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Transform A Tablet Into An Affordable Kiosk For Your Clients

Twenty minutes after unboxing my first iPad, I realized this device’s potential to revolutionize the world of kiosks. Ten years ago, my team and I worked with Honda to develop touchscreen kiosks for its dealerships. Potential buyers could customize their purchase with a few touches of their fingertips. While innovative at the time, these early interactive kiosks didn’t come cheap, running Honda $3,000 to $5,000 per installation. Today, we can create such a kiosk for a fraction of the price.

Which industries are the most likely candidates for tablet kiosks? Four that immediately spring to mind are hotels, restaurants, museums and retailers. Kiosks help streamline information-gathering processes, such as signing up for mailing lists, making reservations, ordering products and services and checking in and out of locations.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

By automating these processes, the kiosk eliminates the customer’s frustration from waiting in line to speak with a representative and, likewise, frees the employees to focus their energies on higher-level tasks.

Recent consumer-privacy laws put limits on the data that retailers may capture during a transaction. For example, a recent California ruling forbids the process of “reverse appending” by ZIP code. Kiosks give the retailer a second chance to collect customer data, away from the cash register. A privacy-savvy customer might balk at providing their personal information to a cashier at the time of purchase and yet be willing to enter the same information at a kiosk for a contest or discount. Success depends on having an appealing interface that encourages interaction.

Step 1: Hardware Considerations Link

Obviously, your client will need a tablet for this project. We’ll focus on the iPad here because it is what most of our clients choose, but other platforms such as Kindle Fire could also be used as kiosks. Whichever device you choose, consider how to secure the tablet so that it doesn’t disappear! We developed a device that securely mounts an iPad to a wall, counter or desk (Padloc). Remember that physical security is key; an unsecured tablet is an attractive target for thieves.

iPad mounted in retail setting4
iPad securely mounted with a Padloc.

Step 2: Software Considerations Link

Is it really necessary to develop an application for the kiosk? Perhaps your client simply wants to display their website or use a third-party app. In our experience, however, a customized interface can make or break the user experience. We recently worked with a client to develop a simple interface for gathering email addresses in exchange for special offers. Here is the process we followed:

  1. We decided to create a Web app rather than a conventional app, thus bypassing a potentially lengthy and complicated submission and approval process through the App Store.
  2. We picked the device to program on (in this case, the iPad). This was important because, knowing we would be using Mobile Safari, with all of the interesting little nuances available for it (through HTML5 and CSS3), we were able to streamline production.
  3. We designed an interface that was visually striking, intuitive and compliant with interface guidelines (including those related to the on-screen keyboard, viewport size and touchscreen conventions). (Apple has some great resources for developers, such as its Human Interface Guidelines5.)
  4. Because we were working in mobile Safari on the iPad, we were able to program some cool features into the Web app. But these came with restrictions, such as:
    • The features would work only in portrait orientation,
    • The Web app had to be saved to the iPad’s home screen and launch from there,
    • All links in the Web app would open in a new browser tab.
  5. We also made some other tweaks:
    • Hid the browser chrome (URL bar and buttons) using <meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes" />;
    • Created a bookmark icon for the home screen and linked to it using <link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/path/to/icon.png" />;
    • Set the color of the status bar (the options are black, gray or black translucent) using <meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style" content="black" />;
    • Made all events touch events, as opposed to hover events, to accommodate the limitations of the touchscreen.

Do Clients Really Want This? Link

What is the current demand for touchscreen tablet kiosks? We recently conducted a survey of our existing and potential clients; 89% indicated that they would use a touchscreen for a kiosk, and the iPad was the tablet of choice for 84% of them.

Survey Results6
The results of our survey

Pretty eye-opening, eh? We also asked survey participants to identify the biggest factor affecting their decision to move forward with a kiosk (choosing from 10 options, ranging from price to screen size to operating system to security options). Price was most important for 41% of respondents, with screen size coming next at 18%.

Interestingly, a majority of respondents chose the iPad, yet also mentioned price as their top concern. This suggests that lower-cost entrants to the market (such as the Kindle Fire) are well positioned to gain market share and become viable candidates for these kiosk projects. Our survey shows a strong desire for kiosks, and the price barrier has been removed with these low-cost tablets!

