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Australian Entertainment Company Expanding RFID-Enabled Kiosks

The Franchise Entertainment Group kiosks use HF RFID technology and a cellular connection with Canopy software from Banyan Hills Technology to manage approximately 1,300 kiosks at which movies are rented throughout Australia and New Zealand.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 08, 2017

When Franchise Entertainment Group (FEG), Australia's largest home entertainment company, prepared its deployment of more than a thousand kiosks for movie rentals, it needed a software platform that would bring management and visibility to every kiosk, from Sydney to Perth and everywhere in between. FEG was transitioning its business from the brick-and-mortar model to kiosks, similar to trends in the United States.

After company principal Ed Nedelko met with Steve Latham, the former CTO at entertainment technology company NCR Corp., Latham began considering solutions. The result was a new company founded by Latham: Banyan Hills Technologies, based in Atlanta, Ga. Banyan Hills offers an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that captures and manages data from kiosks and other devices, and enables companies to have visibility into those units, no matter where in the world they are located.

Ed Nedelko
The first application for Banyan Hills' software platform, known as Canopy, was FEG's RFID-enabled movie-dispensing kiosks. The kiosks, which FEG purchased from a variety of vendors, include 13.56 MHz high-frequency (HF) RFID readers compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. The readers capture the unique ID numbers of adhesive RFID tags attached to the disks, each of which is linked, in the Canopy software, with a particular movie or program title.

FEG, Australia's largest home entertainment company, operates such brands as Blockbuster, Video Ezy and EzyDVD. The firm had spent years watching the movie rental business evolve, Nedelko says, including the closing of brick-and-mortal retail locations, first in the United States and then in Australia. He says he began to realize that there needed to be a more automated delivery system for movies in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Southeast Asian countries, that would serve as an alternative to all digital rental services, such as Netflix.

Steve Latham
Nedelko was able to acquire the 4-foot by 6-foot boxes that could contain approximately 900 DVDs, with built-in credit-card point-of-sale (POS) interfaces, cellular connections and RFID readers. However, he says, finding the right software platform that could help him manage those kiosks around the world proved more challenging. Most software companies had little understanding of the entertainment industry, Nedelko explains. For that reason, he approached Latham, then adopted the Canopy solution.

About three years ago, the two began deploying the kiosks with the Canopy IoT software at such retail locations as supermarkets across Australia and New Zealand, and beyond. FEG currently has between 1,100 and 1,400 kiosks in place, with long-term plans to increase that number to 2,500.

Here's how the system works: An individual wishing to rent a movie presents his or her credit card to the machine. Once the account is approved, that person can make a movie selection. The box's internal robotics dispense that movie by reading the RFID tag's ID number to confirm which movie is being provided. The company can then charge the individual for that specific movie, and he or she can return it to the box when finished.

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