M2M Enables Smart Vending
Vending machines have come a long way since their days of bad coffee and stale peanuts. Through the use of M2M (machine-to-machine) technology, the idea of the smart vending machine continues to reach new heights.
Coca-Cola, www.coca-cola.com, this year launched a vending machine for the Spanish market that adjusts the price of its lemonade product based on the temperature outside. Another machine, called iSample, was jointly developed by Kraft Foods, www.kraftfoodscompany.com, and Intel, www.intel.com, to automate product sampling and to collect marketing data. The machine can reportedly determine the gender and age range of a consumer standing in front of it and will dispense samples based on what it thinks the customer would prefer.
Of course, these are the extreme possibilities of what technology could do for the vending market. The industry is also finding more practical ways to make existing vending machines smarter for both operators and consumers, including adding cashless payment.
Vending operators are finding several benefits to adding cashless payment. Not only does the technology eliminate the need for coins, but when combined with telemetry services, it could also improve operator efficiencies by keeping inventory stocked and, in turn, potentially increase sales.
Scandinavian vending machine operator Selecta Nordic, for example, has seen these types of results after integrating wireless cashless payment services into hundreds of its vending machines in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. By working with cashless and telemetry system developer Nayax, www.nayax.com, Selecta Nordic seen both increases revenues and decreases in operational costs.
"The cashless payment system eliminates sales barriers, such as the lack of coins and change, and provides us with better control of the vending machines,” said Catherine Sahlgren, managing director at Selecta Nordic
Using the Nayaxvend Cashless Payment solution from Hunt Valley, Md.-based Nayax, the vending machines can accept credit, debit, prepaid and postpaid cards, and can be used in contact, swipe, and contactless transactions. Consumers can even register their cellphones with a machine, which allows Selecta Nordic to remotely issue refunds directly to consumers, if necessary.
The system communicates payment data to Selecta Nordic using the GC864 cellular module from Telit Wireless Solutions, www.telit.com, Said to be one of the smallest GSM/GPRS quad-band modules on the market, the GC864 also allows Nayaxvend to communicate additional information, including sales and maintenance data. For example, the machine can send an email or SMS alert to operators when a product is sold out, allowing for more efficient inventory management.
Selecta Nordic has already installed the cashless payment solution in 200 vending machines in Scandinavia, with additional machines slated to be equipped in the coming months.
Based on industry data, a growing number operators may be doing the same. A 2011 Frost & Sullivan research study published by Intel estimated global shipments of intelligent vending machines will grow at a 49% compound annual growth rate from 2010 to 2016. “Intelligent,” in this case, was defined as being a wide range technology improvements, including LCD, cashless systems, telemetry, voice recognition, and/or digital signage.
Frost & Sullivan expects the total number of intelligent machines to reach 2 million by 2016, a clear indication vending machines will only continue to get smarter. We’ll just have to wait and see how many of them are smart enough to go wireless.