Customer Engagement: New Vending Machine Designs Unite Function And Interactivity

Posted On: 6/21/2013

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TAGS: New Vending Machine Designs, vending machine technology, new vending machines, cashless vending, automated retailing, National Automatic Merchandising Association, Automated Merchandising Systems, AMS Vendors, Coke vending machine, Coca-Cola Co., Isis Mobile Wallet, Crane Merchandising Systems, Crane Co., Fastcorp Jofemar, Cryovac, Diji-Touch, Mondelez, Royal Vendors, Coinco, ADA-compliant vending machine, SandenVendo, Kinect interface, IntuiSense, Seaga, Saeco, Sweet Amanda Sweet 16, Vendors Exchange International, Revision Door

LAS VEGAS -- Technology applied to upgrading the customer experience was very evident at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's 2013 OneShow in late April here. The microelectronics revolution that has transformed the inner workings of vending equipment over the past three decades now is making its way to the user interface and the point-of-sale display. Examples include the following:

A new company called Air Vend is rolling out its touchscreen solution for vending machines, designed to enhance the user experience and support cashless and mobile payment acceptance.

It is wirelessly connected to AV Live, a cloud-based system that delivers real-time sales data, machine alerts, inventory tracking and additional information to the operator. It presently is connected through MDB, but the company said it plans to introduce a DEX connector in the near future. Air Vend also said it is working to meet NAMA vending data interchange standards in order to ensure interoperability.

vending machines

PHOTOS | Left: Presiding at formal introduction of the Air Vend touchscreen customer interface and Web-based software are Yan Wang (l.), Walteq, and Lance Ellsworth of Air Vend. Center: Geoffrey Dunkle, Isis, and Larry Clarkston, Coke, demonstrate Isis Wallet mobile cashless payment system on a Coke machine. Isis-equipped Coca-Cola venders are now being field-tested in Texas. Right: Epoch series is the topic as the company's Tom Hutchison describes user-friendly features of Slim Gem model to Lisa Burchard and Lorenazana Luna (r.), Advance Office & Janatorial Supplies (Las Vegas).

Simple over-the-air software updates permit the latest innovations from Air Vend, such as advertising, loyalty programs, promotions and new cashless payment methods, to flow to the machines, as they become available.

The company has assembled its own product database containing thousands of items with their nutritional labels and product images that can be displayed on the touchscreen display as a solution to help operators meet pending federal nutritional-labeling requirements.

The latest innovation from Automated Merchandising Systems is its Epoch series, which updates all of AMS's most popular venders with eye-catching styling and enhanced features.

Epoch styling is highlighted by a slightly contoured machine front, finished in silver-gray. A point-of-sale card frame enables operators to display information (such as company name) and to post promotional materials.

Additionally, the keys on the Epoch series's backlit all-numeric selector pad are black with white numerals, and each key is ringed with white for enhanced legibility. The brighter edging around the hopper and coin return further enhance the new look.

Epoch's new look and enhancements are available on AMS's AD-One line, a series of vending machines that complies with the recently revised Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

The only non-ADA-compliant Epoch models are the vandal-resistant Outsider and the WideGem and SlimGem uninsulated machines. All others have hoppers within the specified ADA height range, but still can accommodate six trays.

With the exception of the small-footprint SlimGem, AMS machines are available in 35" and 39" widths, and are 72" high x 35" deep. SlimGem is only 28.5" wide and 29.5" deep.

Coca-Cola Co. is reporting an enthusiastic response to and wide participation in its mobile payment pilot that lets consumers buy drinks and earn My Coke Rewards loyalty points with a simple tap of their phones. The pilot began in Oct. 2012 in Austin, TX, where Coca-Cola is testing 200 machines outfitted with small screens and contactless readers that accept Isis mobile payments.

Smartphone users can download the Isis Mobile Wallet app, created through a joint venture between Isis, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and securely add debit, credit and loyalty cards, coupons and more, which they can use to pay for purchases at participating stores -- and vending machines.

A My Coke Rewards membership with 30 points comes preloaded in the Isis Mobile Wallet. Consumers can enjoy their first beverage -- and every 10th drink after that -- for free. The points they earn can eventually be redeemed online for merchandise and special offers.


