READING, Berkshire, England -- A new PC-based vending machine incorporating touchscreen technology is being deployed at locations in England, and the company behind the interactive vender says it's ready to license its system to American manufacturers. TouchGo Technology Ltd.'s interactive venders were beta-tested at Visa Europe's London headquarters, and they are now online at MasterCard's headquarters in that city.
Designed at TouchGo headquarters at England's University of Reading Science and Technology Centre here, and manufactured in England, the combination snack and beverage machine is controlled by an embedded networked PC running under Microsoft Windows, with application programs written with Microsoft's .NET 4 platform. It features a 32" front-mounted touchscreen interface.
TouchGo just completed a one-year pilot with a modified N&W Global Vending combination snack and cold drink machine, a type long popular in Western Europe. The vender, retrofitted with TouchGo's PC vending technology, payment and touchscreen interface, was placed at the Visa Europe headquarters.
"The system has run well, and performed above our expectations," said TouchGo managing director Per Hovland. "PayWave contactless sales have increased over the period, and the average transaction value has increased by 25% to 30% over sales through a cash-only based vending machine," he reported. That comparison vender also was installed at the site in January 2009 as part of the test.
The TouchGo executive said his company is now in discussions with Visa to upgrade the test machine to the full production model. TouchGo installed its first production-model machine at Mastercard Europe headquarters last month, under a three-year contract.
The vender's spiral delivery system enables it to merchandise a variety of confections and snacks, as well as cold drinks in cans and bottles, from easily adjusted tray-and-spiral combinations. Its vend mechanisms, refrigeration unit and payment systems are controlled by a PC mainboard running Microsoft Windows. Microsoft's .NET 4 framework gives developers access to an extensive library, and supports a variety of programming languages.
Hovland explained that this is at the heart of the machine's dynamic merchandising capabilities. "The software features a new type of rules engine that allows a rich choice of brand promotions, permits changing selections dynamically, enables multiple pricing and provides several new features related to enhancing the consumer experience while driving up average transaction values via multi-vend capability," Hovland explained.
The onscreen product-selection buttons and screen layout are modeled after the iPhone screen, to make the interface as familiar and user-friendly as possible for younger customers. The patron chooses one or several products by touching brand images on the screen. A message invites users to touch the "i" icon on each product button to view additional information, which is displayed on a virtual three-dimensional "ad cube."
The cube can be "rotated" by a single swipe of the finger on the screen to view each of its four sides. It can display nutritional and brand information as well as product-related video on any face of the cube. The patron can review the contents of his or her "basket," add or remove items, choose the method of payment, and then initiate the vend.
The vender accepts multiple forms of payment, from coins and banknotes to Visa Paywave and Mastercard PayPass contactless cards. The Vivotech contactless reader also supports NFC (near field communications) payment made with suitably programmed mobile phones and tags. All payments are processed by HSBC Merchant Services in the UK, a subsidiary of Global Payments Inc. (Atlanta), which Hovland said will process payments in the U.S. and Canada.
Adding value to the shopping experience is a voucher printer that can dispense promotional coupons, including discounts for multiple product purchases. A two-dimensional scanner reads the coupons and can also scan coupons displayed on mobile phone screens.
This scanner, mounted in the machine's front panel, offers additional possibilities. For example, the company is developing a PayPal payment module for this scanner.
TouchGo software enables the machine to display a wide spectrum of video content, ranging from onscreen live news to Twitter feeds, along with interactive advertising. It can also run a number of unique PC-based vending software applications to offer appealing services onscreen, including mobile phone top-up, flower and gift ordering, remote food ordering from local delis and restaurants, and market research questionnaires.
All content to the machine is managed remotely over the Web by means of a Microsoft SQL database, maintained centrally on TouchGo's cloud-based servers and communicating as needed with the vender.
The machine measures 74" (1,870mm.) high by 37" (940mm.) wide by 33" (850mm.) deep, fits through a 30" door and is mounted on wheels for trouble-free transport.
More information can be had from Per Hovland at (44 0) 628 647443 or (44 0) 7590 423473, or by emailing Hovland at firstname.lastname@example.org.