NEW YORK CITY -- Intel Corp. showed a few of the developments in its "intelligent vending" initiative during this year's National Retail Federation trade show here. Also on display were concepts that might be as applicable to micromarket operators as to any other sort of retailer.
Intel's work with international coffeehouse titan Costa Coffee (Dunstable, UK) was a center of attention at the show, which took place Jan. 13-16. The new CEM-200 is a full-height kiosk that delivers freshly ground and brewed espresso coffee and coffee beverages, prepared with fresh milk when appropriate, in a variety of portion sizes. It incorporates brewing technology by Swiss foodservice brewer manufacturer Thermoplan (Weggis, Lucerne, Switzerland) and a comprehensive control package built around Intel's Core i7 -3517UE processor with integrated high-definition graphics.
Costa Coffee is the United Kingdom's largest coffeehouse chain and the second largest in the world, with 1,700 stores across 28 countries. The Costa Express program began when the company acquired Coffee Nation, a pioneer self-serve premium coffee vending operation, in 2011; it now has some 2,500 machines on location.
The new CEM-200 offers a range of new features designed to create a more immersive coffeehouse experience for patrons. These include Intel's Audience Impression Metrics (AIM) suite, which works with an image sensor mounted through the machine front. The image data is interpreted by an Anonymous Viewer Analytics program that extracts demographic information, and is then used by the AIM Counter that compiles that information for use in analyzing traffic at the machine.
The counter also can record "dwell time," the duration of a patron's attention to the screen; this gauges his or her interest in an advertising message.
The touchscreen user interface and cashless payment options offer consumers many options that can be exercised easily, including the ability to make multiple purchases in one transaction. It also can display informational messages -- that the machine dispenses the genuine Costa Mocha Italia coffee made famous by the company's coffee shops, for example, or on-demand nutritional content facts.
The machine's wide-area network connection supports not only dynamic updates to message content (and, when desired, pricing), but also connectivity with social media. It also provides telemetry for alarms, remote diagnostics (and often repair), as well as audit data in DEX format. All the functions are handled by the single Intel-processor-based board, which reduces the cost compared with earlier systems that required as many as three boards.
Rounding out the package is new styling by noted industrial design firm Pininfarina (Turin, Italy) and an olfactory enhancement programmed to disperse subtle aromas suggestive of a coffeehouse -- fresh baked goods, for example.
PEPSICO INTELLIGENT VENDER
Another vending development taking center stage in Intel's NRF exhibit was the latest PepsiCo Interactive Vending machine, newest in a design sequence first introduced formally at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's OneShow two years ago. | SEE STORY
The venders serve as intelligent nodes in a wide-area network, and offer patrons not only a choice of payment options but a number of options designed to increase engagement and promote repeat traffic.
For example, users of any Pepsi interactive machine have the ability to purchase a drink for a distant friend by emailing or texting a gift code to him or her (recipients can reciprocate from any other interactive machine). Patrons also are offered the opportunity to play an onscreen random-chance game, customized for mall shoppers, simply by making a purchase. Mastering the game issues a code redeemable for a free 20-fl.oz. beverage immediately or at the winner's convenience at any Pepsi Interactive Vending machine. Customers also have access to complete nutritional information about the products available.
The Pepsi Interactive Vending machine is equipped for bidirectional communications, including remote monitoring and management, as well as cashless payment processing. Inventory, audit and functional information is available remotely, and may be used to optimize machine service schedules and minimize sales lost to out-of-stocks and machine malfunctions.
The new-generation PepsiCo machines are undergoing extensive field evaluation in five malls around the country, managed by General Growth Properties (Chicago).
The Intel exhibit at the NRF show included many concepts applicable to self-service retailing, even in the earliest sense of the term (in which consumers were invited to choose their own items from store shelves, rather than handing a shopping-list to the grocer). Among those attracting attention were digital shelf labels, small full-color video displays that can support attention-getting animations and permit instant price changing (especially helpful for items approaching their best-sold-by dates) -- and price adjustment throughout the store, whenever necessary. The content management system that drives these colorful little labels runs on an Intel Core processor-based platform with Intel Active Management Technology (AMT).
Perhaps more thought-provoking was the Intelligent Shelf, a novel monitoring system developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) designed to minimize "inventory distortion" that occurs when store shelves are not stocked as expected, either through inadvertence or expediency. If a shelf is supposed to display a product in both large and small sizes, and the stock clerk only puts small packages there, sales are lost and large packages sit in the stockroom unsold.
The Intelligent Shelf uses a digital imaging system to scan shelves and pattern recognition software to identify the products and determine whether they are where they should be. The Carnegie Mellon prototype uses a little wheeled robot to carry the cameras, but they could be aimed at the shelves in many different ways, depending on the specific needs of the location.
SEE ALSO: Interactivity Strengthens Engagement: Intel Sees Bright Future For PC-Controlled Vending