PHOTOS | Left: Tom Murn (r.), Answer Group (Farmingdale, NY), checks out Media technology on new Merchant glassfront merchandiser as Crane's Tony Buonanno does the honors. Center: Sean Brady (l.), Sealed Air Corp., and Jose Iribarren, Jofemar, show off attractive commissary-prepared meals vacuum-sealed in Cryovac packages for effortless reheating, and new Jofemar venders designed to present them to best advantage. Right: Admiring production model of Mondelez Diji-Touch, from left, are Mark Marciano, Diji-Touch; Carl Gerfo and Alan Dubs, Vendrite Vending (Whitestone, NY); and Dave McClain, Mondelez.

The new Media line took center stage in the Crane Merchandising Systems exhibit, as the latest options for the modular system made their debut (see VT, May). Media venders are designed to meet the needs of large and small operators by accommodating conventional or touchscreen interfaces, telemetry and a wide range of payment systems, including cashless transactions, all with "plug-and-play" installation when the need arises. Media technology is available on Crane's Merchant glassfront line, and soon will be an option for BevMax cold drink and new Voce specialty hot drink venders, too.

Fastcorp, vending Fastcorp showed its popular Evolution variable-temperature robotic merchandiser in "Lunch Box" styling, which helps operators attract the attention of patrons looking for menu items they perceive as healthier than average. The ADA-compliant Evolution vender, which uses Fastcorp's novel vacuum-pickup delivery system, can be set to maintain an internal temperature between -25°F. and 65°F.; the Lunch Box styling treatment features a stylized Food Pyramid illustration on the rear face of the cabinet, behind the vacuum pickup assembly, and eye-catching melon graphics on the lower front panel. It can be set up with 12, 16 or 20 cardholders to identify selections. Like all Fastcorp temperature-controlled machines, Evolution holds products in a base-mounted cooler with robotically controlled lid for maximum efficiency in maintaining temperature. It features guaranteed-product delivery by means of a vacuum pickup assembly. This can handle products weighing as much as 4 lbs., and delivers them gently.

Jofemar's focus this spring is its new partnership with Sealed Air Corp.'s Cryovac division. The two companies teamed up to develop a system that makes it easy for operators to vend upscale, visually appealing commissary-prepared meals by using Cryovac's latest heat-and-serve packaging technology and Jofemar's machines.

Cryovac's vacuum-skin package, which seals tight to the food, is a key feature for vending applications because it attractively displays the product and prevents it from moving or settling. It also allows for vertical display and high-product visibility in glassfront machines. Additionally, Cryo­vac's new Simple Steps material provides steam-assisted cooking, is self-venting and eliminates the need for package perforation when reheating.

Jofemar is encouraging operators to incorporate Cryovac's packaging technology in their commissary operations and merchandise the products through its four newest machines.

Jofemar's latest equipment offering in the U.S. market is its Multiplus Gourmet, which features a built-in microwave oven that heats refrigerated foods and dispenses them warm and ready to eat. Heating time is programmable for each individual product for optimal taste and texture. A large, back-lit front advertising panel showcases items on the machine menu.

The company's glassfront ES-Plus dispenses refrigerated meals that consumers can heat in a separate microwave oven. It features Jofemar's Smart Vend elevator dispensing technology that delivers product to the consumer at hand level, minimizing the chance of damage. Its EasyFlex conveyor delivery system adjusts to accommodate various product sizes.

The company's Menu Master elevator-equipped vender also merchandises and dispenses refrigerated meals and accommodates a wide range of package sizes, and its closed-front Icefood machine stores and dispenses meals in a frozen state.

The production version of the Diji-Touch system from Mondelez was in action at the company's exhibit at OneShow after exhaustive testing over several years. The machine is fitted with a large touchscreen display that can serve multiple purposes, from displaying animated 3D images of products to supporting promotions and showcasing paid advertising. The touch interface allows patrons to rotate the high-resolution product images to display all six faces of the package, including ingredient and nutrition statements.

