As the vending industry faces a customer base comprised of smaller accounts, vending operators have no choice but to improve their operating efficiencies to become more profitable. One tool that will allow them to do this is the innovative technology that new vending machines are offering.
There is a handful of different technologies in today’s vending machines, each identified by an acronym. Regular readers of Automatic Merchandiser have come across acronyms such as DEX, MDB and possibly DTS. This article will attempt to explain these technologies and how they work together.
Generic technology emerges
A multi-drop bus, MDB, is an internal communication protocol designed to ensure that coin mechs, bill validators and cashless payment devices can be properly interfaced to a vending machine controller without regard to proprietary manufacturing. The key benefit MDB brought is the fact that it is a generic technology.
MDB has often been compared to the plug-and-play standards common to generic computer component interfacing. One consistent standard covers bills, coins and credit/debit cards. It replaced prior practices built on product-specific design connectivity. Each device had its own interface with separate and incompatible harnesses.
MDB represents a movement toward open system architecture enabling a variety of peripheral devices to automatically become functional.
DEX: Another open architecture
The Data EXchange standard, DEX, is another open architecture. DEX is the set of data protocols that enable a vending operator’s software to communicate with the machine’s data collection.
DEX allows for the capture of product inventory, product movement and cash auditing data. DEX data is designed to assist operators with machine replenishment strategies,
product mix rotations, and validation of cash collected. The immediate benefit that DEX provides a vending operator
is improved cash accountability.
Expanded cash accountability enables comprehensive control by product, cash meter, and cash collection. In order to optimize profit margins while controlling operating expenses, DEX data can play an important role in productivity and profitability.
Data transfer standards
Since standards existed that controlled the collection and storage of data, a Data Transfer Standard, DTS, was devised so that the data could be
exported from the machine in a decipherable electronic format.
Once the information is transmitted, it can be entered into a vending management software system and used to determine product replenishments and warehouse requirements to refill each machine. This is known as pre-kitting. Often, the DTS protocol is considered an integral part of the DEX standard.
Let’s consider how MDB, DEX and DTS work together.
MDB supports peripheral devices
MDB is also known as the multi-drop bus/internal communication protocol (MDB/ICP) and is maintained jointly by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) and the European Vending Association (EVA). One standard operates globally.
The MDB standard defines the serial bus interface used in electronically controlled vending machines so that all machines supporting peripheral equipment communicate identically. MDB is designed to capture transactional data, including method of payment, purchase price and change paid. When combined with time of transaction and possibly column information, it can formulate a transaction record.
While the MDB bus is designed to support up to 32 peripheral devices simultaneously, there typically are three devices connected to the MDB bus:
1) coin mech (acceptor/authenticator/storage/change dispensing), 2) bill validator (acceptor/authenticator/storage), and 3) cashless payment device.
The master communication channel
A vending machine has one master communication channel, the vending machine controller (VMC). The role of the VMC is to control the peripheral equipment (coin mech, bill validator, cashless payment device, etc.) interfaced with the electronic circuitry of the machine so component parts operate properly.