Kiosks have come a long way since telling you how to find Radioshack at the mall—between 1996 and 2003 alone, their popularity in business exploded by over 2000%!

Today they’re everywhere, in settings such as customer service, education, and corporate industry. By definition, kiosks are computers made simple enough to use that they generally require no training or supervision.

As they are intended to be open to public users, the hardware also needs to be sturdy enough that they can be left unattended without breaking (even the most graceful among us can be subject to an inopportune coffee spill). The logical step would be to look at thin-client kiosk options that are low-cost, without giving up reliability.

What budget-effective kiosk platforms are out there?

Newmind’s favorite two (and a half) platforms for kiosks actually fall in line with our most popular devices for schools—Android tablets and Chromebooks (the “and a half” refers to the Chromebox, the desktop counterpart to the Chromebook). All three of these devices support easily configurable kiosk options, and can be purchased for less than $300.

Chrome OS

Chrome OS, running on Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, allows for a general kiosk mode on devices managed within a larger network (like a company or a school), and can be enabled to lock users into a single app or extension while logged into the device as a guest.

National Rental Services, a property management company and Newmind Group client, implemented Chromeboxes as customer kiosks in their locations. In this Google Apps for Business blog post, Louis Gouletas, their CIO says, they were cost-effective solutions, allowing guests in their office to browse property information, videos, and schedule tours.

“Renters can also start the application process, submit a maintenance request or pay their rent using our kiosks. We manage over 1,000 bank transactions each month, so security is very important to us. We’ve enabled Managed Public Sessions mode via the Chrome Management Console, which allows us to whitelist and blacklist sites and automatically wipes all of a users data at the end of their session.”

Android tablets

Android devices add a little more complexity to their kiosk options—in addition to a bevvy of Play Store apps developed for a kiosk mode, Android Lollipop (also known as Android 5.0) supports a fully-fledged “app-pinning” feature, which allows the administrator to lock users into a specific app while using a device. So what tablet should you go with? Our Tablets specialist, Ryan Hawkins, says it really comes down to context.

“Different situations may call for larger screens, or a specific kind of case and mount. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 has a large display and a huge selection of mounts available. As far as durability goes, I would go with any of the Nexus tablets.”

How could a thin-client kiosk fit in your organization?


Point of sale applications

Chances are, you’ve already seen or used a tablet as a checkout register somewhere (small coffee shops tend to love them). Apps like Square Register allow businesses to use tablets as a lightweight alternative point-of-sale system. Check out this list of other strong point-of-sale apps.

Testing/Training stations

Electronic testing is becoming popular in both schools and in the workplace, and when an organization calls for a large quantity of devices to administer tests or training content, thin-clients are a great alternative to purchasing fully-fledged computers that will be limited to the test setting.

Information and check-in kiosks

For applications like self-service stations (think libraries, hospitals, and airports), durable and low-cost devices are a clear choice. If the device will be performing the same handful of tasks every time it’s accessed by a guest, then something as light and nimble as a Chrome device could be the perfect fit.
Read more about thin-client and cloud computing strategy in Matt Vollmar’s post, Ditch the PC, grab the cloud. Are there any thin-client uses that we’ve overlooked? We’d love to hear about them!