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Vigix rolling out ‘first true vending kiosks'

Vigix is expecting big things from its new vending kiosk.

"We're looking forward to winning the KioskCom Excellence Awards this year," Vigix Inc. vice president of marketing Ross Elkin said, only half-jokingly, in a recent phone interview.

While there are things called kiosks out there vending product, they're essentially just bigger, more advanced vending machines, Elkin says.

"What we have is the first true vending kiosk," he said.

ZoomSystems, with its automated retail stores or ZoomShops, and redbox, with its DVD-dispensing kiosks, might take umbrage with that description, but Elkin says the new Vigix kiosk does offer distinct advantages over pervious transactional kiosks.

The new Vigix vending kiosk includes a top-mounted video screen for digital signage and features a slim design, giving it a two-square-foot footprint, Elkin says. The kiosk can be plugged into any 110-volt outlet and offers either cellular-based or hardwired Web access, he says.

So customers can not only buy product at the kiosk, they also could potentially log onto the kiosk owner's online store to shop, and the top-mounted screen can be used for digital signage which can be controlled by a central Web-based software control system that also allows kiosk owners to view real-times sales and inventory information for the kiosk online.

The kiosks are designed to hold and sell a broad array of goods, but its highest-value application is going to be dispensing items with a certain physical profile in a certain dollar range, like mobile phones, Elkin says. The kiosk also can sell peripheral items, like cellular phone chargers, or digital content. A kiosk owner conceivably could set it up to sell e-readers as well as e-books to load onto it, he says.

The kiosk also can be used to rent or sell DVDs, or small but valuable items like watches, Elkin says. It can hold up to 24 cellular phone-sized boxes or up to 144 DVDs, he says.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based Vigix has rolled out two of the kiosks, used to sell Motorola mobile phones, in Mexico, as well as two more different deployments in Boston, with another Boston site set to debut in the next couple of weeks, Elkin said.

Since the kiosk body itself can be imprinted with logos and the top screen offers digital signage capabilities, the kiosk offers a branding presence in a small enough footprint that it can be located in the middle of mall or airport concourses or store sales floors, which Elkin says has brought in some interesting feedback from one of their retail deployers.

"They said, ‘look, if all this does is break even in terms of the merchandise sales, if all it does is pay for itself, we have self-funding marketing,'" he said. "That wasn't necessarily our intent at first, but it was interesting to hear their take on it."

Two other elements make the new vending kiosk unique, the patent-pending dispensing mechanism and patent-pending re-supply system, he says. The dispensing mechanism has no moving parts, making it less prone to mechanical dysfunction, and the re-supply system features pre-packaged product containers delivered via a third-party carrier, like UPS, eliminating the need for a "a fleet of trucks and a labor force on the road," Elkins says.

"It's the design and the sophistication of the systems, as well as the efficiency due to the reliability and the third-party re-supply that really make this something different from what's been out there prior to this," he said.

The no-moving-parts dispensing mechanism is proprietary, patent-pending Vigix technology that uses electricity, heat and gravity to move the package being dispensed from the cartridge to the pick-up slot.

Vigix' description of its new vending kiosk as the "first true vending kiosk" is based on three things, Elkin said in an e-mail:  

-First, the two-square-foot footprint makes it a kiosk in the sense that its profile, appearance and dimensions are similar to what we currently think of as informational or transactional kiosks;

-Second, similar to current informational and transactional kiosks, Vigix kiosks are networked and controlled centrally. All user interface content, pricing and upper screen video can be monitored, changed and deployed from a central location using Vigix's proprietary, Web-based software;

-Third, Vigix's dispensing system and cartridge-swap re-supply process (also proprietary, patent-pending technology) are radically different from what's available currently.  Other machines such as Zoom or redbox are some form of modified vending machine: electro-mechanical devices with belts, screw conveyors, and/or mechanical arms.  They are a) large (Zoom has a footprint of about 30 sq. ft.; redbox needs 9-15 sq. ft.), limiting the number of suitable locations; b) mechanical and thus prone to breakdowns; and c) labor-intensive, requiring a fleet of trucks and service people visiting each machine and restocking items one by one.  In contrast, Vigix kiosks are re-stocked via third-party carrier delivering a cartridge that has been packed with product in an operator's central warehouse.

The kiosks also are anywhere from 50percent to 80 percent less expensive than other vending products, like the ones used by redbox, Elkin says, with a cost per unit as low as about $7,000 or as much as about $15,000, depending on quantity ordered.

The low entry cost should make it more affordable for deployers to roll out larger networks of kiosks, all of which can be centrally managed, and all of which the deployer owns, with only ongoing software licensing fees for the proprietary software used to manage them.

"Our intent is to make the kiosks affordable and allow for a more significant deployment than what might be possible with a more expensive solution," he said.

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