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BLOG: A camera in a pen and a kiosk in an iPad

Mark Gibbs | July 20, 2012
We start this week with stealthy, James Bondish stuff.

As might be expected from what is a low-end device the image quality is just OK. This is because the lens is a pinhole so the image resolution is just adequate, while with fixed aperture and exposure you get poor performance under both very low and very bright lighting conditions. The sound quality is not too bad for such a small device.

Another issue was that for reasons I couldn't determine, I wound up with corrupted and unplayable videos a few times.

If I had been asked to design this device I'd have put the power on and video or still setting on the bezel around the start/stop button ... turn the button one way and it would be on and video, center off, and the other way on and still images. Oh, and how about an audio-only mode? Sure, all of that would have added a few more dollars to the price but it would have been a much better product to be able to select the mode easily rather than having to use multiple button presses. Alas, they didn't ask me.

Design recommendations and issues aside, at an RRP of $99 the Swann HD Pencam is amazingly cheap and gets, all things considered, a Gearhead rating of 3.5 out of 5.

Kiosk computers, systems designed to handle a defined and usually limited range of services, are incredibly useful in all sorts of environments including retail, in-house use, control systems and so on. Because these systems are focused on a particular task or set of tasks they are easy and quick to use and usually self-explanatory.

Traditionally these systems have been built on custom platforms or PCs with things like touch screens added, and they could be pretty pricey with the computer hardware alone easily costing upwards of $1,000 to which you'd have to add software and a housing for the final system.

So, what could we replace them with? We'd want something with a touch-screen interface, color display, flexible and simple programming and configuration, reasonably priced ... what could do the job ...? Hmmm, how about using an iPad? Brilliant!


As you might have guessed, I have found such a solution based on the Apple iPad: It's the Kiosk from Griffin Technology.

The housing for the iPad (you can use any of the iPad models) is an impact-resistant display mount (which comes as either a counter or floor version) that wraps around an iPad running Griffin's Kiosk App.

The mount is "locked in place with security screws that require a special tool (included) and mounted on a high-strength steel armature. Even the included power cable connection is enclosed and protected." The mount comes with three faceplates so you can select whether both, either or neither of the iPad camera and Home button are exposed.


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