A Bright Future With New Possibilities Link

In addition, a wide array of hardware is constantly emerging, creating previously unimagined possibilities. Consider Square7’s reader. Plug this tiny device into the headphone jack of your iPad, download the app, and you’re ready to take credit-card payments. Now, add a locking mount, install it anywhere in your store or in your trade-show booth, and you’ll have the best-looking, quickest-to-set-up cash register you’ve ever seen!

Padloc in Restaurant setting8
iPad mounted with a Square reader to accept payments.

As more advanced devices are introduced to the marketplace, the traditional limitations of kiosks are being surmounted. It’s time for us to think outside the box and imagine a new future for low-cost tablet kiosks!

Conclusion Link

The clunky, expensive kiosks of yesterday are becoming irrelevant in today’s world of elegant low-cost touchscreen devices. Whether clients want to capture email addresses, enable customers to sign up for events in the store or add interactive elements to their artwork, a touchscreen kiosk can deliver the results they’re looking for. Tablet kiosks can be integrated into any decor smartly and sleekly. Now that affordability is no longer a factor, you can start working with clients to develop apps that bring imagination back to their business solutions.


Footnotes Link

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Jason is an educator, business owner, and author. As one of the first dozen professors of website design in the country, his lectures and workshops dynamically cater to all user levels. His company, Gravity Switch, works with higher education and innovative businesses and is the top agile web development firm in New England. Jason keeps his carbon footprint down by bicycling to work year round. He's enjoying Twitter, so be sure to shout out if you have any impossible problems. He likes to be challenged.

  1. 1

    This is an interesting idea and one that I thought of (but never even came close to implementing) during the worlds introduction to tablets.

    I especially support your choice of using a web app instead of an internal app for a low budget kiosk as well. Some of the best mobile apps I’ve ever seen were web apps!

    I’m curious as to why the iPad seems to be the number one choice for this though? You’d think android would be better because of it’s lower price (generally) and your power to modify the OS itself through custom roms. Worst case scenario you could flash a light weight custom rom that will at the very least increase the device speed and battery life, and best case you could develop a more integrated experience with the OS itself (such as custom drawer so that customers can’t mess around).

    I can’t help but feel that customers are choosing the iPhone because it’s a name they know and trust – nobody has heard of the Xoom before! haha.

    • 2

      I think most would use Apple because of the secuirty flaws in Android. If I were building a web app for one of my clients, Id def be making it on Apples products, I guess just from a security stand point. I love Androids flexibility/smart phones however. And I agree on that. People tend to choose the brand that they most can identify with, I guess. Everyone and their brother knows what a Mac is, but do most people know what a motorolla xoom is?.

    • 3

      While I’m an Android user, the iPad makes sense for a number of reasons:

      1. Variety of accessories: stands and protective cases
      2. Availability: they are carried in many stores. Can you say the same about a specific model of Android tablet?
      3. Long term support

      While that last one is hard to believe, I think the iPad 2/3 form factor will be around longer than any other tablet which will likely change between revisions. Replacement units will be easier to come by and work in the existing setup.

      I’m confused about your point about Android’s customization. Why is any of that needed if a web app works the best?

      Regarding the article’s point about waiting for app store approval, there are enterprise deployment options available that allow installations on a limited number of devices (100.) That should suit most kiosk app needs.

      • 4

        Right, the point about Android customization could have been much better expressed. I am only detailing what I would see as an advantage of customizing a whole OS as opposed to just deploying a web app, as Ryan did not elaborate.

        A web app may not have access to all OS functions (naturally, a security issue), but a customized OS and/or an app would. True, this above article may only be concerned about placing orders through a kiosk and maybe submitting payment, but what about other kiosk applications (and I am just brainstorming here) that would allow you to create badges with pictures at events by using the built-in camera, print using wireless/networked printers, use a data/BlueTooth/phone connection, connect to a SIP/XMPP/video chat account, etc.? What about functions that require rooting or jailbreaking? (This is where a small form factor PCs would be much better by having an open standard, by the way…) Yes, I can think of specific uses for all of these functions, especially in banking/conventions/customer service fields. But can a web app have access to all that?

