Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Interactive touch screen vending machines

Rice vending machines, Japan.Image via Wikipedia

Its been a little too long since the last post (sorry!), but there's been a lot of activity behind the scenes building our first batch of machines, and plenty of work to keep us all busy. More on that soon, but this article today on Springwise reminded me that the developments in the vending world are still largely limited to gimmicky changes to the look and feel of the machines.
Interactive, touch screens have been built in to provide a "whole new level of consumer interaction to automatic vending" - and there was I thinking I only wanted to buy a can of coke, be able to use a note or my debit card to pay, and at the very least least not have my change snaffled!
The article mentions that time has been spent building in cameras and equipment to track vandalism, rather than to attempt to make the buyer's experience more beneficial! (unsatisfactory vends are often the cause of frustration, leading to malicious damage).
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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Exciting (fresh) things ahead.

Milestone, Woodhouse Moor, LeedsImage by mackius via FlickrIts been a hectic and exciting couple of weeks here at Go4Fresh; here's a quick update on whats been going on:

> We've passed the milestone (hence the picture, sorry!) in our FSE funding conditions, so are now set to complete the build of the first batch of machines
> The first two machines have successfully run a trial period with local staff near our offices in Shoreham
> We have the first locations for our machines agreed and will be installing soon!
> We've had a couple of great meetings with the NHS (see previous post) who seem to be behind our project, and we've been well received with the local hospitals so far
> There's been some very good interest from retailers and also a HUGE organisation that I will have to keep under wraps for the moment (itching to say, though!)

In fact, there's lots of other things going on, but as I write, I realise that I can't share any of that just yet - you'll have to take my word for it that its all good and moving us forward with the project (which in itself is growing in potential as we go!)

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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Fresh food initiative in NHS

Almost all developed countries have government...Image via WikipediaI've just got back from a great meeting with a procurement innovator in the NHS. With the research we have from previous conversations, and trials a few years ago, we had already identified a huge potential opportunity for the 24 hour provision of healthy, short shelf-life snack foods within hospitals, both for patients as well as staff, and today confirmed that we are on the .

The very helpful contact we met today has given us further insight into how the current system of vending and catering operations fit within the NHS business model and I've returned to my desk to review our approach and set up some key meetings with potential brands who could take advantage of the opportunity our micro-retailing units provide. It certainly seems that there is intention to provide healthier options to patients and staff, as prescribed (no pun intended!) in this NHS food procurement initiative. I now have a clearer understanding of how an offering like ours may also be measured from a fiscal perspective as well as answering tangible moral and CSR aspects.

There was also keen interest in potentially using our technology to safely store, audit and "vend" drugs and samples only to specified staff - its another avenue I have been exploring for some time that our technology addresses very well - more on that at a later date.
All in all, a great meeting - thanks Dave!

I am interested in your views.

  • Are you in the NHS?
  • Do you think that the food provided currently(whether for staff or patients) is healthy?
  • Is it fresh?
  • Can you get something to eat that you want, at a time you want it?
  • Do you think healthy food provision within the NHS is high enough on the agenda?
Please let me know!

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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

First vends made!

Wow! - Today I witnessed the first few people actually buy product from our final proof-of-concept machine.

Ian Rowling, the brains behind the scenes has completed all the integration tasks that were required to upgrade our interface screen to full colour and touch-screen functionality, re-tested all the system components and got the demo systems up and running...

..so we have started a live trial. We are aiming to simulate the placement of a machine in an office environment with regualr customers using it.

And the initial feedback has been very encouraging.

The (almost) free lunches
Around 30 people from local businesses around our workshops in Shoreham are now visiting daily to buy product (as supplied by our partner company Nibbles) and try the machine out for themselves.

The trial will run for about a week, and enable us to identify and iron-out any final bugs or interface issues that the public find or feedback to us about. We are actively encouraging feedback through a feedback form and discussions with each user as follows:
> Each user has been shown the machine, then left to pay for and purchase the products each day themselves.
> Each purchaser is given a feedback form for each time they use the machine, which they have to complete and return as a receipt.
> Purchaser eats product.
> Purchaser completes form - we are seeking to capture any and all feedback about the machine, the interface, the experience itself and the products bought.
> At the end of the trial period, we repay the monies spent to each user as a thank you for taking part.

Then we will collate all the data about the trial from our remote interrogation of the machine and build a picture of the times that people used the machine (helpful for knowing when is best to refill it), the condition of each product (how long it was in the machine and time of vend), the temperature of the machine at all times and the money taken.

We can then map this against the data received via the feedback forms to ensure that we have accuracy and continuity.

We will also have a list of things that we may need to attend to before our first placements are made (scheduled for early next month).

If you are taking part in the trial, thank you! and please feel free to feedback below!

How was it for you?

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Clarifying Telemetry in Vending

There is increasing movement in the vending industry toward adding intelligence to vending machines and this link to MEI (Thanks Duncan!) illustrates how a major component supplier to the industry have developed a means of reporting back what a vending machine is doing.

However, it is often a lot like adding ABS brakes to a horse and cart.

Vending machines traditionally are not designed to control how the stock is put in and therefore any reporting is only as good as the operator doing the filling. It is quite viable for instance that an operator may not completely fill a unit, but the machines are not clever enough to know this and can continue to vend fresh air when the stock runs out - however, a remote monitoring device will merely report that a vend was made..

Most vending units are designed to provide as cheap and effective means of vending a particular product, with little regard as to how the stock is managed.

Our machines offer telemetry, but, since they were also designed to control how stock is added into the machine, the chance of operator error is almost entirely removed. In addition to this, the remote control facilities we have built in mean that we can actually remotely reset and correct certain errors without sending an engineer.

I was delighted to hear about MEI's developments in this space however, as it is further evidence of interest in the future development of remote retailing as the vending industry gets closer to the retail sector. Of course, at Go4Fresh we can already remote retail - yes, its fresh food today, but we can retail just about anything you want, with full stock, inventory and distribution reporting (oh, and did I mention the remote access and control we offer, too?)

There's telemetry, and there's TELEMETRY!

(photo credit> found_drama)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

We make the SEEDA news

The government backed South East Enterprise Hub recently interviewed us to publish a news article about our successful application for (and winning) of the commercialisation funding.

They have provided good ancilliary support in addition to the funding award and I am continuing to work with them on future articles and news releases.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

First sites agreed!

We've done it!

Today we signed up the first confirmed site - a really high profile and relevant site, too - William Reed business media in Gatwick, publishers of The Grocer amongst other industry topics - and we are very chuffed!

It looks like we shall also have a second site confirmed very shortly, another really high profile name that will add further credibility to our offering.

And we've got another few who are very keen to take things further, so we shall be carring out site surveys and checks to see if they are suitable locations to make a success for us and the client.

In all, we now have locations for around 6 machines pretty much signed up, and increasing interest for other locations, but note, we were only looking to launch with 10-15 machines for our pilot phase to complete our final proof of concept testing!

At William Reed we met today with Chris to plan out an appropriate launch strategy with them and we will be doing something along thse lines:
> internal awareness raising
> survey to staff
> Menu distribution
> external PR
> taste test to all staff
> banner promoting "machine coming!"
> installation
> ongoing feedback

Its all going in the right direction - and we got a good mention in the South East Business publication today, too.

Look out for a Go4Fresh machine in a location near you soon!