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NAMA Show 2021

Surging self-service innovation responds to technologically empowered consumers

The 2021 NAMA Show in New Orleans hosted a wealth of education sessions and a trade show showcasing extensive innovations.

Surging self-service innovation responds to technologically empowered consumersPhoto courtesy of the National Automatic Merchandising Association.


| by Elliot Maras — Editor, Kiosk Marketplace & Vending Times

After 18 months of pandemic restrictions, the convenience services industry got a dose of inspiration at the National Automatic Merchandising Association Show at the Ernest N. Morial Center in New Orleans last week.

Not everyone planning to attend was able to experience the progress on display at the convention as the city of New Orleans reimposed some COVID restrictions early in the week, causing a number of exhibitors and attendees to cancel their plans. But those who came found the journey well worth their time.

The educational sessions focused on pressing business and operational issues facing operators, while the trade show showcased an exceptional wealth of innovation. One undisputable takeaway is that product, equipment and technology manufacturers have used the pandemic downtime to develop products to meet a more technologically empowered consumer.

Touchless options were a common theme at many equipment exhibits, driven by the pandemic and the improved convenience consumers are demanding. Such technologies have expanded beyond mobile wallets, tap-and-pay and facial recognition to include eye tracking. In addition, payment technology providers introduced cryptocurrency payment acceptance for vending machines.

On the product side, functional and wellness options were more visible, complementing the traditional food, beverages and snacks.

Following are highlights from the trade show floor in alphabetical order.

Dan Fletcher presents the Aquabeve touchless bottled water dispenser.

Aquabeve

Aquabeve introduced its Inspirations touchless bottled water and filtration coolers that use infrared sensors to activate water dispensing.

The user places their cup in the dispense area for cold water or activates the hot water safety sensor first to dispense hot water. The user can stop dispensing at any time by removing the cup from the dispense area.

The units, available in black and white, work with a variety of cups and glasses.

Dispensers are available for bottled water or point-of-use filtration applications.

Tristan Goldberg shows the SimpliGet pickup locker from Avanti Markets.

Avanti Markets

Avant Markets, a micro market kiosk hardware and software provider, introduced its SimpliGet pickup locker, enabling convenience services operators to expand their reach and share of customer business. The locker is part of an online ordering system that notifies customers when orders are ready for pickup.

The system provides a contactless way for customers to order and integrates with an operator's existing kitchen or local food partners. Customers place orders using funds from their Avanti Market Card accounts. Once a customer places an order, the kitchen receives the order and the customer receives an SMS or email notification to pick up the order at the locker.

Operators can set up SimpliGet locations through the platform they already use for Avanti Markets. The SimpliGet Manage site allows them to manage menus and track orders and deliveries.

Hannah Erickson of Irisbond demonstrates the eye tracking technology at the Azkoyen booth.


Azkoyen Group

The Azkoyen Group, a Spanish multinational technology company that manufactures automated products, demonstrated eye tracking technology from Irisbond that will allow customers to control the drink selection process simply by staring at the screen.

The user stares at the sections on the screen to activate the coffee selection and preparation processes. Infrared-based eye tracking technology analyzes the user's gaze, enabling the user to control the functions without touching the machine.

Faustino Salcedo shows the Vitro M5 coffee machine to be introduced in the U.S. in 2022.


The technology does not require or store user information.

The Irisbond technology was demonstrated on a free standing display screen that controlled order and preparation for a nearby coffee dispensing machine. The eye tracking technology will be incorporated into the actual coffee machine.

Azkoyen Group also demonstrated its Vitro M5 coffee machine with fresh milk, which will be available in the U.S. in 2022.

The current Vitro 5 available in the U.S. features Azkoyen "air touch" technology that allows a consumer to obtain a product without touching the machine. The user can select product holding his or her fingers from up to two centimeters from the selection panel surface.

Cantaloupe Systems Inc. introduced several products and enhancements.

Cantaloupe Inc.

Cantaloupe Inc. announced several products and enhancements.