        I am curious: does anyone know if credit card scanners for tablet devices are supported by web apps? I have a suspicion that they require an installed app to act as a driver.

      • 5

        A huge benefit I could see with an android tablet and running a custom rom would be the ability to restrict the software to the kios app and prevent the users from returning to os to do something different. Not only would this be expected for a customer to do this, it could also result in them not returning to the app, therefore ruining the experience for the next user of the kios. This is possible with custom android roms to lock the software down to one app.

    • 8

      One benefit of using an iPad is that everybody knows an iPad, so it triggers a sense of familiarity. Even if it’s just a web app, and it’s exactly the same on any tablet. You know the keyboard, the way the screen responds, .. You already know how it works.

      It’s like using a public computer, even for browsing the web or typing some text, you always have to “learn” how to use this new machine by adjusting to the keyboard, the screen resolution, the mouse, … It’s a new experience.

    • 9

      I actually expected Android Tablets to take off for this use, esp. in larger corporations, but most clients we’ve worked with are more interested in iPads. I’m sure there’s some brand “excitement” about having an iPad, but in talking to some IT people a bit of it has to do with cost. The cost of “installing” even an inexpensive kiosk is fairly high, and if a technician needs someone to check or replace it every month vs. every year the cost increases so much more than the differential between iPad and Android. The fear factor is high and most IT buyers are risk adverse, so they idea of buying a dependable “Apple” product for a few hundred more is worthwhile for many organizations.

      • 10

        But that doesn’t make any sense. Just look at how often Apple has updated their products lately. I mean they went from an iPhone4 to an iPhone4s which really wasn’t much of an upgrade. The latest iPad came out only a few months after the previous iPad. It’s pretty sad actually. Whereas the previous Kindle hadn’t been updated for a while.

        Yeah so the Android OS itself goes through updates but still that isn’t all that often either. It may seem like Android products are updated and changed quite often but that’s only because there are so many different Android products out there. It just appears that they’re being updated all the time.

        Personally I don’t find Apple products to be all that great. I actually work on a pretty new Mac system and I can’t really stand it. I can’t wait to get home each night and do things (anything) on my Windows system. I don’t care for my iPod either. I got my wife a Kindle Fire HD and we absolutely love it and we didn’t pay Apple’s overly inflated price.

        • 11

          +1. I couldn’t agree more with this opinion

        • 12

          Actually, the idea of using tablet as kiosk is great!. It doesn’t matter which tab, what platform OR what OS to use.

          We should leave that decision to clients.

          Over all great idea and great new opportunities!!

    • 13

      I agree, there are more options for customization with Android, where the whole system can be modified for the single purpose of a kiosk. There are also more hardware options to choose from. As far as physical security goes, well, it does not require too much original thinking to lock down a piece of slab in a mounting bracket, so I am sure these security devices can be built for any tablet.

      Of course, there are the initial “oohs” and “aahs”, and excitement about how revolutionary it all is and “imagine the possibilities” and all that, but this technology has been around for a long time at a variety of places (even at not-so-glamorous locations such as gas stations), where you can build your own fast food meal through a touch screen interface. Most of these kiosks run on Linux or Windows on top of low-cost hardware. One advantage of such hardware is that it is fairly open standard (miniITX or similar board, Intel-based or equivalent, so basically just a regular PC with a touch screen you can install your choice of operating system on). It is easy to build applications for these systems, as developers have been doing it for years, and if it is simply a locked-down web browser, then deploying a web app is even easier.

      Apple products, however, are definitely not open hardware and software, but of course, there is the “ooh, it is an iPad” factor. I am sure it will be enough to make quite a few customers think they are ever-so-sophisticated because they place orders on an iPad.

      While you could technically use any platform for deploying a web app, an issue does come up if you want to add a credit card processing option, as some hardware may only be available for iOS, requiring an iOS app to run it.

      Really, the only “new” idea here is using a tablet for kiosks, but considering the flexibility of a small embedded PC–from a developer’s perspective–as opposed to various closed/almost-open-but-not-quite tablet platforms, tablets are actually a step back in the logical evolution of kiosk technology.

