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Are the robots really coming?

At Intelligent Vending we are always really excited at the prospect of new technology. Having designed our own innovative control platform we have a great respect for the time and imagination and precision it takes to produce something truly cutting edge. People in the Western world, on the whole, have a remarkable fascination with technology, the latest phones are always sold out within the first 24 hours, the latest tablets and drones are always on top of Santa’s wish list and the advances in virtual reality and video consoles always leave us mind blown and wanting more. As much as we love our gadgets and crave the leaps, year on year, that technology makes there is also a slight unrest when it comes to views on technology. Dealing with a lot of technical enquiries through our Intelligent Vending switchboard, people are genuinely blown away with the functionalities that they can potentially harness with our SiriuS™ and Juno™ end to end solutions, but talking to people on a more day to day level, as much as they like technology to play with, there are slight misgivings that the more advanced we become, the more likely we are to become redundant as a race. It is the time old concern (film, literature and media fuelled!) that “The robots are coming” . We already use robots and machines in place of people for a large number of fields; the service sector, the entertainment sector, the industrial and auto-mobile sectors, these are all programmable and fully automated. From 2018- 2019, the robotics industry grew as a whole and it has been reported by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) that the global robotics market rose to US$16.5 billion [1] in that time.

So how does a country like Japan, a pioneer in the technological world feel in regards to the slight nervousness we seem to possess in the West? In Japan, automation isn’t regarded as a threat to peoples jobs but more about the countries survival economically.  In 2014 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled reforms with hopes that the robot market would reach $21 billion by 2020 [2] and looking at the stats published by the IFR, that seems well on track.  Reading a recent article by CNBC [3], their reporters explored different areas of the service industry in Japan and watched the interaction between the robot world and the human one. It seems that in Tokyo, the public enjoyed the novelty that the robots provided, but in regards to their suitability to assist with their practical needs this didn’t seem particularly harnessed. Which raises the question, are they actually a source of entertainment? Could this be a more accurate interpretation of their function? Are we merely fearful of fear itself? Reporters from CNBC could witness robots being utilised whilst consumers were queuing, to pass the time while they waited to engage with a person.

The Japanese, on the whole, are renowned for being truly fascinated by technology and love the gimmicks and interaction that it provides. For me, this gave me a little sense of reflection and comfort. In the West, creating life inevitably leads to destruction of the creator (Frankenstein, The Terminator, The book of Exodus) it is suggested that human vanity is constantly met by rebellion by its creation [4]. There are many philosophies, predictions and conspiracy theories concerning the fate of our world, in films, literature and media and whether, with our thirst for and advancement in technology, we are actually pushing ourselves into economic and social extinction in an ‘End of Days’ scenario.

I never look upon technology as anything other than exciting and pioneering and I suppose that is also how the designers and manufacturers also view their robotic creations. Do I think “The robots are coming”? Yes, absolutely, in fact I think they are already here, but does that mean I think they are taking over? Hmmm… no…. not just yet, anyway.

 

Footnotes

[1] https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/presidents-report-03-2019

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/09/heres-why-japan-is-obsessed-with-robots.html

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/09/heres-why-japan-is-obsessed-with-robots.html

[4] https://s/421187/why-japanese-love-robots-and-americans-fear-them

 

References

1. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/09/heres-why-japan-is-obsessed-with-robots.htm

2. https://ifr-press-releases/news/presidents-report-03-2019

3. https:///23-reasons-why-japan-is-already-living-in-the-future

4. https://2017/11/16/asia/cea-tec-on-japan/index.html

5. https://s/421187/why-japanese-love-robots-and-americans-fear-them

 

The Magic of the Face

Facial recognition, also referred to as Biometric Artificial Intelligence, is regarded now as one of the top ways of identifying and verifying a person. It is so common place that we probably even have it in our homes, either through our consoles, phones or security systems. Growing up in the 80’s face recognition was something only for the James Bonds’ of this world, but the advances in the last decade alone have catapulted this incredible technology into the lives of us all. Facial recognition is already being harnessed by several industries; Law enforcement use it to serve and protect, retailers use it for crime prevention, Airports use it for security (and we even have the technology to use it on our Intelligent Vending machines, if clients desire it to deliver their project objectives! Wow!).

