Product Recognition Solutions: Product Manufacturer Perspective
Following are benefits from a product manufacturer perspective:
- Compliance Concerns – assume an agreement between a product manufacturer and vending operator to provide a specific number of facings, and even specific spiral location, compliance is important. How can the manufacturer, and operator for that matter, be sure that the proper number of facings has been provided? Product recognition can be used to capture the product offerings in all spirals on demand or as sales occur. This type of documentation can be useful in rebate programming, velocity of sales analysis, and contribution margin analysis. Suspicions are relaxed with real time, accurate photographic evidence.
- Value Concerns – proof of sales depends on proper machine filling and replenishment. A careless or sloppy fulfillment will lead to a lack of value for both the manufacturer and operator as well as the consumer. The central issue being that vending operators tend to price all items in the same row (shelf line pricing) at the same price to minimize the chance that a route driver might inadvertently place a higher cost item in a slot with a selling price that will result in a smaller margin or even at a loss. To avoid this situation, operators tend to price all items on the same row at the same selling price. For both the consumer and the product manufacturer, this may have unintended consequences. While the practice of shelf line pricing is designed to avoid selling items at a price that is less than preferred, it has the potential when lower cost items are sold at higher prices, to present an overpriced menu mix when in reality there may only be an item or two that are inappropriately priced. This could eventually lead to poor machine velocity and therefore insufficient sales.
Product Recognition Solutions: Consumer Perspective
Following are benefits from a product consumer perspective:
- Accurate Product Data – important consumer data (manufacturer's nutritional information) can be displayed on a multi-touch screen as selected by the consumer by identifying the candidate product by spiral location, the consumer directs the machine to display the nutritional composition of the vendible product. Product display also likely will meet the governmental requirements for nutritional data in vending.
- Intelligent Product Selection -- smarter purchase decisions can result from better informed product choices. The displayed data can be used as a basis for eventual product selection by the consumer.
- Value Proposition - better pricing schemes provide consumers with better value.
Product Recognition -- Required Hardware
Following are required hardware to implement product recognition software.
- Digital Camera – the device used in product recognition is an electronic board mounted camera capable of capturing color images in even low light conditions. The motor-drive speed of the camera lens enables rapid taking of shot sequences to confirm product dispensing (sure vend) and/or hang-ups or malfunctions. Once image is linked to stored image, the product's stock keeping unit (SKU) is used to provide inventory, pricing, and related information.
- Revision Door -- retrofits are not expected to be readily available – a VEII custom designed vending machine door with camera-ready navigational apparatus built into the door to govern precise camera movement. Revision doors are available in glass front and (soon) with an LCD video monitor front. Universal Control Board (UCB) – the Vendors Exchange plug and play control board is designed to fit most snack vending machines, is equipped with DEX and MDB interfaces as well as an SD card slot for simplified updating of programming, pricing, and other data. The UCB also enables peripheral device connectivity including an LCD touchscreen for the MIND, a motion sensor for LED lighting control, cellular remote communication channel for machine alerts, and a security camera for producing time/date stamped images. The UCB can also be configured with a guaranteed delivery sensor.