AUSTIN, TX — Isochron formally introduced the latest enhancements to its VendCast full-service vending management solution at the National Automatic Merchandising Association Spring Expo in Las Vegas. VendCast is designed to allow operators to manage the entire vending environment in the same way a single retail store is managed (see VT, April).
The system, which makes audit, inventory and functional status information visible to the operator through a secure website, can provide consumer-demand analysis and space-to-sales management at the machine level, out-of-order notifications, cash accountability and cashless payment capability. The Interactive Cashless Reader incorporates a 3-in. color liquid crystal display that can be used to publicize new products and promotions during the 30-second interval between card insertion and payment validation.
The keystone of VendCast is the HIAD3 module, which collects DEX and MDB information from the vending machine’s controller board and provides expansion ports that support additional devices such as the Interactive Cashless Reader. It keeps track of payments, estimates consumer demand and issues alerts to problems such as out-of-stock and exact-change conditions or failure of the payment system. And it provides security and verification for machine access and cashless payment processing.
Among accessories are an eLock, a rugged steel cylinder which installs in a standard T-handle assembly and plugs into the HIAD3. The eLock records machine openings, enabling the operator to determine who entered the machine and when. It permits the use of a handheld computer to wirelessly unlock the door, doing away with the need for multiple keys and frequent lock code changes. The eLock brings cryptographically secure electronic access to vending machines.
Isochron’s novel WanDEX device applies Bluetooth short-range wireless technology to connect a handheld computer to collect DEX information from a vending machine without the need to connect a cable. It can be used in conjunction with a HIAD3, but does not require one. Lightweight and compact, the WanDEX is powered by a battery that permits operation for more than 12 hours on one charge.
A wide-area network communication module provides high-speed “always on” remote connectivity to vending machines in the field. It enables the HIAD3 to transmit alerts, provides online cashless payment processing capability with the ICR and can deliver real-time updates to the display content of the ICR’s display screen. It can also supplement forecasted demand with up-to-the-minute DEX information, which is especially useful in locations with widely variable demand, like hotels and convention centers.
VendCast Manager is a hosted “software as a service” suite that allows the operator to monitor machines in the field through a secure website. Because Isochron hosts and supports the package, the latest version is always available and no software need be installed on the operator’s computer. Secure Internet access allows the vendor to log onto the system from any Internet-connected computer, including portable ones.
The program can estimate consumer demand on the basis of DEX information, delivery data loaded up from handheld computers and back-end system settlement information. It thus enables better planning by predicting future sales.
Its space-to-sales routines balance brand flow and machine capacity so the vender can be menued to sell down evenly, minimizing the probability of out-of-stock conditions. This function also increases the time between vendor refills to improve route efficiencies.
By the same token, VendCast Manager can perform dynamic dispatching. Deliveries may be scheduled based on predicted consumer demand, further reducing the likelihood of a sold-out condition and maximizing the volume of product delivered. It can adjust automatically for seasonal and other recurrent sales fluctuations, and it increases the number of machines that one driver can visit.
The software suite also can generate predicted route dispatch reports on the basis of sales information collected from venders. It can prioritize stops according to user-defined criteria, which can range from sales volume and lost sales impact through geography to account status.
VendCast Manager is capable of access control when used in conjunction with eLocks. In this role, it also monitors machines for unauthorized access attempts.
The system offers extensive cash accountability functions. It tracks collected cash and credit/debit card transactions, as well as “DEX cash” recorded by the machine. It also determines the “theoretical cash” represented by product delivered to the machine, and compares collected cash with theoretical cash and DEX cash, and flags machines with suspicious cash yields.
It also can provide integrated cashless transactions settlement and display the results by machine, by route or by sales area. Individual transactions and aggregate totals can be displayed as well.
Another aid to quick comprehension is “visual route balancing,” a display that identifies routes with too many or too few machines, provides information to balance deliveries for optimum performance and offers a preview of the next 26 weeks of deliveries.
Information on Isochron’s VendCast hardware and software can be found online at isochron.com.