Low quantity, high quality

Following the tremendous success of the previous year’s show, the second Dubai staged Dual Automation & Self-Service Show – KioskCom Middle East & Vending Middle East 2007 promised to be a glitteringly successful event. VI went along to meet the exhibitors…
“Low quantity, high quality!” That was Oasis Europe’s MD Pete Benua’s verdict on the visitor profile at the KioskCom Middle East & Vending Middle East combined show held in the Jumeirah Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, on 12 and 13 February 2007.

The Middle East is an rapidly growing market for Vending and Kiosk technology which, with the development of £billions worth properties, immigration trends and increasing population, is forecast to increase 10-15% in the UAE alone. Promoted as having repeat bookings from 85% of its 2006 exhibitors, the event was expected to attract 3,000 to 4,000 visitors/buyers, importers, distributors and traders from all over the Middle East, the Pan Arab region, the Indian Sub-Continent, the Levant region, North Africa and the CIS countries. Did it live up to the organizer’s hype?

The exhibition was inaugurated by Mr Atiq Nassib, Director of Trade & Business Development, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, who cut the red ribbon with a pair of golden scissors presented to him on a silken cushion.

Walking around the show in his wake, it was evident that exhibitor numbers were less than promised and early visitors thin on the ground. Louise Janeway of Hemisphere West International (HWi), Global Currency Handling Solutions (www.hwiglobal.com), said that following the optimism and excitement generated by the 2006 exhibition her company had immediately committed for the 2007 edition. “However, we arrived to discover that we, and almost everyone else, have been allocated twice the amount of space we had booked and that quite a lot of advertised exhibitors are simply not here.” By day two, following increased footfall during the late afternoon and evening, Louise, like most of the other exhibitors, was more positive about the value of the show: “It’s important to establish a presence in the region and contacts made here will prove valuable.”

HWi’s electronic coin selectors and bill validators also featured on the APW stand. APW’s Galway based Self Service unit, APW:I-engage (www.iengagekiosks.com) combines its electronics and enclosures product experience with contract manufacturing capabilities to provide complete turnkey self service kiosk solutions for both standard and custom products. Each solution includes hardware and software so that units are delivered ready to use.

On stand were an enVITE machine: all bells and whistles with every possible combination of components incorporated to illustrate the versatility of the basic product; a very stylish digital ‘juke box’ customised from APW’s enLITEN series; and the ingenious ChargeBox, creatively designed for BoxBrands to offer a means of charging mobile phones, iPods, Blackberries etc away from home.

Further round the hall was a fascinating little machine, the Nailart Printer from Digital Creations (www.dcjo.com/Fingernail_Printer.htm). With tremendous appeal for the pubs, clubs & leisure sectors (imagine the queues in the Ladies to use this one!) this coin operated printer can paint patterns on nails (five fingers or toes in under 60 seconds), flowers (up to 3 at a time) and even fruits, mobile phones and candles.

A conference ran alongside the exhibition but here the shortcomings of the venue were evident. The acoustics were not good and speakers struggled to be heard over competing noise from the main exhibition. And, disappointingly, although billed on the organiser’s website, EVA’s Catherine Piana was not included in the list of speakers.

Bernard Wahil, Executive Director of Microtronic (www.microtronic.ch) displayed cashless payment readers for vending machines as well as U-Key multi purpose data carriers embedded in an imaginative range of contactless devices including cards, wristbands and multi-coloured FLEX-TAGS in customised designs for access control and cashless vending.

Sharing the Microtronic stand, BKtel‘s VENDIwatch (www.umatel.de/gb/) is a telemetry solution for remote monitoring of vending machines, advanced fleet management and an embedded mobile phone payment facility.

ICE Tech (www.icetechkiosks.com), Selftech (www.kiosk.ae), CEB (www.ceb.com.jo), Aptec Kiosk Services (www.apteckiosk.com) and Retail Technologies (www.retailtechs.com) were just some of the companies demonstrating elegant kiosk solutions for multiple market requirements both in and outdoors. There were ATMs, virtual receptionists, internet access stations, payment terminals, photo kiosks, interactive promotional and media stands. On a personal level, I liked the idea of the supermarket menu plans – the kiosk prints recipes complete with shopping list and in-store ingredient location. And, particularly appealing to the absent minded driver, is the facility on an interactive shopping mall stand to input your registration number to discover exactly where you parked your car – and how to find it.

Peter Ward and Sandra of Electrone (www.electroneamericas.com) were showing an extensive range of specialty keyboards, data input devices, POS, kiosk, ATM and related products among which was an MRSA proof keypad with an obvious appeal for the health sector.

Zupera Technology (China) (www.zupera.com) also specialize in industrial/kiosk keyboards, keypads and precision trackball input devices, kiosk service terminals and an eye-catching wall kiosk terminal for vertical market applications – with particular emphasis on ‘hostile’ public service environments. Husband and wife team, Gregory Schiller and Li Wen reported some good quality enquiries and were optimistic that these will generate business in the weeks following the show.

The water cooler market was represented by Irish company Oasis (www.oasis.ie). The stand, manned by Pete Benua MD Europe and Regional Sales & Marketing Manager Willie McCaskill, had an extensive display of bottled and POU water coolers including the stylish new Oasis KaliX ahead of its official AVEX launch. In Dubai, where every home has its own commercial water cooler and replacement cooler bottles have a regular weekly delivery at the modest cost of 6Dhs (under a £), the domestic market is vast let alone the massive opportunities in the commercial sector.

A smiling Pete Benua summed up the general exhibitor sentiment at the end of the second day: “There weren’t a lot of visitors to this exhibition but each lead is potentially huge. The Middle East market is definitely one we want to break into and I think overall, despite the slow start, I would sum up the leads offered by the Dubai show as low quantity, high quality.”