  • The company's acquisition of Yoke Payments, announced a day before the convention, brings Cantaloupe a self-checkout kiosk that integrates with the company's inventory management and payment processing platforms.
  • The Campus Card enables students to add campus cards to their mobile wallets, enabling them to pay for goods on campus and access amenities. The functionality will be compatible with ePort G10 readers and is only available with Apple Wallet at launch, with Android compatibility to be added in the near future.
  • The company's MORE mobile engagement now includes browser-based app-less experience to enable payment with cryptocurrency, touchless vending and loyalty programs. Cryptocurrency payments will be available on Cantaloupe ePort readers through the company's recent integration with the Bakkt platform and will be available in the fall of 2021.
  • ePort Engage, the next generation of the ePort interactive touchscreen, offers a 3.5-inch color touchscreen and accepts EMV chip and other payment types.
  • ePort Engage Combo, a 2.5-inch screen version of the Engage reader, fits over a machine's bill validator and supports two different bill acceptors: Coinco and MEI – 66mm for U.S. bills and 72mm for Canadian bills.
  • Seed Warehouse App, a mobile app version of the existing warehouse app, will be offered on both Apple and Android devices in winter of 2021.
  • Seed Mobile will be available on Android devices through the Android app store by spring of 2022.
  • The list of compatible machines for remote price change will include Royal G3 (660/804) and Dixie Narco BevMax 4 beverage machines by winter of 2021.

Doug Bledsoe shows the non-mechanical cooler from Delivery Concepts Inc.


Delivery Concepts Inc.

Delivery Concepts Inc., a manufacturer of delivery solutions for the food industry, presented a non-mechanical cooler that uses gel packs to keep products frozen overnight. The unit uses 3-inch insulation and convection heating to ensure a consistent temperature without the need of open flames or propane gas.

The vehicle inserts are compatible with most chasses and can be used in combination with vehicle conversions to add an interior holding oven in a refrigerated vehicle.

Kellie Langeness presents the touchless Smartwell dispenser at the Elkay booth.

Elkay

Elkay presented its Smartwell beverage dispensers with touchless operation that allows customers to view nutritional information from a mobile device and create custom beverages.

The customer downloads the free app to their mobile device, opens the app and scans the QR code on the screen to make selections and dispense their beverage.

The operator can manage all connected Smartwell units from an Internet portal, where they can receive alerts to replace flavors, enhancements, filters and carbon dioxide. The operator can automatically order new multi-use pouches and filters and review dashboards to understand performance and usage trends.

Elkay service providers handle carbon dioxide tank replacement and can perform preventative maintenance using touchscreen prompts.

Colleen Morris demonstrates the Fastcorp machines.


Fastcorp Vending

Fastcorp Vending demonstrated several robotic machines, conveyor machines and custom vending machines.

The Divi series of robotic machines that move product from the shelves to the retrieval bin using a robotic arm offer several temperature options, including ambient, refrigerated, frozen and ambient with refrigerated or frozen.

The Sami series conveyor machines use a drop sensor for dispensing, a proprietary T3 conveyor system and a touchscreen that allows content control for running ads, promotions and videos. The machines accept credit cards, debit cards, tap-and-pay as well as Apple Pay.

One custom machine on display featured quick-frozen coffee beads and creamers under the brand, "40 degrees Below Joe," an established brand that is expanding into self service.

Miguel Gonzalez and Brendan Duffy present the Mitaly compostable pods.

Gudpod

Miguel Gonzalez presents the beverage dispenser that uses a whipper to produce a frothy drink.

Gudpod, a beverage product manufacturer, demonstrated 100% compostable Keurig and Nespresso compatible pods from Italian coffee manufacturer Mitaly, for which Gudpod is the North American distributor.

The pod's plant-based multi-layer substrate protects the contents from oxygen, light and moisture degradation for a full 24 months. Once the pods are used and recycled, they fully biodegrade in 90 days in commercial composting facilities, according to the company.

The pods are certified as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

Gudpod also presented a beverage dispenser that mixes a powder pod using a whipper device to produce a frothy beverage.

An attendee enters the Hitachi Automated Shop.

Hitachi/Shekel Brainweigh

Hitachi demonstrated its Automated Shop that uses sensors, gateways, intelligent shelving and analytics to bring a self-service shopping experience to brick-and-mortar locations.

Customers enter the shop using a membership card, an app, a QR code or finger vein hard-wave scan. Once inside, they can select their items from "intelligent" shelves, then exit the store. Their account is automatically debited upon exiting.

The unit uses Shekel Brainweigh product aware shelves to weigh and identify products that are taken. Once products are removed from the shelves, the system opens a virtual shopping basket for the customer.

