Touch-Screen Public Access To Internet Planned (Newsbytes; 12/15/97)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, U.S.A., 1997 DEC 15 (NB) -- By Craig Menefee, Newsbytes. Israeli interactive e-commerce firm Golden Screens Technology says it is ready to install the first 250 of 40,000 planned touch-screen computer kiosks across the US. The privately held firm says the kiosks will provide public access, for a fee, to e-mail, Internet browsing, online banking, e-commerce, and other functions.

The firm, acting through its subsidiary, Golden Screens America Inc., has eight test units in place now, in New York City. Golden Screens calls the test units CityAccess, Key To New York City, and AccessFinance. The service had provided public access to forms, information and Internet access relating to New York City and its Department of Finance for 15 months.

The kiosks only have touch-screens at present but "industrial strength military spec keyboards" are planned for some locations, a spokesperson told Newsbytes.

GS Planet says the 40,000 units will make up a huge network of kiosks at airports, rest stops, retail chains, hotels, street corners, and other high traffic locations. Using a kiosk will cost about the same as making a local pay phone call, said the firm's US marketing director, Neal Fink, to Newsbytes.

"We probably won't accept coins, for several different reasons," Fink said. Factors of consumer safety, system security, insurance, and bondability were some of the reasons. "Besides, our target audience will have credit or smart cards and we will accept those," he added.

"The client applications are written in Java, so they are platform independent," Fink continued. "We use Windows NT for the kiosks. All the kiosk applications are Internet-ready, which means we can serve those same applications to home users on the Internet, to use with any home system they want."

The applications, being software-based, are flexible, said Fink, so now that the kiosks are proved out in actual use in New York, they can proceed immediately with the next phase, which depends on a contract now being negotiated with a US east coast highway authority.

"When the contract with Transcom is finalized, we will put the 250 kiosks in highly trafficked areas like train stations and bus stations and along the New Jersey Turnpike, New York highways, and Port Authority," he said. "Transcom wants such systems in place so travelers can get real-time road and weather conditions and directions or route planning."

Fink said user charges are still being discussed, but services will be free to travelers because government agencies and advertising will support them.

"We are discussing the cost of access to e-mail or the Internet," added Fink. "It will probably be 25-35 cents a minute. We are looking at several different revenue models to keep the cost for consumers low.

"We have had our test units in place for 15 months, in kiosks near city hall in Manhattan (New York City), and a 24-hour unit near the Staten Island Ferry terminal. People were skeptical when we said we were putting our systems outdoors in New York," he said, "but we have had no problems with vandalism or downtime."

Fink said high traffic provides its own solution to vandalism: "With a steady stream of users there is no time for vandals or hackers to do their dirty work."

Fink discussed security measures needed to add finance and banking applications: "The client side environment is extremely secure. We have monitoring and control applications running in the background that detect anything abnormal and reboot the system. We have a 24-hour management control system from the server in our office, where we can see the status of each unit on the network at any time. We get reports on applications in use, how long each unit is used, whether the printer is low on paper -- it all comes back to the extensive technology we have spent years developing for unattended self- service applications and hardware."

He said security is enhanced by measures including 128-bit encryption, digital certificates on client machines, and interconnection of servers with mainframes of other organizations. From there the kiosks are connected to other systems, such as a database in New Jersey that provides highway information.

Fink said the firm plans to make the service available to home-based Internet users as well, since the applications are platform independent. He said the firm has competitive bids in place to install kiosks elsewhere in the US, but declined to discuss the details.

For more information about Golden Screens America and the parent company Golden Screens Technology, Inc., go to .

Reported by Newsbytes News Network: .