So where did all this catapulted technology come from? It’s true the last decade has really thrown facial recognition into the spotlight, but where did it start? Many believe that the 1960’s is where it all began with the work from Woodrow Wilson Bledsoe.  Bledsoe was an American mathematician, computer scientist and prominent educator. Born in 1921, he is regarded as one of the founders of artificial intelligence, making early contributions in pattern recognition and automated theorem proving. His work in the 1960’s included developing a system that could classify photos of faces manually, known as the RAND tablet (considered the predecessor of the iPad, in many circles). The RAND could be used to input horizontal and vertical coordinates on a grid, using a stylus that emitted electromagnetic pulses, this in turn could manually record the coordinate locations of various facial features; these could then be added to a database and when the system was given a new photo of an individual it could retrieve the image that most resembled it. [1] The technology of the era being so limited meant that the advancement in facial recognition were restricted but never the less it is seen as an important step in proving that face recognition was a viable biometric.

In the 1970’s a more well known milestone in facial recognition, “21 facial markers” was devised by Goldstein, Harmon and Lesk. Using 21 specific subjective markers such as hair line, lip thickness and eye width they were able to increase accuracy to the (still manual) facial recognition system.

The 1980’s saw linear algebra being applied to the problem of facial recognition, this became known as the Eigenface approach.  Scientists discovered they could accurately code a ‘normalised face’ in less than 100 values.

In the 1990’s the Eigenface approach was developed further and had been advanced to recognise faces within images. This was the first use of automatic facial recognition.

The following 20 years, has involved a lot of practical research and field tests including the Feret programme (creating a large database of facial images) and The Super Bowl, in the USA in 2002 where law enforcement trialed the technology, but were limited by its functionality in crowds. Facebook started using facial recognition in 2010 and continue to utilise it today along with Apple, Military and retail sectors.

So with all this incredible biometric technology all around us, should we be concerned at all? Is our privacy being compromised by the gathering of our own data through surveillance techniques or our phones when we are sometimes not even aware of it? Privacy campaigners express concern about governments and other authorities having access to the whereabouts, and activities of citizens 24/7, some of these concerns arise from biometric artificial intelligence being so advanced, it can be used to not just identify a person but show them other existing personal data like blog articles, photos, social networking profiles, internet searches etc.  This can make the public vulnerable on a number of levels for example; your facial signature could end up in a lot of places, hackers may track down images of you (or your face) online, this data may be sold, people can be left open to online harassment, stalking and trolling. It is also becoming less and less impossible to remain anonymous. [2] As the digital age advances and the need for identification and authentication of a person continues to elevate, is it our face that is going to be the key to the future? To action the opening of a bank account we would use our face, or going through customs at an airport we would use our face, access and unlock technology (including cars!) with our face, even the potential of paying for goods, withdrawing your money from ATM’s and verifying your age (therefore completely abandoning the need for a wallet at all!) all because of the magic of your face! It seems there can be no denying this technology, despite any concerns we might have as it seems to be the top way to verify and authenticate. I guess there is nothing left to do except put our very best face forward.

 

Footnotes

[1] /blog/brief-history-of-face-recognition-software/

[2] internetsecurity-iot-how-facial-recognition-software-works.html

 

References

1. /internetsecurity-iot-how-facial-recognition-software-works.html

2. /innovation/facial-recognition-works.html

3. /blog/brief-history-of-face-recognition-software/

4. /wiki/Woody_Bledsoe

5. /wiki/Facial_recognition_system

6. /govt/biometrics/facial-recognition

7. /blog/rand-review/2018/09/the-rand-tablet-ipad-predecessor.html

 

Always safety first at Intelligent Wholesale!

A very exciting, very safety conscious area of our website has been developed to give you guys the very best access to safety equipment or Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as it is known in the field.

PPE is an essential requirement for many companies, and is an important component of industrial vending as it provides staff with safety equipment to reduce the risk of occupational injury or harm.

Controlling the use of PPE within an industrial environment can prove to be a challenging task for companies. On the one hand, the potentially high volumes of kit required to meet the needs of a large workforce provide significant incentive to employers to manage stock as efficiently as possible, including reducing wastage. On the other, it is essential that employers do not expose their staff to unnecessary risk or deny access to equipment that provides employees the necessary protection for their day to day working environment.

The level of health and safety regulation covering such responsibilities means that in a typical workplace most companies ‘play safe’ by providing open and unsupervised access to items routinely used on the shop floor, e.g. gloves, goggles, ear protection etc. However, such arrangements create precisely the conditions where excessive usage is likely to occur.

The introduction of a PPE management system using vending equipment and sophisticated control software offers a cost effective and reliable solution to this problem; especially if the level of wastage is high and items needed for a particular work setting are expensive. Intelligent Vending offer a range of PPE vending machines, from retail only to standalone to fully integrated PPE management systems which can dramatically reduce or fully eliminate routine waste, while providing a detailed audit trail linked to individual users, including a full usage history.  This means that every transaction with the machine is tracked 24/7 and reports can either by pre-scheduled or accessed manually on the fly.