  2. 14

    I would rather use an Android tablet, since it is easier to develop an app for it without having to go through the burden of the appstore. You could use Phonegap or any of the other development frameworks available in the market to build a hybrid app…or Java for a native one, which will give the advantage of using the hardware features…

  3. 15

    There are tech challenges too that go beyond software development and design. The iPad’s great strength can also be an Achilles’ heel when it comes to commercial use like kiosks: these devices are consumer electronics, designed to be personalized with music, apps, and content. Apple has built an incredible ecosystem and made it trivial to customize the content and UX to make each iPad feel personalized in its owner’s hands. However the right approach to configuring and managing the experience are not always put in place in public-facing efforts like the one you describe.

    Too often, iPads are deployed in shared commercial settings (food & beverage, hospitality, healthcare) and a great UX with a beautifully designed app quickly deteriorates as the devices is poked and prodded by user after user. Put an iPad kiosk in the hands of a bored tween for 30 seconds, and a great UX quickly becomes muddled with rearranged icons, personal pics, notes, etc.

    There are a number of approaches to dealing with the tech and operational challenges of a iPad based kiosk platform – including mobile device management (MDM) solutions and more customized alternatives. Thinking about the big picture up front – how to curate the iOS experience and how to update content in an ongoing manner – can go a long way toward a successful iPad based kiosk platform.

    • 16

      If the mounting hardware covers the home button, problem solved.

      • 17

        Not always the case. A 4-finger pinch takes the user back to the homescreen on an iPad unless you disable it upfront… which some people may forget to.

        • 18

          Jason Featheringham

          November 28, 2012 4:01 pm

          Also, swipe from top gives you notification center, which, if not tamed, will allow you to switch to other apps.

          • 19

            Jonathan Grassis

            November 29, 2012 7:15 am

            Actually, iOS 6 had a new “Guided Access” mode that locks the entire device into one application, requiring a password to exit the app. Even trying to power down the device wont work while in this mode. That way, you can develop your app, pop it into Guided Access Mode, and feel confident that no one will mess w/ the device, whether it is physically locked down or not.

  4. 20

    I spent close to 7 years designing and developing user experiences for touch-screen kiosks – the “clunky, expensive kiosks of yesterday”. As someone with a ton of experience in that field, I can say that this idea could certainly change that industry in a huge way and open up the possibility of interactive kiosk experiences to so many smaller businesses.

    Love this idea. Love this article. Thanks for sharing.

  5. 21

    Andrew Sellenrick

    November 26, 2012 2:15 pm

    One big issue I have seen is that you can’t lock down the iPad. Were you able to stop users from exiting your app and getting to the home screen? Or was this not a concern you had?

    • 22

      iOS 6 allows you to lock users into the app and even disables screen rotation.

    • 23

      Jeff is right. With Guided access you can solve a lot of problems. You can keep your customers focused on only your website by “greying” out the navigation bar. You can also keep your users locked into a specific app being used by your company for say, data collection. One awesome use ive found for this at home is when my 2 year old daughter wants to watch her favorite Turtle movie. I can disable touchscreen and the home button and keep her watching netflix as long as i choose…not her curious little fingers. : )

      Check out this awesome video from on how to use this awesome new software feature called Guided Access.

    • 24

      Guided Access does solve some problems, but it’s not transparent and presents itself rather inelegantly when a user attempts to exit the app. Plus, depending on the use case, providing access to a variety of apps is sometimes a desirable user experience feature.

      I worked on a team that built an iPad-based kiosk platform that is rolling out at restaurants in US airports – currently over 2000 devices, with several thousand more in the roadmap. We had success by looking at the way Apple provides demo devices in their retails stores, and mimicking their approach to device security and software lock-down… Entice users to the devices with a compelling attract loop video, and then let them engage and keep the “lockdown” subtle so that users probably won’t realize the experience is curated.

      By keeping it engaging, and providing a better experience that dealing with a human server, we have had great success – both in terms of user response and revenue increases.

    • 25

      Yup. You can use iOS Guided Access.

