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Brave New World of Vending Machines

Everyone has done it at least once: Tried to beat up a vending machine.

Sure, it's not logical to start slapping an inanimate object whose only life source comes from an electrical outlet. But it doesn't stop people from rocking, thumping, tipping or otherwise shaking the machines when they fail to deliver the goods or the change.

But what if vending machines were more animated? What if they were able to do more than just spit out soft drinks, candy or chips? What if these same glass-and-metal punching bags could conduct e-commerce capable of handling cashless payments? What if vending machines were capable of conducting m-commerce transactions while providing interactive multimedia services?

Most importantly from the vending machine's point of view, would people be less inclined to take out their frustrations on a machine with brains? Better yet, what if all vending machines in the future were networked and monitored?

Marconi Online Systems, a division of Marconi plc (Nasdaq: MONI), wants to find out. The global company whose sales headquarters is in Atlanta, is an ASP to the unattended point-of-sale (POS) and wholesale distribution and developing markets has formed an alliance with USA Technologies that the two companies hope will offer the most comprehensive end-to-end solution for manufacturers and users of vending machinery.

The combination of Marconi's Intelligent Vending service and Wayne, Pa.-based USA Technologies' e-Port technology will be demonstrated at the upcoming Spring NAMA Show March 29-31 in Las Vegas. There, the companies can show off their idea for a new vending world that highlight's Marconi's remote monitoring capabilities for vending machines, a service that delivers marketing, management and maintenance reports overnight to the vendor's operations' office, as well as inventory, cash and damage information that is transmitted over a wireless network with USA Technologies' e-Port which provides consumers the ability to make vending purchases with credit or bank debit cards for purchases as low as $1 while offering a media services for the latest news, sports and weather.

"This partnership is significant for vending operators and consumers as they will both benefit from the dramatically improved convenience that our solution offers the industry today," Marconi Online's president Brian Quarendon said from his UK office. "We are fundamentally changing the way that people use vending machines and anticipate that consumers will welcome the increased buying power and value-added services."

"USA Technologies and Marconi Online share the same vision - a world of networked, cashless, intelligent vending machines, also capable of delivering Internet content and services anytime, anywhere - dramatically enhancing the consumer buying experience," George Jensen, chairman and CEO of USA Technologies, said in a statement. "By combining our technologies, we bring the ability to significantly change the face of the vending industry."

Atlanta-based Coca Cola Co. is the first customer of the Marconi/USA partnership.



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