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Definition

kiosk

A kiosk (pronounced KEE-ahsk) is a small, free-standing physical structure that displays information or provides a service. Kiosks can be manned or unmanned, and unmanned kiosks can be digital or non-digital. The word kiosk is of French, Turkish and Persian origin and means pavilion or portico.

In business, kiosks are often used in locations with high foot traffic. In a shopping mall, for example, an unmanned, non-digital kiosk can be placed near entrances to provide people passing by with directions or promotional messaging. Manned kiosks temporarily set up in aisles can provide businesses that have seasonal sales cycles with a cost-effective way to display wares, and digital kiosks placed near movie theaters can provide online banking or ticket sales services.

Unmanned digital kiosks that provide customers with self-service capabilities are increasingly being used for such things as hotel check-in, retail sales check-out and healthcare screenings in pharmacies for vital information such as blood pressure. Amazon and Walmart are currently experimenting with how to optimize the click-and-mortar experience, testing kiosks that dispense merchandise previously ordered online.

When an unmanned kiosk is programmed with software that incorporates artificial intelligence, it can provide customers with an experience that, in some cases, is quite similar to that of a manned kiosk. For example, an intelligent check-in kiosk at an airport can monitor a variety of data sources, including passenger check-in flow, and programmatically request additional kiosks to be activated in real time during busy periods.

This was last updated in April 2005

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