  6. 26

    Tablets at restaurants would be wonderful! Punch in your order, confirm it, and a waiter or waitress brings it to you… No more annoying waitresses messing up orders by trying to be impressive without writing pads… ahhhhh! I definitely hope this happens in the near future.

    • 27

      Yeah, that’d be cool and all, but I can’t help but think it serves as one more way of isolating ourselves and creating an increasingly stagnant social environment. I dunno… despite the system’s flaws, I enjoy the interaction between server and customer. Then again, I’m middle-aged and no longer on the radar of those who make such business decisions.

    • 28

      KB, It’s happening! Check out what Armor Active is doing in restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings! Pretty awesome.

    • 29

      “No more annoying waitresses messing up orders by trying to be impressive without writing pads… ahhhhh!”

      Hmmm. Good point! This kiosk solution would also make the job of already hard working and underpaid waiting staff easier by not having to interact with customers who think of them the way you do, KB.

  7. 30

    I’d recently set up something like this but with access to a website instead of storing the application data on the device. Unfortunately this lead to user frustration do to it taking too long to load and some data loss. Do you know of any good places to work through a tutorial series or something similar to get the ball rolling on an HTML app?

    • 31

      What about using Javascript-based front end instead? Frameworks like Backbone.js or Meteor might be of interest.

    • 32

      Glad you liked the article.

      Data Loss – This is bad. Was it because you have an inconsistent network? If so you simply HAVE to fix that. If it was b/c of your server… well you need a new host and/or new developers.

      Slowness – was this due to slow network or slow server? If slow server, refactor your code or try a new host. If it’s due to a slow network get your data down to the smallest bits and use Javascript (as Make Schinkel suggests) to ONLY send the *minimum* data over the network using JSON.

      If you need a new host, check out my article on picking hosts over at WPHub for some ideas:

      • 33

        The data loss I believe was caused by slowness, the Kiosks themselves were setup within the center of a shopping complex and connected by a 3G connection to a remote server. Data was handled via a form submission.
        Although I have heard of JSON before I have not really focused on it a great deal, it might make a more reliable system for transferring data; thanks.

  8. 34

    Developer Kitty

    November 26, 2012 5:44 pm

    I could see this working well but for as few things, firstly you surely would want the iPad to only be able to access the app that is running as a checkout/till and for it not to be able to open other apps that might cause a distraction for the person operating this. I’m not sure how you would accomplish this with an iPad because as we know we can only do and use our iPad’s how apple want/think we should.

    I can see this sort of thing being doable on an Android tablet due to the more open nature of Android, however I don’t know if I would trust something like this to an Android table as in my experience they are a bit volatile and subject to many ‘Force Close’ incidents.

    • 35

      Jonathan Grassis

      November 29, 2012 7:24 am

      So first, iOS 6 has Guided Access mode to lock the device into one application, so it can be used how you want it to be used.

      Second, Android does not offer this feature. There is no way of suppressing the bottom navigation bar natively, so no matter how hard you try to stop users, they can still access the entire device and system settings. The *only* way to suppress this is by using 3rd party software, which is always rendered obsolete rather quickly once Android finds the loophole and closes it with an update.

  9. 36

    This use-case makes me think about could benefit from releasing an iPad Pro, i.e. bigger screen. :)

    • 37

      They already have those. They are called PCs. They are a whole lot more open and customizable than closed tablet platforms are.

  10. 38

    Umm, can someone please talk about the practical side of things?

    – Imagine all the fingerprints and fat on the device’s screen. In a Restaurant scenario the waitress would need to constantly wipe the screen clean.
    – Waitresses quite often depend on tips. If I pay on a Kiosk, I am much more unlikely to give one (if that option even exists).
    – Where would a Kiosk actually be quicker and more comfortable? Think of older or less tech-savvy people.
    – What if I want to pay by cash?

    Whereas I think kiosks are now a great opportunity for small-scale businesses, you should always evaluate if they are actually of any advantage. And rather often I’d much prefer the ‘human touch’ as a customer.

    I believe tablets have much greater use in for example museums, where guided tours can be enhanced by interactive apps/information.

