VENDING TIMES December 25, 2000 - January 24, 2001 Volume 40, No 14, page 8 & 34

cStar Launches Vender Telemetry System With Office/Van Polling.

TORONTO - cStar Techo1ogy, Inc., which demonstrated a comprehensive vending machine monitoring system built around its "SkyGate" and "DirectGate" products earlier this year, has introduced this system to the trade (see V/T May and August).

Chief executive officer Solbyung (Stella) Yoon, who formed cStar after heading two high-tech organizations, sees the vending industry as a primary market for her firm's patented telemetry technology. "Vending has been waiting so long for affordable, extremely fast, secure, two-way data exchange over all networks, with an end-to-end solution," she explained. "My company has been able to optimize access to this service, taking cost-effective communications farther than ever before - with no monthly fees. That's an important factor that vending operators have been waiting for."

cStar, she said, is leading "Wave III" of the Internet revolution, during which equipment not primarily designed for data communication (like vending machines) can be networked simply and reliably. cStar's technology permits networking all the vending machines in a building or building complex to one wireless device. That single device transmits data from all the machines on its network (up to 256), using Internet protocols. The operator can retrieve the data from any Internet-connected computer, in an office or on a vehicle. A great variety of networking options are available. MATCHING SOLUTION TO NEED

"Our proprietary technology gives us a distinct advantage by offering vending operators the unique ability to link their vending machines with a wide variety of data transmission methods," Yoon explained. Operators know that telephone lines are not widely available where vending machines are installed, which means that landlines are not a universal answer to vending telemetry needs. But wireless transmitters are not a universal solution, either, because not all vending machines are installed in locations from which data signals can be transmitted reliably. Basements and other shielded, or high-interference, areas can present problems to which the only technical solutions are impractical, such as installing wireless relays to hand a signal along until it reaches an area from which it can be transmitted reliably.

Both media solve some problems; neither medium solves all of them. But, Yoon pointed out, coupling them by means of cStar's patented technology - which sends signals along the electrical power lines in a building, and allows retrieving them at the best site for wired or wireless transmission, provides a completely effective, efficient and affordable telemetry system for any vending location, she stated. The "SkyGate MVC-800" is a power line-carrier slave node that modulates a signal within a frequency range above that of any "noise" appearing on a power grid. It also employs a set of sophisticated protocols incorporating error detection and correction provisions, thereby providing extremely reliable data interchange, Yoon explained. She believes that cStar's solution is the only full-access telemetry system introduced so far that is able to trace sales, inventory and collections, monitor equipment functions, and provide "health-and-welfare" (e.g., refrigeration failure) and report security violations.

In order to make the system as "hands-off" as possible, cStar has incorporated an automated relay system within its local-area network (LAN) "SkyGate SVS-1000" multiplexer. This is the device that collects data from all the machines on the network for retransmission. The relay allows it to be polled automatically by a route vehicle equipped with a cStar "SkyGate VVS-1000 Network Accessor" when the truck enters the location's parking lot. The driver need not initiate this polling and uploading process, thus eliminating the need to look away nor release the steering wheel.

The truck-mounted "SkyGate" receives and stores the information automatically. That polling process is repeated, also with hands-free no-hassle automation, when the truck returns to the operating company warehouse. When the vehicle comes within range of the warehouse facility's "SkyGate VVS-1100 Network Controller," that device polls the truck-mounted "VVS-1000" and, in turn, receives the data collected on the route. The operator then can access and review the information for each machine on the route by use of a conventional personal computer running cStar's "REC-100 DirectGate" software.

Yoon summed up the "SkyGate" product line launch by observing that it provides operators with the tools needed to realize the tremendous advantages conferred by a full telemetry vending machine tracking service - one that offers an enormous improvement in speed and route productivity over conventional route information-gathering procedures.

Information on cStar's "SkyGate" hardware and "DirectGate" software for vending machines, vehicles and offices can be had from sales manager Thomas Flynn, cStar Technologies, Inc., 1-1122 Finch Ave West, Toronto, ON M3J 3J5, Canada; tel. (416) 739-8484, extn. 216

DATA COLLECTION: Above diagram shows vending machines with cStar "SkyGate MVC-800" powerline carrier (PLC) nodes connected to their controller boards. They receive data from the machines, modulate it for transmission along building's electrical wiring, and send it using sophisticated error detection and correction. Data can be collected from anything able to provide it, such as card readers in noncash payment environments. PLC data transmission avoids interference, shielding and signal attenuation issues common to in-building wireless data systems.

DATA RETRIEVAL: Diagrammed above is one method of collecting the data for use by a vending company. In this model, a single "SkyGate SVS-1000" multiplexer collects the data from each "MVC-800"-equipped vender in the location (building at left). As route truck comes in range - enters the location's parking lot onboard "SkyGate VVS-1 000" polls the location's multiplexer and receives the collected data over a wireless local-area network. Upon return to the warehouse (at right), a "SkyGate VVS - 1100" polls the truck-mounted device which, in turn, retransmits the data locally to the operator's computer, where cStar "DirectGate" software makes it immediately accessible. Other arrangements, including wide-area networks linking location networks directly to office, also are easy to implement.

Shown here are vending machines with cStar's MVC-600 & MVC-800 Power Line Carrier series (PLC) nodes, tandem connected, point-to-point and cluster connected point-to-multipoint configurations, between vending machine lead controller boards. The nodes send and receive data along building, electrical wiring, enabling two machines in tandem, or more, to operate as one.