The widespread use of the Internet accelerates innovations in many fields where people try to connect isolated systems. The vending industry also observed that trend and its potential benefits which may offer customers exquisite experiences and help companies reduce the cost of operating the vending machines.
For a long time, the vending machine only performs a single task where buyers put their money and the machine dispenses the products. However, by integrating IoT, smart vending systems evolve quickly and may surprise you what they can do by offering touch screens with graphics like (video, audio,…), even gesture-based interaction or cashless payment.
A smart vending machine
Smart vending machines
Vending machines are no longer basic snack and drink vending machines anymore as in most people’s memories. With the control of a computer and a cloud-based management system, they can help people to monitor the inventory and sales data in real-time. Such practice is previously unavailable and often slow with delays on the original vending machines. Intelligent vending machines reach a higher level of automated retail kiosks and customer engagement thanks to cutting-edge technologies.
The need for a smart vending experience.
We all know simple vending machines that dispense food and drink. So what more they can offer us?
According to Intel’s survey, customers said that they would use a machine that can offer not only products but also services:
- 55% want a machine that offers mobile phone charging services.
- 54% want a machine that offers internet access (ie Wi-Fi)
- 50% want a machine that offers printing service from USB.
From the perspective of machine owners and advertisers, they can send coupons to customers to make customers want to come back to buy more products.
Basic components behind a smart vending machine
Most old-style vending machines are installed with Vending Machine Controllers (VMC) which limits the functionality of the machines and prevent integrating new technologies into them. Observing that we can bring those machines into Industry 4.0 world by replacing VMCs with Vending Machine IO (VMI) boards which come with PC-based computing platform.
The following figure is the reference design for vending machines offered by Intel:
- Computing system: processor-based platform ( ie Intel® Core™ vPro™ processors, Intel® Atom™)
- Outside world communication such as wired Ethernet or wireless connectivity.
- Computing power for customer services.
- I/O Interface module: communication between the VMI and machine peripherals by using bus protocols such as (CAN, ccTak,…)
- APIs include 2 types that help manufacturers to focus on what is displayed on the screen and high-level apps.
- Low-level API (LLAPI): vending IO protocols.
- High-level API (HLAPI) for a type peripheral and does not require developers to know the particulars for the actual device.
Advantages of Smart vending machine.
Smart vending machines are the next step in retail transformation because they allow businesses to engage products in different places and also in new ways.
Increase customer engagement level:
- Dynamically visual: by offering high definition display with videos, animations, the vending machines can attract customers with a beautiful user interface rather than just showing the products.
- Intelligent enough to respond to each user by applying the power of AI
- Interactive: Interact with customers and customer‘s smartphones such as sending them coupons, the interactive touch screen can display a wider range of products than ever before
- Efficient: product recognition to ensure the product selected by customers is loaded and dispensed.
- In-touch: connecting to the cloud database which means machines can send and receive notifications like the status of stock and stay in contact with vending operators.
- Enhance the capability of understanding gestures from a customer with the camera.
- Payment on the phones using near field communication
- Dynamically adjusting the prices: For example, prices are based on time of the day, weather.
- Decrease downtime: Via the cloud, the machine can inform the technicians when they need repairs
- Product restock: becomes quickly and in time because machines can inform the suppliers when they are running on low products
- Efficiency: the machines are connected so people can optimize the best route to visit machines for either restocking or on-site fixing.
All in all, smart vending machines will renew the vending industry in the future with the power of IoT. They reduce the hard work of the machine’s owners in the sense that they can monitor the machine remotely and configure how the machine display information of products to customers. For customers, the machine will improve the experience and interaction and provide a wider range of services (charging, printing,.. ). Maintenace job and restocking will become more quickly and economically because machines can communicate and notify when they’re out of product.
Intelligent Vending Machines Deliver a Unique Shopping Experience. Intel. (n.d.). https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/retail/retail-vending.html.
Intelligent Vending Machines for Increasing Profitability: Brief. Intel. (n.d.). https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/intelligent-systems/retail/ref-design-for-intelligent-vending-product-brief.html.
What are Smart Vending Machines? Custom Vending Machine Design and Manufacturing. (2021, March 4). https://www.digitalmediavending.com/what-are-smart-vending-machines/.