Digital display content is available through a variety of formats, including: video, flash, MPEG and podcast files. Content can be loaded locally (via USB or CD or DVD) or remotely (via telemetry networking) and can be changed on the fly.
Since the content is normally stored in its own dedicated hard drive, the digital display normally will not take space from vending machine product storage areas.
The content used in digital signage can be uploaded via transference from a handheld media device (USB, CD, or DVD) or remotely through Internet connectivity. So long as the vending operator has a bi-directional remote machine monitoring capability.
The management of digital advertising via telemetry offers another distance application, further strengthening the case for remote machine monitoring (transportation of transactional and operational data in real-time).
SPLIT SCREEN IMAGING
A digital display can provide the ability to create and display different customized presentations using a split-screen feature that enables the unit to display several media sources at the same time.
With a 60/40 split, for example, a vending company could be promoting area businesses on the larger, top portion of the screen while advertising machine-based products in the lower portion.
Two vending suppliers are experimenting with split screen displays both on the vending machine and alongside the machine. "Live" news feeds of television broadcasting are considered too expensive, too hardware-centric, and too invasive to effectively be placed on the front of a vending machine.
There are at least four industry suppliers developing digital signage for the vending channel. Following is a brief summary of their activities.
AVT OFFERS DIGITAL IN NEW MACHINES
Automated Vending Technologies, Inc. (AVT) digital screens are being configured in many of the RAM 4000 vending machines available from AVT. Digital technology is not available to buyers unless it is purchased as part of the machine bundle. There are no component sales, retrofitting possibilities, or modular units under consideration.
The AVT vending machines feature a 7-inch wide screen format square LCD screen playing a looped scheduled sequence of 10- to 15-second advertisements for products available through the machine.
Digital content can be accomplished at the machine or via remote machine monitoring. Content is loaded into the system's flash memory where it resides until deleted or replaced. File size capacity averages 3.5-Mb per advertisement.
In addition to the machine embedded screens, AVT is also testing large screen formats (32-inch LCD) that are wall hung beside the machine and feature advertisements promoting local area businesses and/or business related products.
The firm is also trying a 60/40 split screen format in which the larger section is carrying live television and the smaller area is displaying vending machine product advertisements.
The large screen is linked to the vending machine and controlled by its digital technology components. AVT screens are not touch screen by design, but are available. The company is conducting field tests on about 10 units of varying size and content.
JCM OFFERS DIGITAL THROUGH PARTNERSHIP
JCM American Corp., in partnership with Tovis Co. Ltd. of Korea, offers a line of high-quality, digital display units. In terms of digital displays, Tovis is a leading supplier of application specific LCD fields, and claims to have applied advanced technology uniquely to produce an array of LCD monitors, multi-sync monitors and CGA monitors.
With respect to LCD technology, Tovis claims units are ergonomically designed and built to be slim and ultra flat. The screens feature low-power consumption, wide temperature range, long life, high right LED backlighting and customizable screen frames. LCD screens can optionally be touch screens.
The company supplies LCD technology to a variety of industries. Vending machine mounting is possible, and JCM is contracting OEMs and conducting field tests.
SOLARA TECHNOLOGIES COMBINES A RANGE OF TECHNOLOGIES
Solara Technologies brings together the vending and kiosk industries, debit and credit card processing, and digital signage in the form of a touch screen point-of-purchase terminal. Unlike AVT, Solara will customize a retrofit kit for its digital display system. Its first retrofit was placed into a USI Technologies Combo II vending machine.