Android Tablet Kiosk Build Guide: What You Need to Know

By: Adam Swimmer

5 Min Read

September 29, 2022

Tablet kiosks are becoming popular in retail, medical and hospitality fields as well as  various other industries. However, there are various things to consider when setting one up. This article will give you an overview of what you need to know when building an Android tablet kiosk.

What is a tablet kiosk?

A tablet kiosk allows users to complete tasks, such as purchasing goods or checking into a hotel, through a digital touchscreen interface (i.e. a tablet). The tablet will usually be housed in an enclosure. It could be a free-standing installation or mounted on a wall or desk.

What type of tablet kiosk are you building?

This is the key question to setting up your kiosk. Tablet kiosks can be used for simply providing information or they can allow interaction from the public. Some let patrons check in to a location, while others act as point-of-sale solution, allowing for purchases to be made.

Specific examples will be explored in later sections but knowing the type of kiosk you want to build will help you understand what additional features you will need. For instance, a POS system or check-in kiosk will likely require peripherals, while an information kiosk in a mall concourse or office building lobby may just need reliable power.

What size tablet do you need?

In most situations, kiosks are used by one person at a time, either by the customer/client or by the employee (e.g. a POS system). As such, an eight-inch tablet should suffice. It’s big enough for the person to use without taking up too much space.

That being said, in some situations, you might want to go bigger. If you’re building an information kiosk, you might want a 10- or 11-inch tablet to display the content. This would make things, such as a mall map and store information, a bit easier to see.

Powering your kiosk

All tablets require power but this can be a problem if it’s in a permanent application. Unless the tablet is batteryless (which some manufacturers have been developing recently), plugging the tablet directly into an electrical outlet likely won’t be desirable long-term. The tablet’s battery will wear down if it is receiving power non-stop.

When a lithium battery-powered device is left plugged in for an extended period of time, the battery degrades. The constant charging after the battery is full breaks down the lithium-ion battery’s chemistry. In extreme cases can lead to battery swelling (or bloating, as it is also known). As the name suggests, with battery swelling, the battery literally expands and this can cause damage to the mobile device.

Some mobile devices, such as Lenovo tablets, have built-in apps to prevent overcharging and trickle charging from wearing down the battery.

However, a LAVA SimulCharge adapter provides compatible mobile devices simultaneous charging and access to data. This means the mobile device remains charged while it is in use. LAVA’s top-tier e Series line (eSynC for USB-C, eSTS for Micro USB) features RBM technology, which is designed for use in 24/7 applications.

RBM includes an overcharge protection feature called Battery Modulation, which ensures the mobile device never exceeds a 100% charge. By setting upper and lower charging boundaries in an accompanying app, Battery Modulation creates the optimal charging and discharging cycle of a lithium-ion battery, which, in turn, keeps it healthy. It will give you additional years of use out of the mobile device for a better return on investment.

Choosing a LAVA adapter will have some bearing on your choice of tablet as SimulCharge is not compatible with all mobile devices.

Network connection

If your tablet kiosk needs to share information it has collected to a local network or to an online database (such as a patient checking into a hospital or logging purchases made through a POS system or self-checkout kiosk) you will want a reliable connection.

Tablets have built-in Wi-Fi chips for web connections but Wi-Fi isn’t always reliable. Depending on the tablet kiosk’s location, the signal could be weak. Also, if too many devices are attempting to access the same Wi-Fi hotspot at the same time, they can bog down the network.

Ethernet provides a much more stable and reliable alternative. While most tablets don’t have Ethernet ports, there are a variety of mobile adapters that offer Ethernet.

LAVA, for example, offers multiple Ethernet adapters among its different SimulCharge lines, that provide a 10/100-capable wired network connection.  They can connect tablets to both the internet and a local network. This allows you to easily update any local or web databases with information logged by the tablets. It also provides a more reliable web connection if online software updates are needed.

If you are using an eSynC or eSTS adapter, you get additional reliability through RBM’s Network Recovery feature. Network Recovery can restart the Ethernet portion of the adapter if the wired network connection unexpectedly drops out. It happens automatically if the connection is gone for more than a few minutes. It’s the equivalent of unplugging the Ethernet cable and plugging it back in.

If you are a commercial building, the cost of installing Ethernet could be lower as the building likely already has the infrastructure for Ethernet.

Kiosk location

Depending on the type of tablet kiosk you are building, you may need to install it somewhere there is limited access to electrical outlets. For example, a POS system will usually be installed near the cash register, which likely has access to AC power. However, a standalone kiosk could be placed in the middle of a room or hallway where there are no electrical sockets nearby.  In that instance, you might need to find an alternative location or find another way to power the tablet.

One solution is Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE combines power and data over the same Ethernet cable, simplifying cable management. This also allows you install the tablet in areas where there aren’t any AC outlets.

PoE also provides a distance advantage. You can place a PoE adapter up to 328 ft (100 m) away from the power source. However, PoE can’t use a standard Ethernet signal for power. You either need a PoE-capable network switch or a third-party injector that turns a network data signal into PoE.

LAVA offers a variety of PoE adapters across its Enterprise SimulCharge lines.

Do you need peripherals?

Whether you need peripherals or not is largely dependent on the type of tablet kiosk you are building. Some setups could work fine without peripherals. If it’s a kiosk that provides a directory of businesses in a building or stores in a mall, you could easily access the information through the tablet’s touchscreen alone. Even some check-in kiosks or digital guestbooks could be operable without peripherals.

However, in a retail setting, you might have to attach peripherals to your kiosk. A POS system or self-checkout kiosk would likely need a barcode scanner to scan the items, a card reader for payment and a printer to give customers their receipts. If the store sells items in bulk, you may also need a scale.

Several OTG adapters offer options for adding USB-A peripherals. However, they force the mobile device to run off battery power when they’re in use.

LAVA offers SimulCharge adapters with USB-A ports that keep the mobile device charge as it accesses data from the peripherals.  (Our eSynC-vc5UE, for example, features five USB-A ports for peripherals and a wired Ethernet connection.)

This guide is intended to be a starting point for building an Android tablet kiosk. For more information on how a LAVA SimulCharge adapter can enhance your setup, check out LAVA’s website.