Architecture – Vending machines are governed by a vending machine controller that monitors inputs, processes, and outputs; kiosks are PC-based devices normally running a Windows or Linux operating system. The Web is a network of networks amenable to a variety of computing platforms.
Payment processing – Vending machines are equipped to primarily handle coins and currency payments and occasionally open (credit and debit card) or closed (paykey, RFID, payroll direct) payments. Kiosks are built with a high expectation of electronic payment transactions but may be equipped to handle cash payments; the web is strictly a non-cash payment business.
Marketing – A vending machine features product packaging, displayed behind a glassfront, that conforms to mechanical (spiral and coil) restrictions; kiosks and Web marketing usually involve dynamic digital displays with multiple product views as well as extensive product information. Many applications also provide a mechanism for package customization or personalized purchasing.
Products – Vending machines are limited in product offerings based on the number of columns or selection options on the machine; kiosk screens can feature a large number of products and product sizes and unless connected to a delivery mechanism are flexible in product mix. Websites can feature almost an infinite array of products through hyperlinks and search engine capabilities.
Services – Vending machines are incapable of offering concierge services and are limited to the product inventory of the machine. Kiosks and Websites can link to the power of the Internet and numerous remote sites for access to a wide variety of concierge services.
For simplicity, it may suffice to conclude that differentiation may be made based on the fact that vending tends to be product-centric while kiosks tend to be information-centric. The table on page 70 contains a comparative listing of several features from the three main self-service technology applications.
Full line vending will change
The future of vending technology will be impacted by the explosion of self-service technologies that are permeating nearly all aspects of the hospitality industry. The shift is expected to bring significant changes in how vending operators plan, control, manage, and evaluate operations.
While most in the vending industry will consider the convergence of innovative applications as evolutionary, others anticipate the changes will more likely be revolutionary. Self-service technologies are expected to revitalize an otherwise stagnant vending landscape in an effort to enhance customer experience, improve profitability, and create a more efficient management model.
In the next installment of this two-part series, we will examine some of the advances in vending technology that will be impacted by self service technologies.
About the Author
Michael Kasavana, Ph.D. is the NAMA endowed professor in hospitality management at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. He has been researching vending technology for several years.