Kiosk in the works

Last week, The Bulldog Group, a two-year-old Toronto agency, and telecommunications giant Northern Telecom, announced the formation of a joint venture company to develop and market an electronic kiosk called the Multimedia Transaction Centre.If the mtc lives up to expectations, it...

Last week, The Bulldog Group, a two-year-old Toronto agency, and telecommunications giant Northern Telecom, announced the formation of a joint venture company to develop and market an electronic kiosk called the Multimedia Transaction Centre.

If the mtc lives up to expectations, it might have the same kind of revolutionary impact on various business transactions as the automated teller did on banking.

The first company to use mtc will be Meditrust, a Toronto-based direct order pharmacy.

Meditrust’s PharmaPhone kiosk was on display at last week’s Canadian Business Telecommunications Alliance show in Montreal.

Meditrust President Norman Paul says PharmaPhone will allow consumers to communicate, via video phone and computer, with an off-site pharmacist to get healthcare advice and order prescriptions.

Meditrust, which has been in business for slightly more than a year, takes prescription orders over toll-free phone and fax lines and delivers them nationwide within 24 hours via Priority Courier.

Ontario orders are handled from Toronto, while the rest of Canada is served through MediTrust’s New Brunswick call centre and warehouse.

PharmaPhone and the other mtc applications are based on Northern Telecom’s Visual Interactive Technology (visit), which was introduced more than two years ago.

visit ties together a desktop computer with a video camera and phone to allow users to share computer files and make video calls over telephone lines.

It has a variety of applications, including video conferencing and office security.

In creating the new mtc, Bulldog has combined its marketing and multimedia expertise with visit to develop an interactive kiosk, that, in a banking scenario for example, would allow a customer to renew a mortgage without entering a bank branch.

The customer entering the kiosk – it is too early to say where they will be placed, but shopping centres would be a likely location – would insert a credit card, key in the corresponding pin number, and, with the help of a user-friendly touch-screen, be connected to a mortgage specialist via voice and video.

The transaction would be discussed through shared-screen documents with either party able to make corrections, changes and additions throughout the process.

Completion of the mortgage renewal would take place on the spot with the contract printed at the kiosk, signed by the customer and returned through the kiosk to the mortgage specialist.

Chris Strachan, partner in The Bulldog Group, says the next extension in the banking analogy is the addition of a pen that would allow the customer to sign the contract on the screen.

Strachan says Bulldog is looking at the mtc aggressively, identifying the business opportunities of multimedia, and showing different types of companies how they can change the way they do business with their customers.

In tailoring the mtc for each industry, Bulldog develops the software needed to accomplish the sale such as the ability to scan documents in the kiosk.

A number of mtc prototypes for different business sectors will be ready for the marketplace early next year.

Bulldog opened its door two years ago as a communications company with a state-of-the-art electronic design studio.

It moved to computer networking with clients and today is breaking new ground with its use of multimedia as a marketing tool.

For example, technology is a big part of the day-to-day relationship between Bulldog and its client, Hilton Hotels.

Bulldog started with the Hilton Canada assignment, and is now handling all marketing, advertising and collateral material for North and South America.

Soon, it will begin working with Hilton’s worldwide headquarters in Watford, England.

The small Canadian agency is able to service its international client by handling the business via computer networking.

Using visit, client and agency are able to get together several times a day.

They transfer files rather than send faxes and all design presentations are done via computer, with changes made on-screen.

Full-color artwork and brochures can be created on a computer in Toronto and printed out in Hilton’s office in San Juan.

This innovative brand of marketing has generated a lot of interest on both sides of the border and, in response, Bulldog opened a u.s. office last month to focus on marketing with multimedia.

The office in East Amherst, n.y., outside of Buffalo, is headed by Donald Buffamanti as director of international sales.

Buffamanti has been in the computer technology industry for 12 years. He was with Apple Computer Canada for 10 years, four of those as technical adviser to the president.

Bulldog’s expertise is in the marketing applications of computer technology and multimedia.

Its sister company, Empower, led by President Michael Kulyk, is Bulldog’s technology resource.

Empower provides support to client networking with Bulldog and using multimedia, everything from hardware and software to staff training programs.

Empower is also a licensed reseller of Apple computer hardware and software, and acts as multimedia showcase for Apple, demonstrating the capabilities of the technology for potential Apple customers.