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Kiosk company offers software to reduce power usage

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 21. 2013 12:26AM
Customers of Franklin-based Advanced Kiosks include cable network BET. COURTESY 

FRANKLIN - A New Hampshire company is hoping to take the efficiency of electronic kiosks to new levels - lower levels.

Advanced Kiosks of Franklin is touting its GreenTimer system as a simple way to reduce power usage by programming the system in advance to be on, off or in hibernation mode in synch with the hours the kiosks are in service. The idea is to take a little strain off the power grid, in turn increasing efficiency and the lifespan of the delicate machinery.

"A self-service terminal shouldn't be on when it's 9 p.m. and your lobby closed at 6. There's no reason for it," said company president and owner Howard Horn.

The GreenTimer software has been standard in kiosks manufactured by the company since October. It is also available now to any business or individual wanting to upgrade existing kiosks, digital signage or other public computer systems. The technology is free to anyone who wishes to download it with a system that runs on Windows 7.

With Earth Day being observed on Monday, Horn said the timing was fitting to get the word out about GreenTimer, which the company estimates could save from $80 to $120 a year in energy costs for every kiosk. It also reduces the physical stress on the computers, which leads to less maintenance.

Horn said environmental sustainability has been a priority for the company since he built his first kiosk in 2003. Advanced Kiosks uses recycled materials for shipping and also recycled steel for the actual products, which are finished with powder-coating that is easier on the environment than traditional paint.

Horn said the idea that led to the development of GreenTimer was about reducing power usage. People are more likely to utilize something that's at no charge rather than having to buy it, so Advanced Kiosk will continue offering it for free with the hope that enough units will be upgraded to actually make a bit of environmental difference.

"At the end of the day it's a good thing," Horn said.

While the technology behind GreenTimer itself isn't new, Advanced Kiosks says it has come up with a user-friendly way to install and operate it, hopefully attracting more users.

"Being 'on' all night is a cost after a year. It adds up," Horn said. "A lot of people don't care about that. That's why we're not selling it."

Advanced Kiosks has had a wide range of customers, from Harvard University to an airport in the Cayman Islands. Advanced Kiosks' products include custom-built, interactive computer systems designed to meet the specifics requested by the buyer. Horn said his business, which has grown to six employees, sold about 400 machines last year.

Horn said the most significant development within the industry that allowed GreenTimer to be possible was the vast improvements made in hibernation, when the computer is still functioning but using minimal power. The technology has evolved to the point that a computer in hibernation mode can snap out of it by a simple touch to the interactive screen.

As most anyone who ever operated an early model laptop can attest, "hibernate" mode was a great way to conserve battery power but not so good at saving time.

It would often take a full reboot to get the system running again, but Horn said those glitches were resolved years ago.

Now, a unit in a hotel lobby can be a resource for a guest looking for local information in the middle of the night.

"What they're being used for surprises me some days," Horn said. "There are so many things you can do."

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