INTERACTIVE: CASE STUDY/BT TOUCHPOINT; BT’s talking kiosks provide a direct line to the consumer on the street

Advertisers were quick to sign up to BT’s Touchpoint kiosks. Gordon MacMillan reports on what they offer

Advertisers were quick to sign up to BT’s Touchpoint kiosks. Gordon

MacMillan reports on what they offer



If you’re walking through the Trocadero or the National Gallery and see

someone being spoken to by a television sited in a futuristic kiosk, do

not panic. You have spotted one of the BT Touchpoint Interactive kiosks

now being rolled out.



Two hundred such touch-screen kiosks will be put in place over the next

few weeks in and around London as part of a six-month BT trial, billed

as the biggest and most comprehensive of its kind to date in Europe.

While there are several other trials around, such as British Rail’s

Adrail and Thomas Cook’s in-store multimedia kiosks, neither compare in

scale.



Touchpoint will give the public a broad, first-hand taste of practical

interactivity, offering sport, news, weather, travel and entertainment

services provided by leading companies through a combination of CD-Rom

and Internet technology.



The applications are tailored to provide specific services and no more.

This is because the kiosks are in public places and, effectively, the

time each individual spends in the kiosk must be limited to allow a

steady flow of users.



Andrew Pryde, head of multimedia kiosks at BT, claims that there was no

difficulty in attracting companies to the trial. They were wooed by the

opportunities it offers to expand their coverage - though not

necessarily in a marketing sense. The transactional potential of the

kiosks - in tandem with a credit card and the ordinary BT telephone

situated at the side of the screen - will be the key to their success.



‘Kiosks can, in some instances, act as mini branches for certain types

of business and the potential that offers companies is huge,’ Pryde

says. He believes that the kiosks will extend the experience of

multimedia to those people who do not normally have access to it.



Touchpoint, designed by Tutssels to appeal to three broad groups - city

residents, commuters and English-speaking visitors - breaks down into

five sections that are accessed by a central menu on the system’s home

page. There is current affairs, which offers news, sport, weather and

horoscopes - all provided by the Press Association; an entertainment

section includes listings, courtesy of the Guardian Guide, which users

can browse and then, through an Odeon Cinemas tie-up, purchase tickets

by phone.



‘Local focus’ offers a what’s on-style guide to community activities for

Kent and London, provided by the regional newspaper publisher,

Newsquest, and Kent County Council; the street guide is provided by

Bartholomews; and the ‘high street’ incorporates shopping and banking

facilities through which transactions can be made. Interflora,

Threshers, Barclays Bank and the Halifax Building Society are among

those signed up for the trial.



The quality and scope of the services on offer do vary greatly.

Barclays, for instance, sees Touchpoint as complementing both its

existing service through branches and its own PC banking pilot. The

system allows customers to apply for anything from a loan to a

Barclaycard. At the other extreme, Thomas Cook offers a simple mapping

service that shows users where the nearest bureau de change is located.



Graham Cook, an associate from Thomas Cook consumer futures, defends his

decision not to use the system in a more sophisticated way. ‘We have our

own kiosk trial in some of our stores and they do allow more complex

transactions,’ he says. ‘Touchpoint is located in public environments;

customers are not going to want to book their honeymoon on a street

corner in London.’



Quite how much they do want to do at such locations will be clearer at

the end of the trial. Pryde says it will be reviewed over the next six

months. If judged a success, a national roll-out will follow.



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