The kiosk industry is thriving with self-service kiosks in particular experiencing significant growth. Empowering customers to manage a variety of processes whether it’s ordering a meal, checking into a hotel or navigating the check-out at a supermarket, self-service kiosks have a role to play in a wide range of applications.
Reducing queues while encouraging greater customer engagement alongside providing an enhanced shopping experience and improved service efficiency, it would seem self-service kiosks are here to stay. Moreover, in the current climate they are growing in prevalence as we socially distance, providing a contactless solution to ensure the safety of both staff and customers with touchless technology emerging as a key trend.
As the technology behind the kiosk printer evolves to keep in line with emerging trends, it is a pivotal component of the kiosk. Indeed, the printer is critical to the kiosk’s successful design and operation. A printer that jams or frequently runs out of paper renders the kiosk unusable and, negatively impacts the customer experience. Even worse, it may result in the kiosk being offline more often than it is operating. Beyond the operational side, the role of the printer in a kiosk cannot be underestimated given the range of potential connectivity options that can enhance both its functionality and versatility.
Kiosk Design / Profile
With the printer being critical to the kiosk’s successful design and operation there are a number of factors to take into consideration. First of all, the printer has to perfectly fit into the kiosk in order to maximise space and ensure optimal performance, particularly with regard to paper path. Secondly, a high quality printer is essential to ensure the reliable functioning of the kiosk. This is especially relevant in high volume applications where the printer is subject to continuous use and where faultless printouts of tickets, receipts, barcodes and graphics are demanded every time.
A further consideration is the type of kiosk printer, whether modular open frame or front-operating packaged. Modular open frame printers offer a robust high performance solution especially for kiosks located outdoors, with highly-compact models ideal for limited space enclosures. However, driven by their lower cost compared to the modular open frame printer as well as their ease to install, use and maintain the packaged printer has seen its profile rise, often successfully bridging the gap between a compact footprint and ease of use.
Packaged printers are ideal for self-service kiosks where staff is physically present to replenish print media. Most kiosk printers have a standard size paper holder and a large capacity option. If frequent paper roll changes are required this can be time consuming so it is essential to choose a printer that has the correct paper roll capacity for the application. Furthermore, in a busy retail or hospitality environment, the front-operating packaged printer with drop-in paper loading provides a compact printing solution that facilitates easy paper roll changes.
The printer should be equipped with sensors and paper status alerts to notify when a kiosk is low on paper, has a paper jam or is offline. These should ideally be centrally visible so the status of an entire estate of printers can be viewed to keep operations moving efficiently. Moreover, a kiosk printer that supports digital receipts is an additional benefit and reduces paper consumption.
A printer with a horizontal orientation takes up more space while a vertical kiosk printer is better suited to a narrow width enclosure, taking up less space and leaving more room for additional components such as integrated scanners, chip and pin or RFID modules.
Printers can operate on a cut and drop basis or incorporate a presenter or bezel depending on the application. The presenter prevents paper jams caused by the paper being taken before printing is complete while the bezel is positioned between the kiosk slot and the printer in order to provide an exit path for the paper.
Easy to install and maintain, the packaged printer with a range of connectivity options can be the ideal solution for internet connected services. Choosing a printer with a variety of interface options, including innovative Cloud technologies, enhances the kiosk’s printing capability. This is important as the type of interface and the ports the printer has will dictate how the printer communicates.
The rise in online ordering across multiple channels is resulting in greater demand for self-service kiosks for applications such as Click & Collect in-store orders and returns. In order to meet this demand a printer that is equipped for remote printing of receipts and tickets directly from a web server to connected printers located anywhere is a key requirement. Moreover, with remote functionality the printer can be managed from any location.
Reliable connectivity is essential in a self-service kiosk. By integrating a printer with a built-in hub a compact, intelligent printing solution provides direct communication between the tablet OS and printer giving the developer the option to also show printer state detail on the screen, or just create events on the central management system. Direct connectivity via the standard Apple Lightning cable or USB-C cable can be used to not only charge the tablet but also control the printer attached peripherals such as BCR, RFID reader, keypad etc. With direct cabled control of the printer and attached peripherals as well as Ethernet provision to the tablet from the wired Ethernet port of the printer, constant connectivity is assured.
Ease of integration
Kiosk development is time consuming so it is important to choose a printer that offers a solution now as well as in the future. A comprehensive SDK and driver suite is essential for developers to simply integrate the printing solution particularly when working with multiple printers or a large network of kiosks. An experienced and knowledgeable integration team to support and advise regarding both hardware choice and software development is vital.