For entry level PPE solutions we can provide hardware from our standard Intelligent Wholesale catalogue.  However, standard machines offer a limited functionality, so most clients would opt for our advanced fully PC controlled Intelligent Vending machines (Juno™ 8 inch touch or SiriuS™ 46 inch touch) which are packed full of features and capabilities. We also supply MRiYA™ electronic cabinets that can be slaved and controlled from Juno™ and SiriuS™ machines.  These are perfect for larger items not suited for physical dispense from Juno™ or SiriuS™ solutions. They also offer the potential for items to be loaned and returned.

Our rapid development platform also promotes comprehensive and coherent integration with client preferred hardware, software or peripherals and creates new ‘tailored’ solutions with significantly reduced R&D costs and in reduced timescales. The benefits to choosing our control platform are vast; the platform is a fully Internet of Things (IoT) based solution, providing two-way communication 24/7 in real time between our Juno™ or SiriuS™ machines and our VendHive™ cloud. This enables live transaction reporting and control of a wide variety of machine functions and settings, clients are provided with detailed logging in real time for immediate identification and diagnosis of faults, any software issues are usually rectifiable remotely and for mechanical issues, an engineer would be alerted to the nature of any mechanical fault before leaving base, avoiding the need for re-visits and saving time and money.

The intelligence of our PC controlled PPE solutions reduce downtime, as many issues that would cause out of order scenarios can be adapted to automatically. Our system can also identify under-usage of equipment as well as potential overuse, a further element of support to employers who need to be made aware if workers are not taking advantage of measures in place to ensure their own safety. Touch screens coming as standard on Juno™ and SiriuS™ also enables the display of detailed product information and videos. This could easily be adapted to include showing staff how equipment should be used, whilst providing an efficient audit trail to show the information has been viewed through user confirmation, this feature is also applicable to any new H&S procedures; thereby providing evidence for employers that they are meeting their responsibilities.

Our user interfaces are intuitive and easy to use, both by the users requiring access to items and staff responsible for day to day management of the equipment and even the ‘standard’ generic interfaces offer a high degree of customisation, while for more demanding or sophisticated applications we can supply a fully bespoke solution. This includes a user journey that is tailored to our clients’ specific requirements, displaying all information as appropriate for their organisation. The potential is huge and the list goes on! If PPE is something you need managing effectively in your business, there is only one intelligent choice!

Social Meta

Make sure you are following Intelligent Vending and Intelligent Wholesale with your social media apps! You can follow our tweets, blogs and Instagram stories and posts @intelvending and @intelwholesale – not to mention have an insight into our offers, discounts and any exciting, upcoming news we may have on the horizon. #intelligentvending, #intelligentwholesale, #techcentre, #allyourvendingneeds, #vendhive, #vendmesh, #vendhook, #vendingservice, #SiriuS

Intelligent Wholesale has arrived

Intelligent Wholesale is finally here. This is the business-to-business ecommerce trading division of Intelligent Vending. Our fantastic new homepage clearly showcases the most popular categories making it easy to navigate and operate. The highlighted deals are easily accessible as you scroll down the page and be sure not to miss out on our regular informative and inciteful blogs. At Intelligent Vending we believe our website to be an ever growing, ever evolving, living, breathing catalogue of choice.  With this in mind an exciting addition to the website is on the horizon. It will be accessible on the website through our technology centre. This is where we showcase our in-house designed, next generation of automated retail.  We will be soon be presenting more of our latest technology with traditional high-quality engineering…. but that’s all for now… Better watch this space

The SiriuS™ Website

Our new SiriuS™ platform has been designed in-house by Intelligent Vending to resolve inherent issues in standard vending technology.  Using SiriuS™ opens up a number of possibilities for our clients that all add value and increase ROI and efficiency, rather than the traditional approach which concentrates purely on the cash in, product out, retail ‘vend’ aspect.

SiriuS™, with its large 46″ HD touchscreen and powerful software platform VendHook™, create a dynamic and interactive retail platform with significant potential for advertising, marketing, and raising brand awareness.  The machine’s ability to interact both physically and virtually with customers via social media further enhances its commercial potential for operators. For many IV clients, the on-board vending function will be a secondary attraction behind other more commercially significant features.

