How to Build a Better Kiosk
No shortcuts to a better kiosk
Building a secure, reliable, and efficient self-service kiosk takes more than simply sourcing the right components.
So you've got a plan for the kiosk that solves all your customer's needs. You've got a cash dispenser that can handle the volume of transactions and has the note capacity to last through your service cycle. You've got a bill acceptor for cash payments and a card reader and Encrypting PIN Pad (EPP) for electronic payments. You've got a PC and display with your OS and a great customer-facing application making things easy for the customers. Check, check, and check.
Now - what happens when the power goes out? What happens when the drivers for your USB-to-RS232 adapter don't play nice with your PC? What do you do when your dispensers start failing at multiple sites in the same week?
It's easy for kiosk designers to overlook potential service and support issues while in pursuit of a working solution. They're squeezed on costs and time. And if it's not essential to proving a working concept, preventative measures are not explored prior to production and delivery. Here are a few tips to boost reliability for the long-haul and minimize service calls and costs.
If a device is Serial, use a Serial port
If you don't have enough RS232 ports, get a RS232 port replicator with COM retention. Don't use a USB adapter. They are notorious for using buggy USB drivers that will work or fail with the weather. Most device manufacturers do not support communication through an adapter, even if you're lucky enough to make it work once.
Don't forget an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)
It's a relatively inexpensive way to prevent several potential problems. When your PC and/or devices lose power, settings and configuration parameters are often reset. Or, the power sequence is incorrect when restoring power. Does it have a cost? Yes - but calling for a service technician costs more. Run the business case.
Test like you mean it
Things often work great inside the friendly confines of a developer's office. Less so when placed in a public area, exposed to an unpredictable, often-harsh environment. Your single most important defense against downtime is a thorough test plan for design and installation - supporting the performance expectations and environmental variables for all of the installed locations. Make sure the installation procedure includes this test plan. Don't just accept device manufacturers' specifications. Test them. Then test them again. Device failure inside of spec might replace the failed component, but it won't recover your service costs or downtime.