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Summer 2013
Rent a Laptop

Innovative kiosks allow facilities to offer laptops anytime and there’s a retail application on the way.

Laptops Anytime is using kiosk technology to free universities, libraries, hospitals and hotels from needing computer labs or business centers. Instead, customers can borrow a laptop, netbook or tablet from a Laptops Anytime kiosk and use the device anywhere on the property within a certain timeframe.

Matthew Buscher, who founded a company focusing on laptop locker kiosks in airports in 2004, decided to change gears and take a look at libraries and universities. Partnering with Jonathan Ruttenberg, Laptops Anytime installed its first kiosk in 2010 at Brooklyn Public Library and today has about a dozen locations across the country in libraries and higher education settings.

Besides saving space, money and energy by cutting down on utility bills and taking away the need to purchase computer lab equipment, using a laptop kiosk also eliminates the need to set up and staff a computer lab.

Customizable technology

LaptopsAnytime1-copyThe company’s kiosks can dispense laptops, netbooks or tablets (launching this summer). The facility gets to choose the computer brand that they normally work with, or Laptops Anytime can recommend the device to best suit their needs. Kiosks can hold anywhere from six to 30 devices, depending on the model chosen.

Customer rental fees and the amount of time a customer can borrow the machine are all up to the individual facility.

“Everything is configurable in the kiosk and the facility can change these anytime on their own,” Buscher says. A library, for example, might decide that its members can borrow a machine for up to two hours for free, and then charge an hourly fee after that.

The machine runs a virus scan for the devices after being used by customers, and also charges the laptops while they’re in the kiosk and monitors the charge level. “Administers get to pick the charge level—if they want a two hour rental, then it’s charged to a percentage like 65 percent,” Buscher says.

The upfront cost of a Laptops Anytime kiosk ranges from $14,000 to $30,000 depending on how many bays are in the machine and the type of computer/tablet. After the initial purchase price, facilities pay an annual maintenance and license fee and can choose different levels of maintenance from full to nominal support.

How it works

“A user walks up and selects a device, agrees to terms and conditions, swipes their member ID card or credit card, and then the laptop will be checked out,” Buscher says. Files can be saved to a USB drive if needed. Once a customer is finished, he or she slides the device back into an empty slot in the kiosk. The machine then emails a receipt to the customer.

Currently, Laptops Anytime’s university and library clients allow students or members to swipe their student ID / library card card to access a machine for free for a certain time period, but once the company expands into retail markets, customers would need to pay via credit card to access a device.

On tap this year is expansion into the hotel and hospital markets, and launching the first tablet kiosks. Laptops Anytime is also expanding into international markets, and has recently signed on with Acer Australia as the partner to expand into that country.

For more information, visit www.laptopsanytime.com.

Kristin Larson Contino

Kristin Contino is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Philadelphia. She writes for a variety of print publications and blogs, and also covers women's fiction for examiner.com.
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