Hitachi 3D Lidar sensors track product interactions and shopper movements, providing granular, privacy protected customer movement analysis. Shopper insights and in-store analytics are displayed on Hitachi's visualization suite.

The customer checks out at an exit gateway looking at a screen equipped with computer vision technology provided by UST, a digital transformation solutions provider.

Alfonso Garcia and Rod Calhoun present the Parlevel Cater Kiosk.

Parlevel Systems Inc.

Parlevel Systems, a vending and micro market software and hardware provider, introduced Cater, a self-order and checkout kiosk for foodservice locations. The kiosk allows customers to browse menus, customize orders and pay.

The kiosk features a touchscreen, a payment terminal that accepts a variety of payments, a barcode scanner for grab and go, an RFID badge reader for rapid login, a receipt printer and a front-facing camera.

The kiosk can be paired with another POS device to make customer service more efficient.

The company also offers a kitchen display screen to allow the back house to prepare orders placed at the kiosk or by a mobile app. The KDS features color coded cards, smart timers, order prioritizing capability and other tools to help staff fulfill orders.

Chris Blomquist of Parlevel presents the hubz cooler.

Parlevel Systems Inc./Shekel Brainweigh/Imbera Cooling

Parlevel Systems, Shekel Brainweigh and Imbera Cooling introduced the hubz smart cooler to enable customers to purchase product autonomously. The cooler can be accessed when the customer presents a payment method.

Powered by Shekel Brainweig's product aware technology, IoT load sensors and machine learning algorithms, Parlevel's management system and Imbera's cooler technology, the solution detects which product a customer selects and charges them as they close the cooler door.

While the cooler is open, customers can browse product options, select products and return previously selected items.

Customers are advised of their selections in real time via an interactive touchscreen and provided with a receipt.

DS Shridhar presents the cashless card reader that accepts cash at the Pyramid Technologies booth.

Pyramid Technologies Inc.

Pyramid Technologies Inc. introduced its Apex Fusion credit card reader for unattended machines that accepts cash. The unit features a complete management and telemetry suite, offering a color touchscreen, bill validator support and real-time data gathering.

The unit includes Nayax cashless payment technology and accepts both contact and contactless credit and debit cards, as well as mobile app payments, QR code payments and prepaid cards.

The unit also features voice interaction and multiple language display capability.

Mike Kiser of SandStar shows the Smart Shop to Alicia Lavay of Vending Times.


SandStar

SandStar presented its grab-and-go Smart Shop that allows a customer to scan a QR code or swipe a credit card to open the door. After selecting their merchandise, the customer's payment account is charged when they close the door and automatically sends a receipt.

Customers can pay via mobile app, mobile wallet, QR code and credit card tap or swipe.

The shop uses computer vision based dynamic recognition technology that recognizes products selected in real time.

The VMS system provides real-time operational data and analytics to track inventory and schedule replenishment.

Options include voice assistance, age verification and video advertising.

Dewey Wahlin and Kurk Johnson show the bean-to-cup coffee machine in a kiosk at the Three Square Market booth.

Three Square Market

Three Square Markets presented a prototype of a fully automatic bean-to-cup coffee kiosk that allows the user to scan products and pay at the kiosk. The kiosk features a 9-inch Android touchscreen that displays orders and a barcode/credit card reader.

The customer can also place an order by phone and can allow the user to make multi-card purchases.

An attendee makes a purchase using the PicoMarket at the 365 Retail Markets booth.

365 Retail Markets

365 Retail Markets demonstrated its 365 PicoMarket, the latest addition to the company's PicoPlatform of products following the launch of PicoCooler in Spring 2020 and PicoVend in Summer 2020.

Unlike PicoCooler or PicoVend that rely on a complementary OEM piece of equipment, the PicoMarket is a standalone, fully featured, self-checkout kiosk complete with amenities such as NFC payment, chip insert, a webcam for loss prevention and a barcode scanner.

365 Retail Markets also showcased two configurations of PicoMarket, one with a bill acceptor and one without. The company also plans to offer the PicoMarket casing in a white and blue color.

365 Retail Markets believes the PicoMarket is the personification of its PicoPlatform and expects to continue to add PicoPlatform products.



Elliot Maras

Elliot Maras is the editor of Kiosk Marketplace and Vending Times. He brings three decades covering unattended retail and commercial foodservice.


NAMA Show 2021


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