Cloud helps build smart vending machine of the future
Smart vending machine for today and tomorrow
Vending machines are a $7 billion industry in the United States, and there is reportedly one vending machine for every 55 people, according to Eurotech. Globally, the installed base is expected to reach 35.2 million units by 2015. Customers are hungry for convenience coupled with healthy food options, which has increased the demand for smart vending machines that display calorie counts, provide hot or cold delivery and offer several payment options.
As a result, the latest vending machines are sophisticated enough to handle cash or credit, dispense hundreds of items, operate 24/7, and are located anywhere from industrial locations to supermarkets and gas stations. Vending machine operators need to regularly collect data from machines to keep them running, keep track of sales, monitor key functions and serve their customers effectively. In the past few years as vending machine technology has evolved, it has become more challenging and less reliable to connect phone lines to vending machines and collect data via a modem, says Eurotech. The cost to maintain a phone line and modem connection at retail or remote locations continues to climb, and equipment failures often require technicians to visit retail sites and download vending machine data manually, which can be a costly, slow and labor intensive practice.
Vending machine operators can tap into remote management and monitoring capabilities to save time and maintenance costs as well as to stay updated for more reliable and detailed data collection.
Vending machine solutions for our generation
Eurotech’s vending technology includes touchscreen display, cashless payment options and vending industry standard protocols designed to simplify development for original equipment manufacturers. The company’s capacitive touch screens allow manufacturers and operators to offer advertising, caloric information, updated inventory and use a more modern user experience. Eurotech’s hardware is also designed to support cashless payment options including a magnetic stripe reader and near field communication capabilities to allow customers to pay by credit card or smartphone.
Different components for different environments
Eurotech also supports distributed retail systems that use different communications methods. Depending on the location of the vending machine, rugged gateways can enable machine-to-machine communications in different environments, whether connected through a local area network, over Wi-Fi or over a cellular network.
The DuraCOR family of rugged mobile computers are said to be purpose-built to withstand mechanical and temperature stress commonly experienced in harsh environmental conditions.
A framework to bring data together
Eurotech’s Everyware is a software framework designed to provide an abstraction layer between the operating system and the customer application with industry standard interfaces and cooling said to shorten custom development time. It also is designed to allow software to be ported from one ESF-enabled hardware platform to another. with the goal to get data from thousands of distributed vending machines to the enterprise where people can act on the data received.
With ESF, vending machines companies get remote device monitoring capabilities that can allow them to monitor the machines for real-time inventory and machine health data. In addition, they get cloud-ready hardware designed to reduce the development hurdles to building device apps while shortening the time required to connect and communicate through the cloud.
Data management and expansion
The company notes the Everyware Cloud platform is a data management and delivery solution for distributed device platforms. Distributed retail applications such as vending machines can use the platform to manage their data and communications as the number of devices grows, data management needs change or new services and capabilities are conceived. In the case of vending machines, companies can use the Everyware Cloud to store mapping data, barcode data and other non-device information. The cloud gathers data from the distributed devices on vending machines, stores the data in the cloud and distributes it to enterprise applications such as a back-office system or data center, depending on the need. Having all of the data in one place is said to allow customers to identify trends and patterns that would have been difficult to coordinate and analyze with disparate, monolithic systems.
The cloud solution includes data storage, which can minimize the costs and complexity of IT infrastructure. New barcodes can be added, expanding the data set of products available for purchase.
Vending machine visibility
Companies could see a positive return on investment for a new vending machine data collection system based solely on the cost savings from eliminating modems and phone lines, according to Eurotech. Customers could also save development time by focusing on their core competencies.
According to Eurotech, another benefit of the platform is it can capture and act on vending machines status errors in real time. As soon as a vending machine encounters an error, notifications go to systems, personnel or both to diagnose the problem and sometimes remotely resolve the error without sending a technician. When a technician is necessary to fix a trouble, the tech is informed on what to expect and can bring the appropriate tools and replacement parts.
The service is also designed to track operational data in real-time, allowing companies could see a snapshot of revenue for individual machines, groups of machines with certain product, or the entire set of vending machines at any moment.