    • 39

      I will try to find the links, but I remember reading about some studies that concluded that the most bacteria at the workplace can be found on objects people touch most, such as phone handsets and keyboards. Apparently, these frequently-used items have even more bacteria than toilet seats. I would imagine cleaning a flat touch surface is much easier than cleaning keyboards that some kiosks still have.

      As far as tips for the waiting staff go, I think kiosks could work well by simply offering you an already calculated tip percentage or by letting you enter your own amount, no need to try to gather the exact amount from bills and coins. Also, I have seen places where you put your order in through the kiosk, but can pay at a cash register separately with whatever form of payment you prefer.

      My concern with the tablet-based kiosks is that just exactly how durable these screens are? Purpose-built kiosks have for years used high-endurance screen materials, but I am not sure if there are long-term studies on the durability and hand jewelry scratch resistance of tablet screens. Wiping them clean is not any different than cleaning tables or dishes after customers. Actually, it is even faster. It is a much smaller surface than a table has, right?

  11. 40

    There’s a company here in New Zealand that does this exact thing. They are called Vend and a hell of a lot of companies are taking them up. The fact that they are shows this market is ripe for the picking.
    I don’t work for Vend or have any stake in the company, but from what I’ve heard about them they are definitely the ones to look out for. A full online/offline HTML5 web app hosted in the cloud, hooking straight into PayPal, Square, Account software (Xero) and many many others.

  12. 41

    Carlos Ruhrwiem

    November 27, 2012 5:11 am

    Anyone knows where can I find this docks with padlocks?

  13. 43

    I’ve actually been using iPads (and have attempted to use other tablet devices) to do this for over two years. The iPad presents a very good solution to kiosks as well as other presentation/experiential solutions. Compared to clunky kiosks and rack mounts, the iPad excels in sleek design, portability and usability.

    Let’s face it, people know how to use a tablet. Tablets have built in functionality that is better than any previous on-screen solution (read: KEYBOARD!!!) Tablets look better and can make exhibits or experiences look better. And they can make them easier to update, change, etc.

    As for developing apps for this type of thing. The iPad also accommodates many different ways to develop. You can go the route of a web-app and either wrap it into a native app, you can actually use a web-app and save it to the home screen so that it opens as an app, you can build a native app, or you can use applications like Adobe AIR and Unity3D for higher end graphics apps. It’s actually quite amazing to think of all the solutions. Each solution has its pros and cons. A native (Objective-C) app will take longer to develop and probably cost more, but it will run better. The other solutions are faster but might not be as efficient. A wrapped web app is great when you want to duplicate existing code. Adobe AIR/Unity3D create very interactive and visual apps… You get the idea!

    The iPad has some challenges as well, but the use of this and other devices for kiosks in both static and moving exhibits or experiences is not new. I’ve worked with a lot of experiential marketing applications that use the iPad to enable user interaction, gaming and social media sharing. In addition, the iPad is very hardware friendly if you want to integrate with things like bluetooth ID scanners, RFID, Arduino, etc…

    As for a market comparison. The iPad still runs much better than most other tablets, especially when you start merging video backgrounds and animations with overlaid content. The iPad isn’t perfect…but for now it is the best “tablet” option. We tried the Xoom about two years ago and it couldn’t run any animated content. The Samsung devices have been getting better and the Android platform is actually quite nice to develop on. In some ways it actually functions more efficiently.

    One key missing element is the ability to lock the device down. Until then, we have found that physical setup can mostly account for covering the home button and that there has to be a person on-site to keep an eye on things in case the app gets closed, crashes, etc.

    Another key burden of the iPad is that you can only upgrade an iPad so far. They get outdated pretty quickly. As opposed to a computer that you just install updates and it still runs … this has been a big pain … especially when considering device storage and the likes.

    I have to admit, I am personally excited to see if people start looking at new Windows-based devices for these solutions (I like the Surface). These are full computer solutions in tablet-like form. They offer the benefit of accessibility to the entire OS and better update potential/longer life.

    • 44

      Excellent point about full PC solutions in tablets! Samsung, as an example, makes a tablet that runs on Atom or i5 CPU, has built-in SSD, and runs full desktop version of Windows. Android and iOS based tablets do not run full desktop OSs, so you have to specifically develop for them if you are not just doing a web app.

