Reducing Vending Machine Restock Trips

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INDUSTRY BACKGROUND

Vending machines are a simple and profitable business model if the deployed location has a reasonable level of demand. Since vending machines are a passive business model, it is difficult to push sales, so the most effective method of optimizing net income is to reduce operating expenses. The challenge is when the inventory is sold out, the interval between each restock is unpredictable due to the inconsistency in the demand of the day and sales between different products.

In response to this challenge, vending machines reduce operating expenses by reducing power usage and the frequency of restocking inventory. Vending machines in less populated areas install BLE motion detectors and scan for pedestrians before turning on the display lights and LED screen to reduce power usage. BLE sensors are also used to measure inventory levels, and automatically send restock alerts when inventory is low to avoid excessive restocks.

Project Requirements

Our partner, an ODM designer and manufacturer of smart vending machines, is looking to connect all smart vending machines to its cloud server. The company manufactures a wide range of vending machines, each containing different modules required for its products. Each module contains sensors for collecting data and moderators for adjusting the device settings based on the collected data.

Aside from an IoT motion detection unit, an inventory count unit and a coin sorting and storage module installed on most vending machines, other IoT modules installed on each categories include:

  • Cold beverages: Temperature and humidity control.
  • Hot beverages: Water filtration, temperature control, and PSI pressure control.
  • Reheated food: re-heating module, PSI pressure control and automatic fire suppression system.
  • Dry Snacks: Weight sensors and timers.
  1. Low power consumption
  2. The goal of utilizing sensors and moderators into vending machines is to reduce operating cost. Therefore, the operating expense of the network hardwares, sensors and moderators must generate less operating expense in comparison to the cost it saves.

  3. Remote management
  4. Once the vending machines are deployed, every physical inspection deployment accumulates operating expenses. All hardware modules installed on the vending machine must require minimal maintenance to minimise such expense.

Solution

In response to the low operating expense challenge, we needed a lightweight network device that has a minimalist but reliable IoT communication capabilities that has the lowest power consumption. The most suitable network device for the scenario is GL-S100, our compactly designed BLE or Zigbee IoT gateway for translating BLE signals from IoT devices installed on the vending machines to the cloud via Wi-Fi protocol.

All GL-S100 gateways are pre-configured with the vending machine's IoT device IDs before deployment to simplify the installation process. All gateways are connected to our partner’s vending machine management application for their independent clients to manage vending machines directly. At the same time, the gateways are also uploaded to GoodCloud, our remote routers and gateways management platform for remote monitoring, reconfiguring settings and analyzing network traffic.

By implementing GL-S100 and its network to vending machines, our partner and its clients gain oversight on all devices deployed on the field, reducing the need for physical maintenance, and ultimately enjoys a reduced operating expense.

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