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Vending Innovation: Interview with CIO Andy Dalton

October 3, 2018

What’s your elevator pitch?  
I would say this, when it comes to supply vending in general, the days of an employee’s supply closet filled with expensive equipment are over. What’s in the cabinet is no longer pads and pencils and Post-it Notes. Now, you see laptops and keyboards and power connectors—more expensive items. It’s becoming important to track these items and have a better understanding of when it’s time to order more. Thus, the need for more secure and more automated means to control the distribution and the back-end administrative work.

Why did you jump into this sector?
I’ve been in technology for a number of years and have known some of the leadership at IVM. What got me excited specifically was IVM taking an old product, a piece of equipment that people think went through its own lifecycle 10-15 years ago. The pop and candy era. Now it has come back to the forefront, back to the market and places of business are doing phenomenal things with it. It’s a traditional machine updated to include necessary pieces of equipment that are necessary for business.

Tell me, did anything surprise you about the vending machine sector or grab your immediate interest/fascination? Anything that frustrates you?
What grabbed my initial curiosity was the products and services—it amazed me that all the tech companies we worked with could vend these high-end devices. You think about candy falling through a vending machine or getting stuck and you have to shake the machine to get it out. IVM Smart Lockers opened up a new door for companies to distribute these high-end devices without the worry of something falling down inside a machine and breaking. On the frustrating end, being an industry disruptor in supply vending means there’s a big learning curve to what we do, particularly in the area of connectivity. Businesses are used to their own operating systems and how they run. Our machines have a control board and no operating system. So, they’re actually more secure than even adding a printer. You can’t hack into a Smart Station or Smart Locker. There’s also a laser at the bottom of Smart Stations™ and when a vended item drops it knows. It also knows when an item doesn’t vend.

What do you think is the “state of the union” right now for the industry?
I think what you’ve got in the industry right now is, it was previously ruled by traditional pop and candy machine vendors. And you have these warehouse-type places where suppliers are vending their own products. They’re spending time on the machine and the products, but not spending much in development of the software. We’re not out to make money on the products being vended. So, we spend time on the software. Putting our R&D money into the right tracking, security controls, budgetary controls—that’s where the market is headed in the future. That’s also what sets us apart.

Vending machines didn’t evolve much until recently. What took the industry a while to catch up with tech?
Vending machines have been around for decades, but technology had to wait for connectivity to catch up. The great thing about a vending machine is they can be placed anywhere for anytime access in hard-to-find locations where you’re not going to put a marketplace or café. Putting a standalone machine without someone watching it 24/7, by nature that’s just hard to communicate with. Then, the mobile revolution kicked in and made it easy for everything to be connected.

How will technology continue to change the vending industry? Where is the industry headed? What new tech and/or innovations await us on the horizon?
When you think about it, smart vending machines and smart lockers were IoT before someone came up with the term. IoT will continue to evolve and make a big difference here. 5G, cellular phone connections will be as fast if not faster than an Internet connection. And you won’t have to jump through all these Internet security hoops. That’s a biggie. More and more companies are going to want all of their smart devices that are feeding data back to the company to be integrated to the reporting system that the company has already chosen. Great reporting now isn’t actually connected back to the enterprise where the rest of the data is. One of the big things we’re working with is APIs and better integrations to the larger systems.

IVM is a disruptor that has used its technology to propel vending machines into the future – What role will IVM play in continuing to move the industry forward? What’s next for IVM?We are thinking through a lot of new products and use cases for vending in general. Think about what Smart Lockers have started, the mobile space—you can order a car from your device. Without giving anything away, we’re starting to think even outside of the machine. That’s probably all I should say right now.