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Question of the Day
06/13/01 : Steve Hensley of KAL responds.

Why do we need standards in the kiosk industry?

What is the primary cause of the infamous "out of service" screen too often displayed on a kiosk unit? Is it the use of inexpensive, or incompatible, hardware components? Is it poor wiring or ventilation? Or, are solutions rushed to market when they are clearly not ready to meet a perceived need?

KAL believes that it is more likely to be a failure in the software than in the hardware or the other factors that prevents a system from staying fully operational over a long period of time. With proper software design kiosk systems can achieve the same levels of reliability of ATMs (up to 99%). In many cases the software system can "work around" the hardware issues and potentially compensate for its deficiencies.

In an ATM application approximately 30% of the software code deals with the normal transaction business logic while the remaining 70% handles as many fault and problem conditions as possible. Since a kiosk is in many cases a "mission critical" system much like a bank's ATM it then follows that its application should be designed with the same level of durability and robustness as an ATM application. Unfortunately, in many cases today that is simply not the case.

So how to improve the stability of a kiosk?

First, there is a glaring need for an established, robust, standard protocol for talking to the peripheral components that are increasingly being used in kiosk systems. XFS, universally acknowledged by the ATM industry as that industry's standard, should play the same role for kiosk systems. The XFS standard includes support for most devices typically integrated into kiosk systems. A second standard that should be universally supported is OPOS and it covers retail-oriented devices (such as a OCR Reader) that may not be found in the XFS standard. Both standards provide paths for proper fault reporting as well as isolating the application from hardware dependence - an important factor in cost effectiveness and ease of deployment.

Second, when creating self-service application solutions one must start with a stable software platform. The platform should support standard software tools, languages, and protocols (HTML, XML, HTTP, others) and allow for rapid development of complex systems. Equally important is that the development platform must provide the development team with a reliable way of detecting and correcting coding errors before the system goes "live".

KAL's Kalignite embraces these standards and provides a stable development platform. Kalignite provides the necessary robustness, functionality, and security needed to make kiosk software as fault tolerant and stable as software found in the ATM industry.


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