6) Pay key reader. A proprietary RFID chip is embedded in plastic casing no larger than the size of a standard mechanical house key. The pay key reader enables cash value to be loaded (and reloaded) to the chip through coin and bill acceptance at the vending machine, at a free-standing reload station, or through Website posting.
The pay key forms a closed transaction system and is an alternate to more traditional reader options. A proprietary pay key reader enables cashless purchases from stored value carried on the RFID chip in the key.
7) Proprietary reader. Several forms of non-standard payment formats exist, including proprietary smart cards, prepaid cards, key tags, and related payment media platforms. The processing of a transaction with this form of cashless settlement parallels pay key reader processing.
8) Combo reader. Although not yet in the field, there is interest in a double check system that requires two forms of identification to establish validation (e.g., PIN-code and biometric capture or RFID and biometric capture). Using both forms of proof ensures buyer authentication.
A combination approach provides a higher degree of security for traffic at an unattended point of sale. Data processing for a completed transaction parallels other outcomes with postings to a consumption database and subsidized or reimbursable meals settlement system.
Student identification authorization is initiated by data capture at a machine mounted reader. This data is transmitted to a POS network database that verifies the student's identity and the existence of an active student account.
The account is considered active so long as it has available funds for product purchasing and/or qualification status for reduced price or free (reimbursable) goods.
Some meal vending machines may also be equipped for cash acceptance, through a coin mechanism and bill validator, during day parts when meal service is not offered.
Prepayments typify school foodservice
Regardless of ability to accept cash, there is a heavy reliance on prepayments in school foodservice operations.
Typically, deposits to establish or reload prepayment accounts can be completed onsite, via telephone or online. Forms of deposit may include cash, check, credit card, debit card, and e-bank transfer payment.
A prepaid system enables school administrators and authorized users (health care professionals) to review who is buying which products, where, and at what time of day. This data can be analyzed for food choice patterning, meal component preferences, nutritional valuation, spending habit trends, and additional dimensions of data mining.
Additionally, advanced software applications provide online parental access to the student's account. Parents can log in and review what has been purchased, when, and the nutritional value of purchases.
Parents may also be provided the ability to set parameters that block product categories, restrict choices, or limit dollar spending based on allergies, personal preference, healthy habit training, and budgeting.
Meal component Dispensing
Meal components can be dispensed as a complete meal when component parts are selected using a build-to-order (BTO) format. In this case, the student selects from among component category choices to form a custom-made complete meal.
Alternately, the foodservice department can pre-assemble meals and place packaged selections into the vending machine.
In either case, the machine offers another foodservice distribution point without the need for additional service personnel. Part of the motivation to address product delivery is adherence to subsidized or reimbursable meal requirements that student received all required parts (component-based meals or pre-packaged meals) to qualify for settlement.
Machine formats differ
Machine suppliers differ on the adequacy of various vending machine formats to accomplish this assembly of components or complete meals for dispensing.
The use of a modified snack machine (with spirals or coils), for example, may be well suited to dispensing meal components, but not most appropriate for delivering a complete prepackaged meal.