In modern days, manufacturing enterprises face the challenges to make their product available to a greater number of customers. This project comprises a vending machine that integrates the Internet of Things platform, modified by innovative tools and programs that transform basic vending machines into a much intelligent and customized buying platform. By gathering customers' requirements, adaptive production, and logistics of the vending machines, can enhance the selling capabilities for a seller. By implementing cloud technology, providing contactless/cashless payment solutions, smart sensing and control, advanced and fast reporting and having a fast turnaround time, this project has a handful of opportunities for the seller and also a smooth and hassle-free experience for the customers buying the products.
Purpose and Motivation
The inspiration comes after watching my mother, who has to look after the family, have a little time to spare for her own choices. I wanted her to start a small scale business of selling products, such that it is less hassling and also be able to be the happy homemaker. The purpose is to give women like our mothers who have to look after their family and want to do something of their own and even those who want to start their business as part-time, a new edge of living. With the help of modern technology and the proposed themes, we find this an innovative, saleable and very feasible project.
How does the Solution work
The Smart Vendor will be an up-gradation of a legacy vending machine that will integrate IoT, transform these machines into intelligent vending machines, and be called the 'things' of IoT. With the help of constant inventory tracking and updating, it will do the hectic task of monitoring the inventory easily by itself, which was supposed to be done natively by the seller by hand. Ex: If a product gets consumed fast, the consumption rate also needs to be noted for better ordering capabilities. With algorithms, we can enhance the performance of the same. The IoT Smart Vendor can be placed at remote locations. It can even be used for wayside amenities or refreshment units at Electric vehicle charging station on highways for travellers. Contactless payments will give the buyers a hassle-free and smooth experience of buying. And also, due to the intelligent decision-making capabilities for automatic ordering, updating inventory by itself will require a low effort monitoring for the vendors providing the Smart Vendor, giving them an easier edge so that they don't have to divert from the current job in order to start this business.
How was the solution developed
The architecture of the system will contain two parts, the hardware and the software. The Hardware section lies inside the vending machine itself, where the WiFi-enabled microcontrollers like Esp8266 will interface with infrared sensors to count the units getting sold. Also, with accelerometers to perform a vandalism check by measuring any vibrations or movement that happened to the Smart vendor. The hotspot for the inventory page will also be provided only by these microcontrollers, without any external hardware requirement. The microcontroller will handle the triggering of popping an item after successful payment. The Software section will be responsible for managing the inventory, updating databases by itself, and cloud computing to make decisions when refilling the products by analyzing and running algorithms. There will be an app for the sellers or the smart vendor owners, who can monitor their respective machines remotely. Also, if they want to improve the orderings, they can, by editing the ordering chart provided by the machine itself prior to placing the order to the suppliers. To process cashless payment, API integration of wallets like Google pay etc., is needed.
How to use the Smart Vendor
When a buyer comes to the vicinity of the Smart vendor, they can connect to the Smart vendor via the WiFi. After that, they need to get the local IP of the Smart Vendor, which is provided as a label on the Smart Vendor, which needs to be browsed on their browser, and the inventory list appears. The buyer finds their desired item and places the order. A link gets generated for the payment; after paying via a wallet or similar, the item pops out from the vending machine with a successful transaction message to the buyer. If not paid the amount within a certain period of time, the transactions times out. For the seller's side, they will have an app in which they will monitor the activities as follows. As soon as the items get sold, they receive a notification. When it comes to ordering the items to the suppliers for a refill of the machine, the sellers can open the pre-constructed ordering chart made by the algorithms that are predicted after analyzing the selling statistics of the products and place the order to the supplier. Or the seller can modify it according to their requirement. There will be a quick alarm for a vandalism check with a notification, and there will be an alarm triggering on the app, like a quick attention ringtone or similar.
Difficulties and Challenges
The Smart Vendor is in the concept stage, and we haven't started building the prototype yet. But it's likely that we will be facing a hard challenge in queuing the transactions. Also, long-range connectivity in a totally remote area where internet is not available. We can go to LoRa there.
Go-to-Market (How will the application be available to the public, and is it scalable?)
Smart vendors can be a great investment for those who have to look after another job, like our mothers, who have to look after their family and want to open their own business, especially for girls who cannot stay out late at night. By advertising, we can increase the reach. Target legacy vending machine owners to ask them for the improvements; thus, we can test our prototypes and their effectiveness. By implementing the IoT platform to the legacy vending machine, we can reach out to the manufacturers of the Vending machines for a collaborative plan of the Smart Vendor. With these factors keeping in mind, we can make the Smart vendor scalable and happy life to many women out there who want to have a small side business.