The machine is equipped for telemetry and cashless payment acceptance, and allows each product to be priced individually. Patrons can make multiple purchases in a single transaction by use of a digital "shopping cart" of the sort made familiar by commercial websites.

Product displays are programmable, allowing great flexibility in merchandising. It is possible, for example, to group items by category or occasion (such as breakfast products) -- and reposition the groups throughout the day, perhaps moving a group to the top of the display during the daypart for which it's most appropriate. Diji-Touch supports multilingual customer prompts, such as English and Spanish, French and English or English and Chinese.

A key to the Diji-Touch concept is advertising support that reduces the cost of the system and provides an additional revenue stream. Operators commit to stocking and displaying 18 Mondelez brands in order to qualify. The operator-subscriber manages machines through a secure website that provides access to real-time audit, inventory and status information, as well as tools to program the machine's functions and display.

The company reports that plans call for 300 Diji-Touch machines in the field by the end of this year, and 3,300 by the end of 2014.

A demonstration version of a Royal Vendors cold-drink machine with large touchscreen display front powered by the new Iris platform from InOne Technology and Coin Acceptors attracted attention in the Royal Vendors booth. Iris builds on the success of Coinco's Arrow, an integrated solution for adding cashless payment acceptance and telemetry to a vending machine. Iris combines these Arrow capabilities with optional support for video displays, including touchscreens.


PHOTOS | Left: From left, Royal Vendors' Chuck Crockett reviews RVV video front with Ben and Joe Douglas, Douglas Distributing (Indianapolis). Vending machine is controlled by new InOne/Coinco Iris system. Center: Régis Le Bras (l.), Intui­Sense, describes interactive video front with gesture recognition on V21 packaged cold drink vender for Philipe and Bertrand Descourdy and Michou LaCroix, CafCaf (Boucherville, QC, Canada). Right: Gary Partridge (r.), Seaga, details latest additions to popular Seaga Infinity glassfront vender line to Walter Rosenthal, Doctor Recommended Retail (Freehold, NJ). The series now includes Xtreme indoor-outdoor models.

The Iris system includes three readers: for magnetic-stripe cards only, mag-stripe and contactless cards, or both card types plus cash. It also supports the Iris Connect module, a small vending telemeter that handles credit and debit card transactions and enables two-tier (cash and card) pricing, and Iris Vision, free Web-based software that can provide machine malfunction and sold-out alerts, as well as real-time inventory information. Also available are Iris Window, a full-color touchscreen customer interface available in 4.3" and 7" sizes adaptable to a very wide range of machines.

Rounding out the system is Iris Media, which can work with Iris Vision and Iris Window to enrich consumer interaction with the machine as well as providing round-the-clock data monitoring.

The latest Royal Vision vender, RVV 500 Plus, is an Energy Star 3 and ADA-compliant glassfront cold beverage machine designed to accommodate a range of package types and sizes without the need for shims or kits, and featuring redesigned shelves that can be removed easily to facilitate cleaning. Its refrigeration system can be serviced without removing the bottom shelf. It is available with standard white or optional black interior finish, standard LED lighting, embedded energy management capability and optional product delivery validation.

Also on display in the Royal Vendors exhibit was the RVCFH-027 Vision Cooler, which features a slide-out refrigeration module to facilitate service and a built-in health timer to protect perishable products. It's offered in standard 6-shelf and optional 5-shelf configurations, and is finding favor with micromarket operators.

SandenVendo showed its new Interactive V21, fitted with a large interactive LED monitor that can display product information and graphics, nutrition labels and advertising. The one on display at OneShow allowed the patron to control it by gestures. This is done through an interface based on Microsoft's Kinect for Windows, which allows the customer to browse packaged cold drinks by hand gestures, then touch to select a product. It also can deliver interactive games, e.g. displaying a realistic baseball pitcher who throws three balls through the strike zone, challenging the customer to hit them with a virtual bat.

The Kinect interface was developed by IntuiSense (Gémenos, France), which has deployed Kinect-controlled vending machines in Europe; the company's founder, Régis Le Bras, was on hand to discuss the system with showgoers. The Interactive V21 presents a programming interface on the screen when the door is open, facilitating service and updates in the field. It can accept new program material from a USB flash memory drive, and also is remotely reprogrammable. The software uses html5 Web architecture for straightforward adaptation and remote access.

