SAN FRANCISCO -- Remote machine monitoring is proving its value as a weapon in the prolonged battle against vending machine thieves, according to Cantaloupe Systems.
One company that has made effective use of Cantaloupe's Seed wireless monitoring technology to respond swiftly to attacks is Camelback Vending (Phoenix). It recently coordinated with local police to catch two thieves in the act of breaking into and robbing vending machines at local high schools, late at night. Not only did Seed alert the operator, but its automatic inventory of cash on hand helped Camelback's Jodi Glimpse to recover all the stolen cash, while providing evidence to use against the thief in court.
Seed is a wireless device that monitors vender transactions and transmits the data securely through the Internet "cloud." It also alerts operators by text or email whenever a Seed-equipped machine's door is opened, flagging any unusual activity.
In other recent cases, Cantaloupe claimed, operators (one of whom is blind) received text alerts that machine doors had been opened after hours. This enabled them either to rush out to the site themselves and catch the thieves in the act, or to alert local police to the crime in progress.
In Hopkinton, MA, Seed alerted P&J's Vending that a machine's door had been opened at a time when it was not scheduled for service. In turned out that machine, and others, was being robbed by an elusive thief. While pursuing the robber, P&J's Vending used Seed's reports to track the affected machines, what time they were broken into and how much money was stolen. P&J's owners had identified the suspect, but the police had to catch the thief in the act in order to make an arrest. At last, thanks to the GPS device on the thief's cellphone and an alarm from Seed, the owners were able to alert the police during a break-in, and the suspect was arrested.
In Hilton Head, SC, Palmetto Vending had suffered a string of thefts it was unable to solve. As often is the case, local police were reluctant to get involved because of the difficulty of catching a thief in the act. At that time, Palmetto Vending's machines were having Cantaloupe Seed wireless devices installed to monitor sales and inventory remotely. Within days of installation, Seed alerted Palmetto's executives that a machine in a car dealership was being opened, long after business hours. The police were able to catch the perpetrator, who was then tied to previous robberies by DNA evidence.
"We never could have stopped the thief without Cantaloupe Systems, it's as simple as that," said Camelback's Glimpse. "We didn't install Seed primarily to catch thieves, but it's always great to get extra benefits -- such as monitoring each machine from afar -- from a product we like so much anyway. I used to feel like a helpless victim of thieves who hit our machines in schools and other unprotected places. Now, with Cantaloupe Systems, I feel in charge. One of the police officers we worked with said the technology from Cantaloupe Systems is better than most school alarm systems."
Anant Agrawal, cofounder of Cantaloupe Systems, said: "Our goal is to bring to the vending industry the same 21st-century technical capabilities used by most other retail segments. Theft and vandalism have long been serious problems for operators, and there wasn't much they could do about it. These losses were simply considered part of the cost of doing business.
"Now that's changed," Agrawal emphasized. "Our Seed system gives operators extensive information about the state of their machines in real time, all the time."
This detailed, timely information allows vendors to "see" their machines and protect them -- and the locations that host them -- from vandalism, surreptitious entry and loss of income, he explained.
Cantaloupe Systems was founded in 2002 by engineers Mandeep Arora, a second-generation vending professional, and Anant Agrawal to automate merchandising and settlement for operators. The company reports that operators using the Seed solution can average $35,000 in annual savings a route, replenish 80% more machines per week and reduce their carbon footprint by 40% by eliminating unnecessary travel and carrying smaller loads.
WSJ Examines Technology's Role In Deterring Rash Of Vending Machine Vandalism
The vending industry has faced a spate of thefts spurred by tough economic times. How operators are fighting back with the latest technology was the subject of a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Citing theft rings in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi and New York, among other states, the article details how several operators are using wireless technology to monitor machines in real time to stop vandalism and catch thieves red-handed. The paper interviews Mark Manny of Loss Prevention Results (Wake Forest, NC), Jodi Glimpse of Camelback Vending Services (Phoenix), Marcus Whitener of Refreshment Solutions (Norco, LA) and John Mitchell Jr. of Treat America (Merriam, KS).
See the WSJ story