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Getting started with kiosk mode for the enterprise

A kiosk can serve several purposes as a dedicated endpoint. Understanding those possibilities and their benefits and challenges is key to deploying kiosk mode for the enterprise.

Kiosk mode for enterprise refers to locking down a device's operating system to a specified single app or multiple apps to serve a targeted purpose such as advertising, customer self-service and more.

While kiosks have surged in popularity following the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, understanding the benefits, challenges and use cases is crucial for any organization looking to deploy its own kiosks.

Benefits and challenges of kiosk mode for the enterprise

The main benefit of using kiosk mode in the enterprise is that it allows an off-the-shelf device to be used for a single, dedicated purpose while blocking access to the underlying operating system. Without kiosk mode, an organization would likely have to invest in purpose-built hardware such as a collection of IoT devices. Such devices might come at a higher cost than a commodity device running a standard operating system.

Another benefit to using kiosk mode is that it allows custom applications in kiosk environments. As such, an organization is not limited to the provided functionality and can instead code its own kiosk application if necessary.

Because kiosk applications run on standard hardware and operating systems, they can use peripheral devices like printers -- for example, an airport check-in terminal. In addition to running custom software, such a terminal likely includes a credit card reader and a printer for boarding passes. While some airlines may use proprietary terminals, most likely use standard hardware with an operating system configured to operate in kiosk mode.

The main disadvantages to using kiosk mode for the enterprise are security breaches and technical issues. As organizations often place kiosks in high-traffic areas, they can be a tempting target for those seeking to do harm. There are countless cautionary tales of individuals manipulating kiosks to display graphic or otherwise unapproved content or exploiting them to perform an unintended function, like creating discounts on purchasable goods. Beyond software manipulation, kiosk devices are also common targets for physical damage or theft if the opportunity presents itself.

5 kiosk mode use cases

There are several potential uses for devices running in kiosk mode. Following are five of the most common uses for a kiosk.

1. Informational

One of the most common uses for kiosks is to provide information in public places. For example, airports have digital signs that reflect flight information such as departure times, flight numbers and gate numbers.

2. Internet access

Some businesses use kiosks to grant internet access to their customers. Many hotels place PCs for guest use in public areas such as the lobby. A hotel that provides these PCs can't afford to grant unrestricted access to the PCs. Otherwise, the device could become a technical support nightmare for the hotel as guests would be able to change configuration settings, install unauthorized software or worse. Instead, hotels can place these devices into kiosk mode so guests can use the PC's browser and nothing more.

3. Wayfinding

Kiosks can also be useful for wayfinding. Shopping malls, school campuses and even large cities will have kiosks installed to provide visitors with maps, a listing of landmarks and other important information.

4. Digital signage and advertising

Another common use case for kiosks is digital signage. For example, in an airport or other high-traffic location, a kiosk might be equipped with a large screen display and rotating ads for area attractions. Similarly, display kiosks can act as digital signage, such as fast food restaurants displaying the restaurant's menu behind the counter.

5. Self-service and point-of-sale terminals

Kiosks are also often used as a self-service, point-of-sale system. Several brick-and-mortar retailers offer a self-checkout option where customers scan their items and follow prompts to complete the transaction.

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