Expansion Update

We’re happy to announce that the building construction is well underway and the space looks even better than expected. On our previous visit, the space was just a grey shell with bare stud walls so it’s exciting to see all the progress being made. Windows have been installed, exterior walls have been painted and the ceiling has been placed. We can hardly wait to see the finished results and definitely can’t wait to move in when the time comes.

To answer some questions about the expansion:

We’re moving into a new space because of you, our partners and customers. Your enthusiasm and dedication to UCP has grown to the point where we need to expand our workspace in order to meet current and future customer needs and requirements. There is a variety of industries and applications that utilize our products and services and the demand has gotten to the point where we’ve outgrown our current space, which is definitely a good problem to have. Not to worry, we will continue to offer the level of service you’ve come to expect from our existing location and will maintain the same distinguishable quality as before.

We’ll continue to provide updates and progress pictures as construction advances in the coming months.

Everything You Need to Know About the Chip Shortage

 Computer chips are used as a power source for a vast majority of products across the world that incorporate any type of technology in their design. If it has the ability to connect, transport, or entertain us, then there is a strong chance it uses a chip to do so. These chips are often referred to as semiconductors or microchips and they act as the mind behind our cell phones, televisions, GPS devices, ATMs, check-in kiosks, and just about anything else you can think of. They are even used in products that were originally deemed tech-free, such as shoes, fishing equipment, and even gravestones. The market for this nano-sized chip is enormous and is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. Microchips account for around $300 billion a year in sales across the globe, and this number will continue to grow as more applications are realized for all types of products used in our everyday lives. 

While the application for these chips is quite possibly endless, the world has seen a massive shortage of semiconductors that will potentially last until midway through 2022. One could wager that the shortage is due to COVID and the long-lasting pandemic, which is a correct assumption, however it is important to understand how the virus itself played a role in the scarcity of this microscopic piece of technology. 

Something that could easily be referred to as the perfect storm, the chip shortage was due to bad timing, poor decision making, and an increasing demand for devices woven with technology. Semiconductor foundries in Taiwan (the world’s leading chip producer) and other plants across the world were forced to close due to the pandemic, which halted production and caused a noticeable lack of supply. During this time, consumers were forced to stay home for longer periods than usual resulting in increased demand and purchasing of personal electronics for entertainment, work from home purposes, and students attending classes remotely. To make matters worse, automakers canceled orders for parts containing computer chips, wrongly thinking car sales would decrease significantly during the pandemic. They did drop at first, though they increased considerably with a demand that was higher than the production methods and supply in place during that time. Additionally, Taiwan is experiencing its worst drought in 56 years. Microchip manufacturing requires massive amounts of pure water for sterilization and cleaning, so this combination delayed the process of chip output even further. On top of all this, existing supply was slowed down by new restrictions at ports and international borders, and by the 56 billion dollar six-day blockage of the Suez Canal.

What does this mean for consumers and businesses? Opinions on the estimated end of the shortage vary. Automakers believe that the shortage could easily linger into 2022, while the CEO of Intel believes it could drag on for two more years. Either way, expect to wait longer to purchase products that use a semiconductor, and expect to pay more for them when that time comes. Part of the problem with meeting the rising demand for these microchips is that you can’t simply make more of them than before. To do so, ten billion dollar foundries have to be built, and the process is painstakingly long and arduous. Unfortunately, the best course of action in this situation is to try and wait out the shortage. Supply will eventually increase to meet the demand and the imbalance will be corrected, resulting in a more normal price point for these technology-laden products. If you can afford to wait, you’ll be rewarded for your patience

Growth in The Self-Service Kiosk Market

Self-Service kiosks are continuing to grow in popularity as their application and convenient interface is further understood and recognized throughout a variety of industries. These self-service devices are placed in public settings to help customers and other individuals access digital content in a convenient and simplistic way. The market for self-service kiosks is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.4% during 2021 to 2026 and it’s easy to see why. Besides being more efficient and profitable, they also shorten the queue length for customers and cut down on their time spent during each interaction. Not only do customers like to use self-service kiosks, 65% of them prefer using them over full-service options. A majority of businesses are now choosing to operate online, and users want to use an accessible and simplistic interface for transactions that take place in their day-to-day life. Growth in this market also benefits businesses by decreasing the need for a customer service team, allowing these companies to only keep employees on staff that are essential to the operation. In essence, self-service kiosks possess the ability to replace certain employees and lower the cost of running a business.

