Remote Monitoring Session Draws Big Operator Turnout

May 15, 2009
NAMA Spring Expo Conference Report

A panel discussion seminar on remote machine monitoring (RMM) drew a large attendance during the NAMA expo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, reflecting the rising awareness among operators about the benefits of this evolving technology. The seminar, moderated by University of Michigan Prof. Michael Kasavana, included representatives from five companies that are involved in one or more aspects of RMM.

A lively question and answer session followed comments from each of the panelists. Operators in the audience raised several issues, including how to relay information from the machines to field service techs, whether or not it is possible to access information instantaneously versus having the data reported on a scheduled basis, and whether or not RMM eliminates the need for route handhelds.

Glenn Butler, vice president and chief technology officer of Crane Merchandising Systems, explained the need for all technology providers to work together to offer “open” technology standards in their products, whereby an operator who uses one provider for one application can easily incorporate products from other providers.

Greg Hasslinger, vice president of sales at InOne Technology, summarized the hardware required to introduce RMM: DEX and MDB capable equipment, a high-speed Internet connection, and an open mind to change the way of doing things.

Anant Agrawal, chief marketing officer at Cantaloupe Systems, noted RMM provides a key benefit of allowing operators to provide proper service levels to machines. Vending operators have also been able to use the data that the system provides to verify what products are and are not selling, Agrawal said.

Jim Turner, vice president of intelligent vending at USA Technologies Inc., noted that RMM and cashless transaction capability are oftentimes supported by the same communication network.

Doug Haddon, director of technology solutions at MEI, noted that his company’s hardware, which provides payment solutions, is compatible with other cashless solutions, such as USA Technologies’ and Apriva’s.

During the question and answer segment, one operator asked the panelists how the operator communicates information to a field service tech. MEI’s Haddon said there are service dispatch interfaces available.

Another operator asked if pre-kitting routes eliminates the need for route handheld computers. Some panelists said the handheld will be used in a different way in this situation, while one panelist said pre-kitting does eliminate the need for handhelds on the routes.

Another operator commented that even if the route is pre-kitted, the driver will still need the handheld to input exception information.

One panelist asked those operators who are not using RMM why they are not using it. An operator answered that a good driver can handle accounts well without RMM.

Another operator noted that customers want to see the driver on a regular basis. Cantaloupe Systems’ Agrawal said RMM moves responsibility from the route driver to the office. He further noted that drivers who want to make more money will welcome the chance to service more accounts in less time, which is a benefit that RMM can offer.

An operator serving a rural area said he doesn’t have good cellular coverage, to which panelists noted that the Ethernet offers a solution. The ensuing discussion revealed that not all providers presently offer this option.

A fair amount of discussion addressed the ability of a system to relay information instantaneously rather than on a scheduled basis. Some panelists noted that some systems provide this capability, although it requires an additional cost. Others noted that some systems provide machine malfunction alerts immediately.


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