V21 is SandenVendo's flagship design, available in a range of sizes and styles including curved and flat fronts, with and without live display. It is fully compliant with the MDB protocol and DEX data transfer standard, and compatible with wireless telemetry and a variety of payment systems. The 72" and 79" models are available with optional CO2 refrigeration systems. All are ADA compliant, UL listed and Energy Star qualified, and meet or exceed the Department of Energy's 2012 requirements.

The new Seaga Infinity line and the Saeco specialty coffee equipment represented in the U.S. by Seaga were on display at OneShow. Configurable for snacks, cold drinks and/or food, Infinity made its debut earlier this spring (see VT, April). It incorporates mix-and-match trays for easy setup to meet specific location requirements, including a new large-capacity tray for 12-fl.oz. cans. Standard features include dual coils, LED product illumination, the Vigilant positive vend detection system and built-in scrolling price displays. Common components are used across all Infinity models, reducing parts inventory complexity. The venders are supplied with inline ground fault circuit interrupters.

Infinity machines are engineered for seamless integration with a wide range of payment systems and remote monitoring technology. Lockout and timed vending functions, as well as "meal deal" and "jackpot" promotions can be programmed. Options include Seaga's Smartware management information system to speed machine reprogramming and data transfer, as well as a media screen that can display advertising and promotional offers.

The new Infinity Xtreme outdoor design is finished with an ultraviolet-resistant coating. A reinforced cabinet features a locking T-handle cover and triple-efficiency glass. Infinity machines, including the Xtreme variants, are offered in two versions, snack and combo, each of which is available in 4-wide (35") and 5-wide (39") size.

The Saeco coffee equipment line includes the famous Italian manufacturer's vending series, now consisting of the countertop Phedra and Rubino machines and free-standing Cristallo and Atlante models. All provide genuine espresso brewing and wide selectivity, and are the products of Saeco's 25 years of vending innovation. Seaga also represents Saeco's automatic espresso machines for foodservice, including the Idea and Aroma lines.

Showgoers got their first look at the novel Sweet Amanda's Sweet 16 high-tech, high-impact refrigerated machine. Described as a mini automated candy store, it's designed for high-traffic public locations. The machine, built into a horizontal cabinet with bright, eye-catching graphics, vends bite-size candies from vertical bulk-loaded cylindrical bins, as well as novelty merchandise from dispensers mounted at the ends. It can dispense as many as 16 different types of candy, delivered in resealable cups, along with six selections of oversized capsuled products.


PHOTOS | Left: Steven and Robert Bruck (r.) show off merchandise dispensed by Sweet 16 vender: 16 selections of candy, delivered in lidded cups, as well as apparel and toys in large capsules. Refrigeration keeps candy cool. Center: Jim Groeschl, Groeschl Distributing (Richfield, WI) gets an update on U-Select-It Alpine Elevator refrigerated vender from USI's Heidi Chico. ADA-compliant machine uses elevator to deliver food. Right: VendoMax founders Rob Creswell (l.) and Mark Hixson show off an SVK cold drink machine. It's a trailer (the wheels are retracted here) with an array of photoelectric cells mounted to a horizontal panel above the body.

Patrons use the machine's touchscreen interface to choose from candies that can range in shape and size from wrapped Hershey Kisses and Starburst pieces to M&M's and Skittles. Candy is dispensed from the sealed, sanitary tubular bins onto a horizontal conveyor-belt (visible through a window), which then pours the selections into a Sweet Amanda's-branded cup -- providing an entertaining experience for the customer.

The Sweet 16 can hold 800 lbs. of candy, enough to fill about 700 cups. It is modular, so it can be modified to offer only eight selections. Sweet Amanda's capsule system enables operators to complement the bulk candy menu with everything from bagged candies and snacks to T-shirts, electronics and stuffed animals, packaged in large capsules.

Fourth-generation New York-area vending operators Steven and Robert Bruck founded the company. They reported that they have placed 20 "Sweet 16" machines in the field, and that public sites like shopping malls, airports, college campuses and amusement parks have proven to be ideal locations for them.