  14. 45

    Kemper Barkhurst

    November 27, 2012 7:50 am

    Nice article Jason. I remember that you guys used to have your own iPad kiosk. Are you now a reseller for Padlock? We’d be interested in working with you with some of our

    • 46

      Yeah, the iBracket sold really well, but we’re really a software shop and we got to a point where we either had to split our focus or deliver an inferior product so we hunted around and felt Padlock was the best out there so we partnered with them.

  15. 47

    I’ve actually used iPads to create several kiosks for clients.

    The apps running on the kiosk easily ties in to the clients’ website to pull current offers, write testimonials to the database that populates the wordpress site and tie in to social networks.

    Client response has been fantastic and it is a great up sell for any office that has a waiting area.

  16. 48

    This is really cool. Great article.

  17. 49

    Great article, Jason. Their is a massive market for tablet kiosks and tablet based data collection, and it’s only going to keep growing.

    We’ve recently released a HTML5 email collection app, It collects email addresses and even works offline, storing the data locally until it has a internet connection, it then syncs automagically with Campaign Monitor or Mailchimp (it can also be downloaded as a simple .csv). As it is a HTML5 app it runs on iOS, Android and even in the browser, we did find that iOS has better support for full screen web apps than Android, which we found surprising.

    Have you built any web apps for Android? And if so did you come across any issues, such as there not being a graceful way to hide the browser chrome, which is pretty easy in iOS, as you mentioned in your article.

  18. 50

    Here’s how you prevent a web app installed on the home screen from opening links in a new tab:

    Everything is nice and stays inside the installed homescreen app. I’ve used this to create clickable prototypes out of wireframes for native apps and it works like a charm.

  19. 51

    I would definitely prefer to use a Windows 8 tablet for this. The full screen experience and large metro style buttons lend themselves perfectly to this sort of touch enabled kiosk. Not only that but applications are much easier/faster to write then an html5 applications while giving you exceptional fluidness and interactivity. The problem of waiting for an app store approval would also be removed since Windows 8 applications are very easily side-loaded onto the device. Also windows 8 tablets come in many different size and shapes allow you to cater the device to your needs.

    • 52

      > Also windows 8 tablets come in many different size and shapes

      Why would you seek complications with Win8 – too much free time? Different screen sizes = more work = slow development = more expensive product = bad for developers and clients. Also browsing webapp isn’t too much work for any system. Also there is no easier procedure than addition of webapp onto home screen.

      Plus you’ll have to convince customers Wn8 is better than iPad while like 100% of them didn’t see Win8 yet (we are talking about restaurant owners – not geeks with plenty of free time to experiment with new IT systems).

  20. 53

    The largest problem I’ve run into is clients wanting to use a tablet in an area with no wi-fi. The web-ap is a far cheaper and route generally but with out wi-fi it looses. Is there an AP that acts as a sandbox to run embeded web AP’s?

  21. 54

    While technical people might like the idea of using a kiosk system, I strongly advice to re-think if a kiosk system is the right solution at all. In many cases a personal contact with a real human is defnitely better than a computer. Here is an example. There was an approach by a restaurant group called Holyfields in Frankfurt (Germany) to establish a restaurant where the client orders his meal using a computer. The menu was animated, everything highly professional, even the restaurant itself was designed in a very lovely way. But people where not interested in this future technology and the restaurant had to close with a great loss of money just after a short period of time. Humans are more often preferred than you might think.

  22. 55

    We build some kiosks using the same idea here in Ecuador, but they are built in wood, with some “secure-stand” design. And its totally true, compared with spending about $5000 for a industrial strenght touch screen and a PC, its an affordable solution. Check the pics here (btw, its in spanish, but a picture is worth thousand words)

  23. 56

    I couldn’t agree more with the comments about rather using Android Tablets instead of Apple. I find every Apple product I’ve ever used to be cheaply made, the iPods were chincy, (my friend went thru 3 of them), macbooks were prone to breaks & software problems. Maybe it’s different today, but there’s nothing a Windows or Android system can’t do that an Apple can.

