How artificial intelligence can help convenience services operators

Nov. 14, 2023
From more engaging smart vending machines to machine learning for tracking inventory and buying patterns, artificial intelligence offers a range of advanced technology solutions for operators.

Technological innovations in artificial intelligence are making vending machines more efficient and engaging to use. AI advancements can also help operators track inventory, optimize routes, track machine issues, prevent malfunctions and analyze buying patterns to determine the right products at the right location for the right customer. These are just a few examples of how AI companies are offering solutions to help operators in the convenience services industry, specifically for vending machines and micro markets.

In the 2023 NAMA Show educational session, Technologies Trending in Convenience Services, panelists discussed the impact of artificial intelligence in the convenience services industry. Paresh Patel, founder and CEO of PayRange, compared the sentiments of AI to when the internet was in its infancy. He said that every company is trying to integrate it into their products, and for the vending industry, it can be used in several ways, such as customer service support, merchandising and pre-kitting, which can all be beneficial to operators.

Carly Furman, CEO of Nayax, discussed how Nayax is using AI in card payment options, such as utilizing transaction data and offering value to customers through personalized loyalty programs. And, John Hickey, co-founder and president of Tech 2 Success, which offers IT services such as cloud migrations and management, e-commerce solutions and vending technology solutions, explained how AI can be used for customer data sales retention or reducing defects in machines to operate more efficiently. He added that using a data analyst may be helpful in understanding what technology can do for specific needs.

AI-powered vending machines

Hivery is a technology company that provides advanced systems for AI-powered vending machines. Hivery Enhance helps vending machine operators by applying machine learning to the data directly from a VMS. Hivery Enhance can also optimize planograms for each vending machine in a fleet. In 2018, Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling teamed up with Hivery for a pilot program with impressive results – 15% fewer restocking trips and 6% in additional revenues. 

Harman Digital Transformation Solutions is another company that is taking AI even further by offering a voice-activated vending machine with conversational intelligence and advanced payment options. By combining conversational AI with digital kiosk technology, customers can use self-service solutions without touching the screen. Harman's eNOVA features Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and high-quality human speech synthesis. It can upsell offers for the user’s persona and preferences, and the vending machine can be enhanced with proximity sensors for demography detection to determine customer persona. The experience is enriched with voice-enabled assistance in product search, selection, ordering and payment.

Swyft, a San Francisco-based global provider of smart robotic vending machines and a range of satellite retail solutions, offers robotics and software to reduce customer friction and eliminate shrink. Its technology leverages AI and machine learning to predict customer behavior. Swyft's smart vending technology harnesses the power of big data to feed its AI engine, providing an understanding of the consumer as well as operational efficiency. Each interaction can be tracked and analyzed, from the choice of products to the time spent interacting with the system. The data is fed into the Swyft Cloud, where its AI technology sifts through, classifying and analyzing patterns to generate insights. These insights guide businesses on selecting products, which can help enhance revenue and streamline operations. Its solutions also offer real-time inventory – in which recommendations can optimize inventory levels and efficiently manage inventory to minimize waste. 

Invenda Group AG, a leader in next-generation automated retail, recently partnered with Quividi, a leader in AI and computer-vision-based platforms providing real-time audience measurement and shopper engagement for digital out-of-home and retail. The partnership delivers high-fidelity audience impressions to Invenda's entire network of vending machines.

Invenda’s Internet of Retail technology powers smart vending machines featuring screens of up to 49 inches that can be leveraged to drive incremental advertising revenues. The screen space is sold through programmatic platforms and partner media brokers.

AI in unattended retail

SandStar AI Retail Technology is another artificial intelligence company, which provides computer vision technology for the retail industry. Its solutions engage shoppers with grab-and-go convenience, autonomous checkout and data analytics. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., the company provides smart kiosks, computer vision smart shops and smart store analytics. SandStar’s dynamic computer vision detects what is taken out of – or put back – into the kiosk and creates a shopping cart where the customer can quickly and easily confirm or correct their purchase. At NAMA 2023, SandStar unveiled a range of cutting-edge technologies, including QR code payment, age verification, and ChatVMS and ChatStore, as well as two new models, 21 Plus and Brew Buddy. SandStar's ChatVMS and ChatStore technologies, powered by natural language-based data analysis and recommendations, provide businesses with streamlined experiences, data-driven insights and automated operations.

Generative AI technology

Generative AI, a type of advanced AI, along with other technologies like computer vision, object recognition, advanced sensors and deep machine learning models, are being used in Amazon’s Just Walk Out unattended retail stores. Amazon research teams are using a type of generative AI called generative adversarial network (GAN) to create synthetic data for training Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology. The team used datasets from millions of AI-generated synthetic images and video clips mimicking realistic shopping scenarios, including variations in store format, lighting conditions and crowds of shoppers. This training allowed Amazon to scale the original Just Walk Out technology to a system that can recognize millions of actions, minimizing mistakes, so when a customer exits, there is an accurate account of their purchases.

These technological innovations will continue to advance convenience services – as this is only the beginning of AI’s capabilities.


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