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IoT Tracks Vending and Coffee Machines

Vendon is partnering with AT&T to provide Internet of Things-based access to data regarding machines that dispense snacks and drinks, thereby helping operators, machine owners and product brands know that goods are available at the appropriate temperature.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 24, 2019

Vending machine technology company Vendon has teamed up with AT&T to enable a vending machine or coffee machine to remotely share its status in near-real time via AT&T's cellular network. With the telemetry solution, companies such as vending machine owners or operators can gain automated data regarding how well each machine is stocked, how well it is operating, and when maintenance or supply workers need to pay a visit to a specific machine.

The system employs a Vendon Internet of Things (IoT) telemetry box known as the vBox, as well as cloud-based software to manage the data. It is designed to help companies prevent vending machines from running out of stock and thereby missing sales, and also ensures that malfunctioning machines can be quickly serviced. The vending machine industry has been trending up year by year throughout the past five years, according to the two companies. Long-term forecasts show greater growth for the industry, but companies must compete with other retail offerings, such as brick-and-mortar stores and online ordering.

Vendon's vBox
Vendon's customers fall into two categories, according to Andrey Sergeyev, the firm's chief customer officer: vending machine companies for snacks and cold beverages, and those that make automated coffee machines. "Our customers traditionally are operators who sell or rent their machines," he explains, "or the products stocked inside them."

The vending of products is a complex system, Sergeyev says. Companies can sell or rent machines, or simply offer maintenance services. Because such services are, by nature, provided in remote locations, the companies face a challenge in managing their fleet of assets. Traditional machines that sell snacks, as well as cold and hot drinks, are restocked at regular intervals, based on calendar schedules.

Vendon launched in 2009 in Latvia with an SMS text-messaging payment solution so that vending machine customers could pay for products using their smartphone and bank account information, without requiring cash. Since then, the firm has been examining the market and discovering ways to make vending and coffee machines more intelligent. The company serves such customers as Latvia's King Coffee Service, Pelican Rouge and Vending Land.

Most vending machines track data, such as the machines' temperatures, for maintenance purposes, in addition to the number of purchase transactions that take place. But that information can only be accessed by a service provider physically visiting the machine. Recently, Sergeyev says, "People are starting to understand they need to make their machines smart—they want to be able to make decisions based on [near-real-time] data."

The primary causes of headaches for those in the vending business, according to Sergeyev, are inefficiency in maintenance and stocking, and the need to maximize sales to compete with stores and online food retailers. "They need to know the machine works and sells products properly," he states, "and if it's broken, they need to know that. Every minute it's down costs you money."

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