    I’ll be offering my clients the choice of using Android, Windows, Apple or a Kindle Kiosk system soon. This way they can sign up for a retailer’s or restaurant’s SMS loyalty program right on the spot. I think paying $500 for a tablet is just crazy.

  24. 57

    The use of Apple iPads is a simple yet disasterous reality for any commercial business or enterprise that will have any kind of volume at all. As I write this, its January 4, 2013 and there are superior tablets on the market with much stronger OS’s for business of any kind. The front runner right now is Windows 8 undoubtedly, with superior sucurity, multiple hardware manufactures and connectivity using conventional business APIs. Going on the cheap will always injure commercial businesses when it comes to kiosks. The truth is I have tried every tablet, every touch screen, four separate OS’s and have put these things inside retail, restaurant, airport and other locations. The iPad is a great CONSUMER tablet, although it has some better competition now, it is not even close to a commercial grade kiosk on so many levels. For starters, its the wrong hardware, it will break as mine have many times, it has the wrong OS for business and it looks cracker jack. Business owners need to stay away from any device that needs to be “ruggedized” as this is an example of an after thought, like buying a car without a roof and with no doors and trying to buy them as aftermarket parts, not such a good idea if you want to pull G’s around the corner or hit a rain storm. When a commercial operation, even a retail store, wants to automate – true kiosks built for commercial use, will outlast and outfunction every other piece of hardware in the facility. They are made as an appliance with few moving parts and they can be monitored, do not have OS updates, do not have surfing going on and they are built into fixed positions. Using iPads or any consumer grade tablet for commercial use is a band aid that will simply fall off and need to be replaced.

  25. 58

    Hi, I have published version of this application iphone. reading this script you can make a comment.

  26. 59

    Pete Thompson

    March 11, 2013 4:03 am

    As tablet kiosk manufacturers I would agree that most people are still currently favoring iPad’s for kiosk applications. However we have started to see a shift towards windows and android platforms and in particular for enterprise solutions.

    Our patented enclosure design can securely hold most tablets up to 10″ although the challenge for us is being able to support such a diverse range of tablets in different shapes, sizes and layouts in terms of buttons and ports that different users may have different requirements for.

    The next stage in tablet kiosk development is the integration of peripheral devices such as card readers, printers and scanners. Many kiosk applications are not feasible on a tablet kiosl without the secure and smart integration of these devices and we are therefore developing this type of solution into our products throughout 2013. If anyone has opinions on the most important and relevant peripheral devices then i would love to hear from them.



  27. 60

    Paul Strigger

    May 14, 2013 7:04 pm

    I have been looking for an ios app for my iPad that will work good for small group registration. Anyone know of an app that would work?

  28. 61

    Approximately how much does it cost to develop/design/make this software? And how much would it cost a store/restaurant to have it installed?

  29. 63

    This article is only about iPad and it’s accessories. Are there any companies that make countertop, mountable, general tablet mounts. We don’t use iPads for our needs and don’t plan on it, but the article was a bit misleading with the “…tablet into an affordable kiosk” and only have iPad accessories pictured. Should specify in the title. Just a thought.

  30. 64

    We use the SignUp Kiosk App. We love it!
    Here is the website –

  31. 65

    Ipads are the WORST possible development platform for kiosks and here is why:
    1. Vendor lock-in (requires a Mac for any serious development work)
    2. Less customizable (locked OS and app store environment)
    3. Poor hardware/feature selection (Few peripherals and interfaces)
    4. Easily identifiable for hackers (They are looking for well known devices)
    5. Slow new technology adoption rates (4G cellular and NFC are good examples)
    6. Price per unit (Not debatable at all)

    For these and other sound reasons, major chains deploying tablet based solutions are choosing Android based solutions from vendors with less market saturation. Personally, I like the hardware selection of HTC devices coupled with their propensity to support actually updating them for 3 years. Now, if only they made a decent tablet like the proposed Nexus 9 coming out this year…

  32. 66

    Joby George

    June 1, 2015 9:51 pm

    Very simple but powerful if you have Samsung device. Also no root access


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