Redefining the Usual

The Smart Auto Management (SAM) unit allows motorists to access their car’s diagnostics system.

The 11th annual KioskCom Conference & Expo held in Las Vegas, April 25-27, featured an innovative collection of kiosks that are currently shaping the world of commerce. However, there were two specific interactive experiences that created the most buzz on the show floor.

Polo Ralph Lauren, which took home “Best in Show” and “Best Retail Deployment” prizes at the 2007 KioskCom’s Self Service Excellence Awards event on April 25, brought window-shopping to a new level at its Chicago-based Michigan Avenue flagship store. The interactive program, which was available to the public between November 2006 and mid-February 2007, allowed customers to shop any time from outside of the store with a touch of a hand.

A transparent foil applied directly to the glass powered the touchscreen. A rear-projection screen was then used to complete the 67-in. through-window touch-shopping experience. Shoppers placed orders by tapping the interactive window. Purchases were fulfilled by

“Featuring the latest in our RLX high-performance gear, the interactive window transported its users from the bustling streets of Chicago to the serene slopes of Aspen,” the company said.

Also available to consumers were a range of other features, such as live weather and ski-condition reports, interactive trail maps and footage from the latest ski videos.

Meanwhile, a unit from East Granby, Conn.-based Smart Auto Management (SAM) also generated strong attention on the conference floor. The unit, which was a finalist in the “Best New Innovation in a Kiosk Deployment” category, is the newest way to keep motorists in the know about their car’s diagnostics. Rather than wonder why their vehicle’s “check engine” warning light is on or feel uneasy if the timing feels a little off, drivers no longer have to make a special, often pricey visit to their mechanic. Now drivers can just see SAM.

When drivers pull up to a SAM kiosk, an instructional video will guide them through a simple four-step process. First, drivers swipe a credit card. Then, they grab a detachable handheld barcode scanner to scan the vehicle identification number (VIN) located in the car. Drivers then connect a dedicated port to the vehicle’s On Board Diagnostic system (OBD) and the system scans the vehicle. Within 10 minutes, the unit prints a comprehensive, easy-to-understand report that identifies any existing or potential problems with the vehicle’s engine, transmission, safety systems, body or chassis. The system checks more than 2,000 fault codes to give drivers the same information an auto mechanic or dealership receives. The service costs $15.

“SAM gives drivers peace of mind by having access to their vehicle’s OBD system in a way they never had before,” said Todd Silvestri, president of Smart Auto Management LLC, a subsidiary of Environmental Systems Product Holdings Inc., after the show. “Some people drive without knowing what’s wrong with their car and some don’t even want to find out because they’re afraid of the bill. Also, buyers may be hesitant to purchase a used car in fear of its true condition.”

“With SAM, drivers can make informed decisions that can impact vehicle maintenance costs and safety,” he said. “It’s a great first step for motorists to get their vehicle repaired. A lot of repair shops out there want informed customers. They don’t want to deal with those who are skeptical and think they might be cheated.”

SAM kiosks are currently located at automotive-care and emission testing-center locations across Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Raleigh, N.C., and Northern California, and will be followed by a national rollout. Current SAM partner locations include select DEKRA; Jiffy Lube; Kwik Kar and Kwik Kar Lube and Tune; and Speed-emissions locations, as well as certain gas stations in Northern California.

Auto racecar champion and SAM spokesman Mario Andretti made appearances at select locations in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Raleigh in February. Motorists received a photo-keepsake autograph and a complimentary SAM report on their vehicle.

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