UK - Smart Card Cyber Kiosks Planned

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, 1997 JUL 2 (NB) -- By Steve Gold. Cyber Kiosks, a finalist in the "Win Your Own Business" competition run by 3i, the venture capital company, has secured UKP100,000 of initial project funding.

This money will allow the company to trial its MAID (Mass Access Internet Device) terminals in a local Manchester high school this summer, prior to rolling out the terminals commercially later this year.

Peter Dougherty, the managing director of the company, told Newsbytes that the idea behind the MAID terminals is for a smart card-driven Internet terminal to be located at key public places around the UK, such as airports, bus and rail stations, and motorway service stations.

The longer term plan is to install Cyber Kiosks at other public places, such as pubs and restaurants. These kiosks would either be purchased or leased by the site owner, or by mutual arrangement with third parties.

The system works with each subscriber to the Cyber Kiosk service buying a reloadable smart card. That card contains a reloadable source of credits to use the MAID terminals, together with the user's e-mail details.

"Subscribers can also use the e-mail service from home or office, without incurring a smart card charge. The idea is that subscribers can have the smart card hold their e-mail details, and, through the use of aliases, allow them to send and receive e-mail at any Cyber Kiosk location," he said.

The Cyber Kiosk system will allow the user to pay for his time on public terminals using the smart card. Revenue generated from the smart card system is split 80/20 between the retailer and Cyber Kiosk.

"Each smart card has six sections, one of which has the payment system for the Cyber Kiosk system. We're working with a number of third parties for the use of other sections on the cards, our first of which is Plus Lotto," Dougherty said.

The Plus Lotto system allows the user to go to the Plus Lotto Web site and gamble their smart card credits through that site. Again, a commission system works to pay the retailer back for their outlay/leasing costs on the Cyber Kiosk, Newsbytes notes.

"We're looking for a bank to integrate the smart card within its existing debit card," Dougherty told Newsbytes, adding that it is still early days in the technology's development cycle.

As well as income from subscriber's use of the Cyber Kiosks, public sites, including pubs and restaurants, can also opt to have a scrolling set of pages on their screens when not in use.

"Let's take the example of a taxi company wanting to advertise on the terminal in a pub. That brings in extra income for the site owner and, of course, ourselves," he explained, adding that the adverts will be interleaved with a rolling demo of the service.

"Long term, we're hoping that Cyber Kiosks will be found in public places, just like the payphone is today," he said, adding that, for this to happen, the company will be looking to team with major third parties, such as banks and telecoms companies.

"We're staging the first trial of the Cyber Kiosk system at a local high school here in Manchester this August for four weeks. Around 40 pupils will be able to use the terminal in its early stages. If all goes well, the system will be rolled out commercially later this year.

Dougherty has high hopes for the Cyber Kiosks. Although he has invested considerable amounts of time and money into the project, he now reckons that the Cyber Kiosk concept is poised for take-off.

"As the Internet becomes an increasingly important part of all our lives, multi-location access will be essential. The development of the Cyber Kiosk and smart card technology will enable the general public to check e-mail and Internet available information as they would a bank balance," he said.

According to Dougherty, the UKP100,000 funding will enable the company to put the finishing touches to the Cyber Kiosk and launch it into a market where it will fill a unique role.

(19970702/Press Contact: Shandwick +44-171-329-0096; Andy Leach, 3i Manchester +44-161-839-3131; Reader Contact: Peter Dougherty, Cyber Kiosks +44-161-366-1818/Reported By Newsbytes News Network: