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Greener By Design: How Intel and Frog Design Remade the Cash Register Kiosk

Intel is a company that makes computer chips, not cash registers. So it was a leap into new territory when a team within Intel started developing a point-of-sale system after some quick research found they could cut the energy use of cash registers by 70 percent with just some repurposed computer chips.

That's where Frog Design came in.

Eric Wilmot, principal strategist and sustainability lead for Frog Design, and Ryan Parker, director of marketing and architecture for Intel's Embedded and Communications Group, discussed how Intel and Frog worked together to create an efficient, long-lasting point-of-sale terminal at the Greener by Design panel "When Designer Meets Client."

The whole project began when Parker and a colleague were sitting at a coffee shop while at a conference, and watched the cash register as it sat unused, sucking up energy.

When he took the challenge to improve cash register performance to his team at Intel, they quickly figured out how to create the energy savings, but then they started thinking about what else could be done to change the retail and customer experience: making the system modular, making it last twice as long as typical cash registers.

"It became obvious to us early on in the process that we only had part of the expertise," Parker said. Executive Editor Joel Makower (center) introduces Eric Wilmot of Frog Design (left) and Intel's Ryan Parker. © Della Calfee.

What Frog brought to the effort was a blank chart, showing issues that could be taken into account throughout the system's lifecycle: materials, actions, duration, energy and leveraging.

By looking at the blank chart, Intel was able to see where it could have impacts and which of its principles already aligned. For example, Intel can affect materials in the terminal before and after its use through sustainable manufacturing and using Design for Environment principles.

The final product is a flat counter that slopes up into a vertical display, with another display on the other side. Early mock-ups of the terminal show it sitting in the middle of a store, acting as both a checkout counter and an information display.

Along with the benefit of saving energy, it can also be used to eliminate in-store paper signs, cut down on paper receipts and add other, less tangible benefits by improving the customer experience.

One thing that Frog and Intel could have done to make the project better, Wilmot said, was to set specific design goals. "Had we said we were going to reduce shipping weight by 20 percent and design to that goal, it would have made the case even stronger," he said.

In addition to guiding the design of the terminal, it would have also helped determine how well the project went. "If we had set up harder criteria out of that front-end design and discovery process, I think that would have given us an easier way to define success, rather than getting to the end of the project and measuring what we did," Wilmot said.

But some less-quantifiable results show the terminal, and the process behind it, has met some success.

"I'm on the plane a lot because of this," Parker said. More importantly, he said, his team at Intel has taken the principles behind the design process of the terminal and applied them to other products, like medical equipment, that no one had been even thinking about redesigning, and ending up with energy savings and other positive impacts.

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