Smart vending machines shake up retail market

How do you serve consumers 24/7 at their beck and call in a time of skyrocketing staff shortages? Innovend offers an answer to that pressing question with its collection and dispensing systems. “With our solutions, the time-honored concept of the supermarket can even be shaken up.”

Innovend offers smart vending machines and dispensing systems to a broad target group. From vending machines to machines for dispensing tools, medicines or orders. The company started in 2011, with a vending machine at Brussels Airport for a manufacturer of travel accessories. Vending machines for asparagus and strawberry growers soon followed and the target market expanded to other sectors.

“For example, we also offer parcel boxes for home-delivered packages in apartment complexes,” said director and co-founder Sander Sciarone. “But also think of solutions that allow employees to pass a lunch order to a caterer via an app and then pick it up from our machine. We also offer dispensing machines for peripherals in offices. Employees can then use a code to pick up a new headset, for example, from such a device. In this way, we relieve the burden on IT departments.”

Online management portal

The “brain” of the solutions is an online management portal. “This allows customers to view information about sales, dispensing and collection from anywhere in the world via their web browser. It also allows you to manage things like promotions, the assortment, on-screen presentation and prices.” Innovend also has access to that environment. “For example, to view machine data for better support and troubleshooting.”

Those smart functions do require a stable, continuous data connection to Innovend’s platform. “The devices don’t go ‘down’ immediately without connection, but it shouldn’t take too long,” says Sciarone. “In addition, without a data connection, the payment system is down and neither we nor the customer have access to the online environment.”

Connectivity in-house

Communication is preferably via a mobile 4G data connection. “We still have customers who connect the device to the Internet via their own fixed network. But preferably we keep the connectivity in-house. We prefer not to be dependent on the customer’s network.”

Sciarone gives some good reasons for this. “When the customer makes changes to the network, it can cause problems. A mobile data connection is safer for the customer from a security point of view. Moreover, it allows us to keep the stability and quality of the connection in our own hands. That is not only pleasant for our customers, but also reduces the pressure on our support department.”

KPN Things

Innovend uses KPN Things Routers, a total package of mobile 4G/5G connectivity, routers and the KPN Things platform. The dedicated IoT routers ensure hassle-free network traffic to and from the central platform. The platform allows them to centrally manage and monitor connections.

According to Sciarone, the choice of KPN is a very conscious one. “KPN is an internationally known, reliable name. That helps with gaining trust with our customers. In addition, their network and its coverage is top quality.”

Finally, according to Sciarone, KPN offers excellent service outside the Netherlands. “Thanks to their strong international position and their many partners there, we can use the provider with the best local coverage at any location abroad. That can also be a local provider.”

Unmanned supermarkets

Innovend views its own future with confidence. “Unmanned sales and dispensing are going to play an increasing role with the current tight labor market. In addition, consumers want to be able to make their purchases faster, more often and more easily.

The company is now working with a major Belgian retail chain on new solutions for unmanned supermarket formats. “With this, we want to offer the convenience of a regular supermarket, but unmanned,” says Mr. K., who is also working with a major Belgian retail chain.

Such formulas, he says, are the future. “Consumers want to consume more and more easily and faster. We are therefore going to see more and more such formulas in busy urban centers. But also in sparsely populated areas with fewer facilities, this kind of solution is the future.”


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