Innovations: Ideas in Action
Walker Digital’s mission is to create new business systems and profitably bring them to market, either by creating a start-up or enabling another company with a license. Examples can be helpful to illustrate how the process works.
Smart Vending Machines
The $20 billion U.S. vending industry consists of 5 million machines and 50 million daily transactions, but the market is shrinking from a variety of demographic factors and the failure to adopt new technologies. The only meaningful technology upgrade has been the addition of the “bill validator” to enable payment with paper currency, and that was 25 years ago.
A low-quality customer experience has also contributed to a decline in performance. Consumers often claim the machines “take my money” and don’t consistently dispense the purchased snack or beverage, with little or no recourse available.
Walker Digital believed the vending industry could be completely reinvented if vending machines were transformed from “dumb terminals” with no local information to data-rich “nodes” on a digital network tied to a central computer.
The traditional vending machine has no knowledge of who its buyers are, what they like, what’s been sold and what hasn’t, or that it’s broken in some way. A smart vending machine knows all that and more.
Customers can create accounts with billing information that automatically reloads when the balance hits $0.00, much like EZ Pass for tolls. Customers no longer need cash of any kind to make a purchase. Called a “Thumb Pass,” customers access their personal accounts with a PIN and their thumbprint, using biometrics.
The system can use the actual transactional history of each vending unit to direct refills and maximize profits.
Machines can be powered down remotely for periods with no historical sales activity (i.e., weekends in an office) to reduce energy costs by 50%.
Consumers can access real-time customer service over the network. Service agents can remotely instruct the machine to drop a certain item, in the event of service failure.
Vending units can create a wireless hotspot for online access by users. Perfect for break room locations.
Vendmore Systems, LLC is Walker Digital’s licensee for the deployment of a smart vending network. After several years of product design, field-testing and software development, Vendmore Systems and its “Quickstore24” has consistently increased sales performance 2-3x and doubled profitability. The company is now preparing for a national rollout.