Insight - Custom M2M / IoT Hardware device developed for Vagabond Vending

M2M Vending Machine Telemetry using WIFI, CDMA and GSM



Project Description

The Vagabond Insight Vending Machine Telemetry device is an excellent example of Blue Sparq’s ability to make M2M and Internet of Things IoT Telemetry devices.

The business benefits of M2M in the vending industry are many. Some of them are:

  • Real time sales data for inventory management
  • Real time sales data can help vending machine operators determine the right product mix to improve sales and revenue
  • Access to historical sales data can be used to implement product and brand management strategies
  • Alerting the user regarding urgent service issues and eliminating machine downtime and ensuring product availability
  • Cutting service costs through efficient use of service and maintenance resources

Vagabond vending, a cloud based mobile software company wanted to build an M2M device (Insight) to track sales in real time and view the current fill status of each machine at any point in time. They approached Blue Sparq, Inc. for help.

Building a custom M2M device is not a trivial task. The device should at least be capable of the following:

  • Contain all necessary hardware and software to retrieve data of interest from a sensor or another machine.
  • Connects to a cloud server and communicate data.
  • Be capable of remote monitoring that allows the client to log into any of the devices in the field and see diagnostic information in real time.
  • Remote-update to the latest version of firmware automatically using the data connection.
  • Diagnostic information is available locally through one of the ports available in the device itself such as USB, serial port etc.

We developed the insight telemetry device to contain all these capabilities. The insight telemetry device contains all necessary hardware and software to connect to any vending machine via MDB or DEX. This allows real time sales data to be collected from a vending machine.

Once the sales data or transaction data is collected, it needs to be transferred to the Vagabond Vending servers. The insight could achieve this in one of the following 3 different ways:

  • WIFI
  • CDMA
  • GSM

The WIFI method allows the Insight telemetry device to connect to a local WIFI hot spot. This is a very low cost way of giving internet access to the telemetry device. The CDMA and GSM versions allow the Insight vending machine telemetry device to connect to the vagabond servers using cellular networks. CDMA is very prevalent in USA and has the advantage when it comes to reaching basements etc. However, CDMA is not available outside the US. To enable Vagabond sell to their customers in South America, we developed the GSM version. This is the Blue Sparq advantage. We understand all your requirements deeply before we offer a solution.

One of the challenges, while installing the telemetry devices is that some of the vending machines are really old and contain versions of MDB that are no longer compatible. Under such circumstances, the insight is capable of collecting DEX information. To enable easy detection of such cases and choose the appropriate installation method, our insight devices come with a simple webserver in them. This webserver serves web pages that provide

  • Firmware version running in the insight device
  • Information about the radio module used
  • Information about the Vending machine it is connected to
  • Debug information about the various tasks running in the Insight
  • Send commands to change configuration information

Vagabond support staff can simply look at the webpages served by this server to make a decision as to which route must be chosen.

There may be several situations while an M2M device is in the field, we may need to update its firmware. Some of them are:

  • Firmware bug fixes
  • Adding new features
  • Fine tuning the messages sent to the cloud server to save data expenses

The vagabond vending Insight devices can auto-update to the latest version of firmware using the data connection or be updated with a PC via USB.

Last but not the least is the debug support available locally. The Insight has the ability to accept commands and data locally via the USB port available in the device. The Insight device is also USB CDC device. This means when connected to a computer, it will enumerate itself as a USB COM PORT. This allows the support staff to send commands to a particular Insight and see a response. Through this USB port, the support staff can even see the raw MDB and DEX data from the vending machine computer in real time. Indicator LEDs are also available that the end user can see to identify the status of the Insight telemetry device at a glance.

Since, all the communication from the device to the server is point to point, HTTP and HTTPS was chosen to transfer data for the insight. But, if our customers require one device to send data to multiple servers, we could use the MQTT protocol.

We always design our device’s base hardware to allow for future expansion. For instance, Vagabond understands that it is not the price of the item, but the ability to pay for the item that prevents some people from buying items from vending machines. Making it extremely easy to pay by using a cell phone will increase vending machine sales. By adding a Bluetooth LE connection, our next version of the Insight telemetry device will be able to accept mobile payments from cell phones and tablets.

With growing awareness among companies about big data analytics, HADOOP and its impact on business decisions, we at Blue Sparq, Inc. can design, develop and manufacture custom M2M/IOT devices that can be used to feed enterprise applications with meaningful data.

From cutting service costs to improving inventory management, from increasing customer loyalty to maximizing the utilization of resources, M2M stands ready and able to deliver the goods for vending and we have described how we can help in this sector. Some other sectors that we can offer our M2M/IOT services include:

  • Smart Energy, Energy metering solutions, Smart homes
  • GPS Tracking and Tracing
  • Vehicle Telematics
  • Mobile payments
  • Security
  • Industrial Computing
  • Remote maintenance and Control

Call us to make your custom M2M/IOT device.


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