Growth in this market is largely attributed to North America’s adoption of these machines throughout the retail industry and government sectors, with the expectation that they will remain the driving force for growth to 2027. Europe has also seen an abundance of growth in this market, taking second in overall growth during the period. Much like North America, high levels of demand for kiosks in Europe has boosted the growth of touchscreen kiosk machines throughout the continent. This rise in demand is due to the various applications of these kiosks. In Europe, they are frequently used in places like airports, bus depots and various other transportation systems as well as grocery stores and even shopping arcades (shopping malls). Europe has also seen significant growth in interactive kiosk usage in relation to the banking sector and restaurant industry, both industries that were originally seen to have little potential in the adoption of the self-service kiosk market.

The introduction of COVID-19 had an unusual effect on the self-service industry, but it was one that may potentially prove to be a benefit in the long run. With the initial closing of airports, shopping malls and some restaurants there was a negative effect on the market, but this only occurred during the beginning stages of the lockdown. Once restrictions were lowered and various businesses reopened, the capabilities of these kiosks were looked upon in a newfound and more favorable light. With the introduction of mandatory social distancing regulations and other guidelines established to prevent the spread of COVID-19, self-service kiosks were looked at as the most promising way to reopen retail, transportation, and medical sectors among various others, all while adhering to the new norms set in place. In regard to the restaurant industry, mobile order and pay was originally thought to be of sole importance during the pandemic, but were unable to do everything. It is undoubtedly easy and safer for customers to place orders with their phones, but they are not able to offer any physical aspects of whatever goods or services they are purchasing. Kiosks, on the other hand, are able to print tags for order identification purposes and in some cases even allow you to pick up your order directly from the kiosk itself. Both phones and kiosks offer promising features but integrating the two into the same process so they work together would be an effective and promising solution to this specific problem.

Regardless of the initial stages of lockdown affecting the market, and the introduction of mobile order and pay on phones seeing growing success during the pandemic, the self-service kiosk market unquestionably has years of exceptional growth to look favorably towards. Not only are the uses for these kiosks endless, but the opportunities for them to be deployed are as well. 

The End of Signatures for Credit Transactions

If you live in the US and use a credit card for in store purchases you are probably used to signing your name or, if you are like me, scribbling on a receipt or electronic signature pad in order to complete the transaction. You have also probably thought to yourself, is this really necessary, is this adding any extra security against someone using my card without my consent? When you stop and think about it the answer is… no, it doesn’t.

While it would be a lot more secure to do what most other countries have done and assign PINs to credit cards just like our debit cards have, the US card issuers thought chip and signature would provide for a smoother migration to EMV. With the switch to EMV chip cards the card issuers have security measures in place that are exponentially better than that of the old magstipe cards. Due to this, all major card brands have announced that they are dropping the signature requirement for credit purchases in North America.

The four major card brands in the US, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are changing the requirements for credit card signatures effective April 2018. Each card issuer is adding new rules or amending the old ones regarding signatures. Being asked to sign for your credit card purchase won’t stop across the board but starting April 2018 you can expect it to occur a lot less frequently. Card fraud at merchant locations using EMV card terminals has fallen by two-thirds according to Visa so I think it’s safe to say that over the past 2 plus years the chips are doing their job.

All this said, there are still a ton of merchants out there who have not yet made the EMV migration and for them the signatures remain. The most common reason that these merchants have not made the switch is cost. While the EMV capable terminals can be costly, they are a worthwhile investment. Not only will a merchant be able to stop hassling their customers with using a pen that never seems to write on the receipt or trying to sign their name using an electronic signature pad they are protecting themselves against being liable for fraudulent card present transactions. That’s right merchants who are still using magstripe, think of the cost associated in making the EMV migration as insurance because you would never start a business without being insured right?