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Archive for the ‘Digital Photo Kiosks’ Category

Case of the Photo Kiosk Virus

In Digital Photo Kiosks on August 19, 2010 at 8:48 pm
Snapshot of a Front USB port

Image via Wikipedia

I still remember the time when we delivered the first driver and firmware solution for a photo card reader – Smart Media or SSFDC was the media used. The company’s CEO proudly carried it around and tried copying personal pictures from the media to his computer. Something went wrong. Forget the fact that he was unable to copy, he lost all the vacation pictures he already had on his media. We were able to restore the media but not the pictures. Granted it was beta software and hardware but lesson learnt all around. Lessons to be precise – those of Backup and Write-protect.

There is a piece of news originating from Australia that underlines the need for write protection in public kiosks. A FujiFilm kiosk at a BigW store managed to infect a USB thumbdrive with the Trojan.Poison-36 virus. It is possible that the kiosk got infected through a prior user’s medium. This was passed on to subsequent users. It appears to be a costly oversight and it is not clear if it is the store owner or kiosk vendor’s decision to 1) not have write protect feature on and 2) not have anti virus software enabled. I know of some kiosks disabling AVS for thumbdrives to save time. It could be the case here as well.

The customer affected by this issue has posted a blog entry. I really like the comment from one Katie – she works for rival Kodak. Talk about ‘a Kodak moment’.

Truth is I have worked on both FujiFilm and Kodak kiosks in the US and they both have write protect enabled by default. In the case of FujiFilm’s ADPC line of kiosks, the USB front port is often disabled to prevent mischief. For ADPC 5, my team developed a patent pending solution to protect USB front ports from doing anything other than transferring pictures from drive to system. We have also provided a secure solution where selective writes are allowed under certain conditions. The onus is on the system integrators and the store owners to ensure that these protective features are enabled.

Lifehacker gives some simple tips for end users to avoid these issues. Resorting to legacy CD or DVD drives is a good band-aid but time consuming. Using a SD media with its write protect switch enabled (as suggested in one comment) is probably the simplest solution. However, as I’ve noted there, this solution won’t work when there is a genuine requirement to write back to the medium. So, the onus is on having anti virus protection and system supplied write protect solution.

Card Capacities on the rise

In Digital Photo Kiosks on August 17, 2010 at 4:31 am
A recent trend in the digital photography sectorhas been the advent and affordability of highcapacity digital media. CES 2008 saw theintroduction of the world’s first 32 Giga Bytemedia from Panasonic. To quote a kiosk maker -“the new media today have more capacity thanthe hard disks in our kiosks!” This seemingly unlimited capacity to store photographs has ledto what some people call Egg ConsolidationFans – i.e. Digital Photography enthusiasts whocan continue to snap pictures without worrying about archiving or deleting the pictures for longperiods of time or the digital photography equivalent of putting of all one’s eggs in a singlebasket.
“In digital camera terms, the (32 GB) card shouldbe able to store around 6800 images from thelatest 12MP compacts (assuming an average filesize of around 4.5MB per image). Or more than190 rolls worth of 36 exposure film, for those whostill think in such terms. Certainly enough to lastfor even the most shutter-happy holidays.”- From DPReview’s report from CES2008
The side effect of this miracle drug comes at the time of printing. The user has to scan from a possible 6800 images and choose the dozen or so preferred ones for print. With an average scan time per screenshot of 10 images being roughly 15
seconds, the entire task of scanning and choosing pictures by a single user during the holiday season will take him or her anywhere from 20 minutes up
to an hour. The bottle neck in print time as evident here is not on the system side but on the user side. One hour of unavailability of a photo kiosk is likely
to turn away at least two other customers in peak season not to mention the initial user’s patience at the kiosk.
One way to address this issue is to exploit an often overlooked part of digital pictures – the information headers or metadata. These fields are updated by
most cameras with details of each shot relative to the camera settings. The information coded within this metadata is available through any photo
editing software or web application. These are usually presented in camera friendly terms such as focal length, ISO value, shutter speed etc. Software libraries should aim to make use of these established technical headers and present them in user friendly terms through the photo kiosk. SCM has developed algorithms to present the same pictures in easily recognizable sets such as portraits, night shots, black and white pictures and many others.
Some of the filters include:
• from a particular date (like a birthday or
holiday)
• only the most recent
• from an outdoor event
• from a certain location
• portraits or close up shots
• scenic or wide angle shots
• black and white pictures only

The Challenge For Photo Kiosk Vendors

In Digital Photo Kiosks on August 17, 2010 at 4:24 am
Digital Photo Kiosks are primarily self-servicekiosks designed with a premium on ease-of-use.The kiosk manufacturers are constantly upgradingthe system side with better components andtechnology. This progress includes enabling highspeed USB digital media readers and better UI experience. Vendors like SCM also ensure that thelatest media formats and specifications arecomplied with in these readers.In the last couple of years, with increased usage of digital photo kiosks, the focus in the industry has shifted to serviceability. Customers have beenimplementing different methods to prevent longdown time of the kiosk. While high traffic areasimplement multiple kiosks, this is not always aneffective solution due to space and costconstraints. Modular digital media readers enableservicing of components without any actualdowntime. The defective media slots can be hotswapped with spare functional ones by the storemanager itself. Lesser downtime means continuedrevenue.The focus is equally divided between what ishappening within the kiosk to what is happening infront of it. – specifically, the increasing capacity of camera cards.
To quote a kiosk maker – “the new media today have more capacity than the hard disks in our kiosks!”

Software Library as a Service

In Digital Photo Kiosks on August 17, 2010 at 4:03 am
Software libraries can be designed with the aim of reducing the time spent in browsing the pictures by quickly cataloguing them. Users can then select a
group of pictures that they want to access instead of scanning each and every one of them in sets of 8, 16 and so on.
The library should ideally be independent of the digital media readers. They can then be employed for all photo kiosks in a generic fashion. This neutrality further allows the software to access input devices other than digital media readers like USB thumb-drives, CD and DVD drives. By providing just a library and back end interface, vendors can ensure that the look and feel of the
kiosk software is not changed. Sorting pictures and cataloging them is expected to enhance the photo kiosk software performance by a minimum of 25% up to almost instantaneous sorting depending upon the options chosen.

At the Digital Photo Kiosk…

In Digital Photo Kiosks on August 17, 2010 at 3:22 am
With increasing sizes of digital media, more pictures can be stored in them than ever before. A 2 GB SD media, for example, can store thousands of pictures. Users seldom delete or archive these pictures until the media is out of space. At the photo kiosk, users with such media spend a lot of time scanning their pictures in a serial fashion. This increases the time spent at the photo kiosk to select and print just a handful of pictures. The long time spent at scanning and choosing pictures prevents other users from accessing the kiosk. Long wait times limit the number of people accessing the kiosk and bring down the revenue for the store owner. So, there is a growing need for technology that will reduce the user’s scanning
time at photo kiosks.
“While the content created is beautiful and numerous how will you find the pictures of your son or daughter from when they were 4 to show when they are 18? Unless you are extremely disciplined and label everything and back up all your content in unambiguous files you are not going to be able to do this easily. Unfortunately neither I nor many of my friends fit into this superdisciplined category.” – Tom Coughlin, Coughlin associates
(quoted from “Lost in the details – where is photo P100085.jpg?” which appeared in Picture Business Magazine, June 2008)
Kiosk software vendors are rising up to this challenge giving options based on the file name and date. This is a simple solution but is indeed the first step in creating an effective consumer experience.