Intel sees bright future for PC-controlled vending

Intel is seeking to take the evolution of the vending machine to a new level, by equipping vending machines with controller boards based on powerful microprocessors designed for personal computers, able to run applications that can do much more than determine the value of money inserted and detect the customer’s product selection.

Computers assembled into wide-area networks and controlled through the Internet “cloud” can interact with the public in a number of ways, attracting interest, engaging customers with an array of video graphics and features that enable personalised service, and easily accommodating the ever-growing spectrum of payment options.

The company believes that this will help impel the shift, already well under way, from vending machines as dedicated product delivery devices to intelligent, stand-alone systems that will ultimately attract more customers, sell more product and generate a new revenue stream from advertising.

The so-called “intelligent vending machines” have dynamic digital displays and interactive touchscreen controls. The touch-based interface lets
consumers select merchandise easily. They can interact with the machine directly or through their smartphones for wide-ranging applications,
like getting a mobile coupon that they can use to make a purchase now or later. Intelligent venders also leverage gesture and facial-recognition technology to detect and respond to individual customers, thus creating “a fuller, more engaging shopping experience”.

They are wirelessly connected for seamless remote management and inventory control. The operator can remotely change pricing in real time based on what’s selling, and get anonymous data on who’s in front of the machine and the remote machine management capability for all these functions is built in. All the capabilities and data from these technologies give the vending operator greater operational efficiency by better managing the machine and better understanding what is being bought, it also gives brand marketers the opportunity to conduct targeted, personalised campaigns, which gives the operator a new revenue source.

The intelligent vender is an excellent advertising medium. Vending machines are attractions, by their nature, and they tend to be located where people congregate. They are designed with large display areas that can accommodate large flatscreen monitors; and intelligent vending machines are online, so new advertisements can be initiated remotely.

An example of this technology is Coca-Cola’s Intelligent Vending Machine, which is powered by a second-generation Intel Core processor. Its dynamic touchscreen display makes purchasing a bottle of Coca-Cola a fun, interactive activity by incorporating games and applications, including social media integration. It also “knows” the gender and approximate age of each customer, through its facial recognition system, and it predicts the type of drink that patron is likely to prefer.

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