Wireless, Web-based monitoring technology from Cantaloupe Systems is helping law enforcement and vending machine operators across the country combat a troublesome and expensive problem that has long bedeviled the $20 billion American vending industry: break-ins and thefts from unprotected vending machines.
Camelback Vending of Phoenix, Ariz. recently used San Francisco-based Cantaloupe Systems' Seed technology to coordinate with local police and catch two thieves in the late-night act of breaking into and robbing vending machines at local high schools. Not only did Seed alert Camelback Vending, but its automatic inventory of cash on hand helped the operator recover all her lost cash while providing evidence against the thief in court.
Cantaloupe Systems' Seed is a wireless device that monitors all transactions and transmits data securely so operators have access to real time overviews of inventory and sales trends. Seed also alerts operators via text or email whenever someone opens their machines' doors, highlighting any unusual activities. In recent cases, operators (one of whom is blind) received text alerts that machine doors had been opened after hours and either rushed to the site themselves to find thieves in the act, or alerted police officers to the crime in progress.
In Hopkinton, Mass., Seed alerted P&J's Vending that a machine's door had been opened during a time that it was not being serviced. That machine and others, it turned out, were being robbed by an elusive thief. While pursuing the robber, P&J's Vending used Seed's reports to track which machines were affected, what time they were broken into, and how much money was stolen. P&J's owners had a suspect in mind, but the police needed to catch the thief in the act to make an arrest. Finally, thanks to the GPS device on the thief's cell phone and Seed, P&J's owners were able to alert the police during a break-in, and the suspect was arrested.
In Hilton Head, S.C., Palmetto Vending had suffered a string of thefts it was unable to solve. As is often the case, local police were reluctant to get involved because it's hard to catch a perpetrator in the act. At that time, Palmetto Vending's machines were having Cantaloupe Seed wireless devices installed to monitor sales and inventory remotely. Within days of installation, Seed alerted Palmetto's executives that a machine in a car dealership was being opened long after business hours. The police were able to catch the perpetrator, who was then tied to previous robberies by DNA evidence.
"We never could have stopped the thief without Cantaloupe Systems, it's as simple as that," said Jodi Glimpse, vice president of business development at Camelback Vending in a prepared statement. "We didn't install Seed primarily to catch thieves, but it's always great to get extra benefits – such as monitoring each machine from afar – from a product we like so much anyway. I used to feel like a helpless victim of thieves who hit our machines in schools and other unprotected places. Now, with Cantaloupe Systems, I feel in charge. One of the police officers we worked with said the technology from Cantaloupe Systems is better than most school alarm systems."
Anant Agrawal, co-founder of Cantaloupe Systems commented: "Our goal is to bring to the vending industry the same 21st century technical capabilities used in most other retail segments. Theft and vandalism have long been serious problems for operators, and there wasn't much operators could do about it. They were simply considered part of the cost of doing business. Now that's changed. Our Seed system gives operators extensive information about the state of their machines in real time, all the time. This detailed information allows them to 'see' their machines and protect them – and the property owners that host vending machines – from vandalism and loss of income. This is just one of many benefits Cantaloupe Systems customers are discovering as they equip their machines with our solutions."