In the spotlight at the U-Select-It exhibit was the Alpine 5000 Elevator, a temperature-controlled multiproduct machine that can accommodate refrigerated food items, packaged cold beverages, candy and snacks. The ADA-compliant machine features first-in, first-out loading, and its elevator delivery system provides gentle handling for items such as platters, submarine sandwiches, soups and salads, along with carbonated beverages.

The versatile vender incorporates LED product lighting, a "low-E" (high thermal barrier) triple-pane Argon-filled front panel window and thick insulation foamed with zero ozone-depletion potential. The "eco-friendly" refrigeration system and the high-efficiency illumination minimize energy consumption; according to USI, the Alpine 5000 Elevator consumes less than 5.7 kilowatt-hours per day at an ambient temperature of 75°F. and relative humidity of 45%. The cabinet interior and refrigeration system are designed to provide balanced airflow.

Options available for the machine include the iCart touchscreen interface with 7" full-color LCD screen; a patented high-capacity tray that displays "live" product and holds as many as 150 12-fl.oz. cans; and a versatile steel beverage tray that can accommodate as many as 60 canned or bottled beverages arranged for 9- or 10-select delivery (depending on package widths). The standard pushbutton selector is an illuminated keypad with Braille-embossed keycaps.

The USI Alpine 5000 Elevator is MDB and DEX compliant, supports free and "combo" vend modes, offers flexible space-to-selection settings, permits time-of-day discounting and time-of-day shutdown modes, offers programmable coupon and token values as well as programmable point-of-sale messages, and can support a "talker" device for sight-impaired operators. The door is formed with a standard peripheral opening to accommodate additional payment for point-of-sale systems, and the MDB circuitry supports all industry-standard payment systems including cash and coin, as well as credit and debit cards. Each selection can be priced between 0¢ and $655.35.

Newcomer VendoMax has taken the wraps off two different versions of what it's billing as the world's first completely sustainable solar-powered beverage vending machines.

There are two of these. The "grid-free" SVK machine is a trailer that can be towed to any location where vending is desired, without the need for an electrical connection. It's styled to look like a giant soda can on its side, and can be installed in almost any outdoor environment, from fairs through concerts to sporting events. Top-mounted solar panels power the machine, which can accommodate up to 1,300 packaged cold drinks. The venders can be remotely raised and lowered, and feature hideaway wheels for safe and easy relocating. A backup battery provides electricity when the sun is not shining.

VendoMax's second "green" vending solution is the Solar Z, a solar-powered, 16-foot modular covered enclosure that can accommodate a traditional beverage vending machine and provide seating space, too. Solar panels perched atop the unit provide the power; again, an internal battery is provided to keep the machine running when the sun goes down.

Vendors Exchange International was marketing retrofittable state-of-the-art fronts for classic snack machines including the Automatic Products 113 and National Vendors 147 in its exhibit at OneShow. Slated for full production this summer is the Vendors Exchange Revision Door SE, which combines modern styling with LED product illumination, support for the company's MIND (Make Informed Nutrition Decisions) touchscreen information display system and more.

Next in the queue is the companion VE Discover, which incorporates a 10.4" touchscreen user interface (the Revision offers a numeric keypad), as well as LED cabinet lighting, speakers, cellular modem and WiFi support. VE Discover optionally is available with a barcode reader -- which, among other things, allows it to emulate a micromarket checkout terminal -- and a camera. It's scheduled to start rolling off the assembly line this fall.

At the top of the line is the VE Connect door, fitted with a 46" 1080p high-definition video display that presents animatable product images in brilliant color, and which can support many other uses ranging from information display and advertising to games and social interaction. It integrates a camera, a QR code reader for promotion uses and customer-engagement programs.

Vendors Exhange

PHOTO: Aviel Dafna of Vendors Exchange International (left) demonstrates VE Discover vending-micromarket hybrid system to Scott Stern, Pepstern Natural Brands (Centennial, CO) during NAMA's OneShow. It integrates micromarket scanning and customer support with vending machine controller for consolidated audit and analysis.