Solbyung (Stella) Yoon has seen the future of vending machine
transactions, and it entails using a cellphone to buy a can of pop or a
bag of chips rather than plumbing the depths of one's pockets for the
necessary number of quarters.
If Ms. Yoon, president and chief executive of Toronto-based cStar
Technologies Inc., has her way, consumers will soon be using mobile
phones to pay for vending machine-dispensed snacks, metered parking and
even kiosk-dispensed theatre tickets.
The cellphone does a fine job facilitating conversations and text
messaging - but it also has the potential to act as a portable ATM, she
cStar specializes in two-way wireless data and
mobile M2M (machine-to-machine/men)
communication products. Its small wireless
device, SkyGate, once embedded within a vending
machine, can facilitate coin-free transactions
for anyone with a cellphone. No longer will a
thirsty consumer need loose change to buy a can
Meanwhile, SkyGate will provide vending machine
owners, with regular reports about the
operational status of their machines (for
instance, indicating if a machine is out of
order due to a jammed coin). As well, it will
give a precise, real-time stock count.
"[SkyGate] offers more convenience to the customer
and will allow [a vending machine operator] to
run his business more efficiently, " Ms. Yoon
In a nutshell, SkyGate will reduce manual
processes and labour costs, while improving
data-collection accuracy and reducing machine
She predicts a sales increase of as much as 18%
because not everyone has a pocket full of coins,
but most people own a cellphone.
Ms. Yoon says the technology is open-ended, meaning it is compatible
with any cellphone make and service provider. "[SkyGate] is the next
step toward a cashless society," she says.
However, before the Royal Canadian Mint can be shuttered, there are some
details to be ironed out. For example, negotiations are underway with
cellular service providers to create billing systems that will allow
consumers to add other charges to their cellphone bills, Ms. Yoon says.
Also, the services will not be free to
consumers. While charges have yet to be
confirmed, Ms. Yoon says the fee passed on to a
consumer buying a pop at a vending machine would
likely be about 10.
There is also the matter of getting vending machine operators on board.
A SkyGate unit will cost less than $500, but Ms. Yoon says it will more
than pay for itself by helping operators run their businesses more