The demand for higher quality and more convenient retail services is always on the rise. Whilst not conventionally retail, this greater demand for quality also affects the vending machine sector. In addition, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, automated no-contact selling has become more popular than ever. From machines serving food and beverages to ticket payments, airport-check ins, smart retail kiosks and everything in between.
Traditionally, vending machine operators depended on the deployment of regular physical routes and manual visits. Using this operational method, however, requires too many resources, and so much human intervention can be very inaccurate and wasteful.
The vending machine challenges
The vending machine industry is a nomad industry and, keeping track of ‘things’ is possibly the biggest challenge that can make or break a business. How successful operators are in keeping an eye on their vending machines and the stock that they dispense to clients, determines the success of the overall business.
A vending machine operator typically has a fleet of machines stationed in different locations. The bigger the fleet and the bigger the geographic area covered, the more complex and costly becomes the operational management process.
Vending machine operators need to keep track of the location of each vending machine on their fleet, as well as the stock that the machine dispenses – be it parking tickets, receipts, beverages, electronic items or food.
Although vending machines are relatively old technology, the demand for a better way to operate and manage this service has birthed an innovative new technology solution that is powered by the Internet of Things (IoT).
Vending machines powered by IoT
Powered by Melita’s LoRaWAN and mobile gateways, melita.io provides the ideal connectivity together with a sim and sensor management portal to enable different IoT solutions that offer vending machine operators the possibility of having complete and real-time access to all their vending machines and their contents.
Controlled remotely via a computerised cloud-based system, vending machines transmit information via smart sensors allowing operators to manage their machines without having to be onsite.
This IoT enabled solution makes it possible to optimise logistical schedules by planning physical visits only when and where necessary. A centralized dashboard provides operators with invaluable data such as the live geo-location of all their vending machines, the real-time stock level of each and every stock item in each machine, transaction tracking, cash flow and availability of small change, temperature levels, any mechanical or electronic faults that might arise, as well as customer data analytics that help run more effective marketing and promotion campaigns.
With such visibility, re-stocking vending machines stop being an almost-blind process thus avoiding unnecessary trips and the transportation of excessive or insufficient stock.
In the case of perishable items, the system also keeps track of each item’s expiry date, automatically triggering alerts whenever disposal of goods becomes necessary.
Some of the very latest vending machines have also been integrated with AI. In cases where an age restriction applies, for example in the sale of tobacco and alcoholic products, IoT and AI-enabled vending machines request identifying documentation whilst facial recognition software verifies the age of the purchaser.
At the end of the day, such a solution enabled through melita.io’s connectivity, not only meets the higher service demands that the whole retail industry is facing, but also reduces a vending machine operator’s costs and carbon footprint, thus bringing it closer to reaching its collective green goals to help save the planet.
To learn more about how melita.io can help your business take advantage of the power of the Internet of Things, contact us.