The complete platform comprising VendHook™ (our core PC control software platform), VendHive™ (our bi-directional cloud control and communication system), and Vendmesh™ (our own design next generation PCB controller), allow connectivity with a wide range of external components and peripherals.  Together, these elements add impressive versatility to a machine while offering commercial add-on value in their own right. Equally, we are confident in the sophistication, robustness and technological advantages of our system compared with any others available in the market.  While some producers have pursued a retro-fit or workaround route (the way we historically supplied non-standard machines), we have consciously developed our system from first principles.  This approach has ensured maximum flexibility in operation and a significant degree of future-proofing.

We have also designed our SiriuS™ platform to be user friendly for third party development via the comprehensive API (Application Programming Interface) and SDK (Software Development Kit).  We want to give our clients scope to extend their own commercial horizons and innovate without the need to be reliant on Intelligent Vending software development services.

For more details, please click the following link to visit our Intelligent Vending SiriuS™ website.

Intelligent Vending & SiriuS™ at AVEX 2015…

SiriuS™, the latest ‘all-in-one’ solution from Intelligent Vending Ltd, was given its first public outing in the vending arena at AVEX 2015, in Manchester. Partnering with Ingenico the international leader in provision of cashless payment systems, IV offered its new advanced SiriuS™ vending machine to show off their cashless hardware while providing attendees with a glimpse of what it believes is the future for the unattended automated retail market.

As an industry, vending has been stagnant or in decline throughout most of Europe for the past few years and it is desperate, Intelligent Vending believes, for a fresh impetus that will lead to reversal of this trend. While degrees of innovation are undoubtedly evident across the board in vending, this has been mostly small scale and incremental, and there has been no major development with the explosive energy to bring about the much needed revolution of the industry. Put simply, vending has made virtually little use of the advances in technology that are now standard across all sectors of retail, advertising, and social media. SiriuS™ incorporates the power and imagination to change all that!

The bespoke UI (User Interface) designed for Ingenico offered visitors of the show the ability to enter a competition to win prizes from triggering the vend process in three different ways:

1) Via the Ingenico card payment terminals (Contactless and NFC, plus Chip & PIN)
2) Via our in-house Twitter promo VendHook™ plugin
3) Via email address entry and a virtual keyboard

An Ingenico corporate video and other promotional information was also displayed on the machine’s different vend process screens, carrying a key underlying message to promote the new iUC280 payment terminals that are aimed primarily for the standard vending ‘mainstream’ market.

Also, on show was a premium vinyl wrap designed to showcase Intelligent Vending’s commitment to push visual branding boundaries. Using a newly unveiled printable and wrap conformable reflective material, all the visible panels of the machine were fully SiriuS™ branded. The three elements that define SiriuS™; VendHook™, VendHive™, and VendMesh™, were highlighted in the design. The revolutionary material used for the wrap gives an added, almost 3D effect, that is dramatically revealed across a range of different lighting conditions and changes based on the installation environment (see photos below).

No Direct Light (Black)

With Some Direct Light (Gold Elements & Binary Code In The Base Vinyl Design Showing)

As the first in a new generation of automated retail options by Intelligent Vending Ltd, this new self-service SiriuS™ solution offers a core software platform called VendHook™ designed from first principles, and eliminating the drawbacks experienced with traditional vending machine systems and protocols. The machines are fully modular and packed with functionality. Just a few of the features include large 46” touch screen and HD display, advanced product management, digital signage, social media integration, telemetry and the facility to remotely manage all machine functions & diagnostics in real time via Intelligent Vending’s fully bi-directional VendHive™ ‘Internet of Things’ cloud platform.

A key strategy underpinning the design process of Intelligent Vending’s new products was the need to provide a payment option that supported the high value transactions specified by many Intelligent Vending clients. While some card payment systems are available for the ‘mainstream’ sector, they have some limitations in terms of transaction value, and they do not provide VAT receipts, another feature often requested by customers. For its new system, Intelligent Vending has been able to incorporate a full Chip & PIN, Contactless and NFC solution into its machines, fully accredited to the latest Visa and Mastercard standards in the UK and with no cap on transaction values.  Our VendHook™ in-house receipt printer design suite also enables our clients’ to customise this ‘print-out’ experience for consumers with a few simple clicks (or touches!) including dynamic QR codes for cross selling or promotions where applicable.

Sam Roe, Managing Director at Intelligent Vending, said: “Projects such as this highlight the versatility of the SiriuS™ system, which is ideally suited to a range of challenging environments. We are looking forward to bringing our powerful Intelligent Vending technology to the widest range of clients, whether in high-end retail or the mainstream ‘plus’ market and increasing their ROI in the unattended space. Our vision is for all sectors to benefit from the sophisticated functionality we now provide as standard – Intelligent Vending by Intelligent Vending.”

More info available here (PDF): SiriuS Intelligent Vending Taster Flyer

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