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John Murn Acquires Assets Of Bankrupt Vending Innovator AVT; Hi-Tech Firm Becomes Accelerated Retail Technologies

Posted On: 9/19/2016

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TAGS: vending, AVT, Automated Vending Technologies, John Murn, ART, Accelerated Retail Technologies, RSA Management Group, blind vending operator, remote machine management, Answer Vending, L.A. Fitness, Wayne Salvino,Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management National Conference, vending technology, vending machine,vending machine operator

ART will enforce patents related to remote machine management

CORONA, CA -- Vending industry entrepreneur John Murn, who is currently president of RSA Management Group, said he acquired the assets of AVT Inc. in June and opened a new business and production facility in Corona, CA. He has renamed the high-tech vending machine company Accelerated Retail Technologies Inc. (ART), which he says is moving full speed ahead at the forefront of equipment innovation.

Murn, a former operator who is also president of the New York State Automatic Vending Association, was president of sales at Answer Vending (Farmingdale, NY), one of metropolitan New York's largest vendors, for more than two decades before establishing RSA Management Group. RSA is a purchasing and management consortium for blind vendors.

In May 2015, AVT filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Murn told Vending Times that he did not set out to become a machine manufacturer, but circumstances led him to pursue buying AVT's assets from the courts for other reasons. RSA Management Group had contracted with AVT to service its vending machines placed in the nationwide L.A. Fitness chain. After AVT filed for bankruptcy protection, purchasing the assets was the only way to protect that agreement, according to Murn. The deeper Murn delved during the due diligence process, the more value he saw in AVT's technologies, patents and capabilities, and the ways in which he could leverage and improve upon them.

John Murn, AVT Inc., Accelerated Retail Technologies, vending
MAN WITH A PLAN: Stepping out as ART chief during recent Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management National Conference in Phoenix, John Murn showcases machine that vends hot and cold beverages (as large as 1 liter) and refrigerated foods via a single touchscreen controller. On right is health and personal care products vender with 32" touchscreen.

With ART added to his business portfolio, Murn said an immediate priority will be to pursue licensing agreements for three AVT patents, now held by ART, that cover the remote control of a "plurality" of vending machines through cellular technology. This includes the ability to remotely change and discount prices, provide refunds, download digital advertising and power machines on and off, among other functions. He said he plans to contact any companies using ART's technology to discuss licensing. And he is already in the process of establishing an agreement with one of the nation's leading wireless carriers that is reportedly using ART's patented technology.

Patent No. 8,191,779, which AVT filed in 2008, was challenged three times and reexamined before being upheld by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office in September 2014. It covers 19 uses, including cashless transactions conducted by a vending machine through a wireless system.

In May 2015, AVT said it had been granted 15 claims for a second patent. The summary for patent No. 8,998,082 B2 specifies that the system would include a two-way wireless network coupling the enterprise control center and a "plurality" of remote vending machines.

Additionally, that patent summary states that a touchscreen, which could be used for selecting items and displaying advertisements, may be associated with each vending machine that is part of a plurality. The touchscreen may also include means for paying for the items to be vended within a grouping of vending machines.

Murn said he could not yet share the details on ART's third patent, but will be in a position to do so shortly.

AVT remained in operation in Corona, CA, throughout the bankruptcy proceedings with 15 employees. Murn said ART is leveraging and enhancing AVT's software and equipment. He is also on a mission to push the boundaries of the next generation of automated retailing beyond food and beverages to products of any imaginable shape, size and purpose.

AVT interim president Wayne Salvino is working for ART as a consultant. Salvino played a key role in the transition, helping to rehire some AVT engineers who had left the company. Murn said AVT's operator customers have also been a valuable resource by providing insight and input. He acknowledged that AVT's equipment required some additional software development and said ART is in the process of "perfecting" the technology to ensure smooth machine operations.

"The big message we want to get out to operators who have worked with AVT is that we are here as a new company to help in any way we can and that they should feel free to call us for any needs," Murn told VT. "AVT was made up of innovative people who came up with great technologies. Our backend software and patents allow us to do things no other company can do. We are here to support our customers and take it to the next level."

ART has already fixed a software glitch in its Marley Coffee-branded hot beverage vender, for which Murn sees a wide market. "It is a beautiful, phenomenal machine that vends premium drinks and can be branded any way for any operator," Murn said. "Internally, the machine worked, but there was a glitch in the software so it worked 99% of the time; our goal is for it to work 100% of the time if my name is going to be behind it."

AVT also was instrumental in the design of the original vending machines sold by the Culver City, CA-based H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending franchise. Murn said he wants to get the word out to operators who purchased H.U.M.A.N. equipment that ART has all of the necessary replacement parts and is available as a resource to support them.

Murn is also communicating to companies of all types looking to take their products and brands beyond conventional retailing that self-service retail is the fastest and most cost-effective way to break into new markets, with minimal overhead. "ART will reach retailers of products of all kinds as a boutique automated retailing design company with a unique ability to custom-craft any machine to deliver any products, faster and more effectively than anyone else," he said. "Our team of designers can create a machine based on any concept or customize and brand one of our existing machines to suit any needs."

ART's specialty will be incorporating touchscreen interfaces and displays into any machine, and leveraging its technologies to offer product information, advertisements, cashless payment and loyalty programs, and to run the backend software to streamline and monitor the process for the operator.

Murn said ART is already working with companies that are using its backend software in self-serve environments outside traditional vending, including Rug Doctor, which has an automated system that enables consumers to swipe a credit card to rent one of its carpet cleaners. Similarly, a propane provider partnered with AVT to automate a system that allows consumers to purchase propane gas tanks for their barbecue grills, and swap empty ones for full ones.

The ART chief said several equipment innovations and software enhancements will roll out over the next several months that will not only benefit the entire industry in new ways, but also meet the unique needs of the blind operators he serves through RSA Management Group. Among them is a voice-enabled vending management system.

As ART develops cutting-edge automated retailing concepts for future clients, Murn pointed out, RSA Management Group brings to the table a network of 1,600 operators nationwide that can potentially test and deploy them.

John Murn can be reached at jmurn@rsamanagementgroup.com.