunity for a new approach to be taken. With a new approach and a new location, the show will attract new visitors, who may not have considered self-service before.
I think the addition of an App section at next year’s show is a good idea, and will complement digital signage very well. When I was writing my book, it really struck me how many people are now interacting with out-of-home technologies using smart phone apps and social media websites. This really is a new area which we can’t afford to ignore.
With this in mind, I hope to help create an interesting and informative forum programme for visitors next year.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011