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Frequently Asked Questions

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    General

  1. What is SmartMech?

  2. Why do I need SmartMech?

  3. Who is SmartMech?

  4. What does Tamper-proof really mean?

  5. Why is the SmartMech software provided as a service?

  6. What is included in the service fee/charge?

  7. Where can I buy SmartMech?

  8. Why can't I buy the software?

  9. I do not have any employees - how do I benefit from SmartMech?

  10. What does SmartMech cost?

  11. Why does SmartMech track vends by the hour?

  12. I have machines with different coin denominations, how does Smartmech account for the sales?

  13. What is taking you guys so long to bring SmartMech to the market?

  14. When will I be able to order SmartMech for my operation?

  15. I would like to work with a local charity - how can SmartMech help me?

  16. I want to sell a route that is using SmartMech - how do I go about it?

  17. Data/Software

  18. Is my data safe?

  19. Who can see my data?

  20. How do I retrieve my data?

  21. Can I do Route Management?

  22. Where can I get a demo?

  23. I operate in Mexico - does SmartMech work in Spanish?

  24. My company is in Britain - can I work in £ ?

  25. I have two separate companies - can I run them at the same time on Smartmech?

  26. How can I see what my service persons are doing on the road today?

  27. Will SmartMech calculate commissions for the service person?

  28. How do I maintain the commission rules? Every location is different?

  29. Managing sales taxes is costing me a lot of time every month. How can SmartMech help me?

  30. I have been approached by another operator to service machines for a national chain in a certain geographic area. How can SmartMech benefit our two operations?

  31. Hardware

  32. Can I attach SmartMech to any vending device?

  33. Can I attach SmartMech to other devices (i.e. Non-vending)?

  34. What is the life expectancy of the device(s)?

  35. How often do I have to change the battery?

  36. Is this a special battery?

  37. Where do I obtain the correct PDA?

  38. What is the warranty period?

  39. What do I need to get going?

  40. Do I have to equip all my vending machines to work with SmartMech immediately?

  41. Why does SmartMech track temperature?

  42. Do I have to open the vending machine to read the data on the SmartMech board?

  43. What is the difference between embedded and retrofit SmartMech?

  44. When will embedded SmartMech be available?

  45. My vending setup contains multiple heads on a special custom stand - does SmartMech offer a board than can collect from multiple devices at the same time?

  46. When you first demonstrated the concept you were using wireless RFID technology, why switch to infrared wireless communication?





Answers

    General

  1. What is SmartMech?
       SmartMech is an end-to-end solution to collect the number of vends on a coin operated vending machine and to report on the vends as part of an integral route management system.

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  3. Why do I need SmartMech?
       SmartMech gives the operator control over his business. Data collection and data analysis permits effective decisions to maximize profit potential. Verifiable value is established.

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  5. Who is SmartMech?
       SmartMech is a subsidiary of Ronneberger Computing Inc. (RCI). RCI is a privately held software house that has been in business since 1979. RCI develops and supports enterprise business software systems for a number of industries.

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  7. What does Tamper-proof really mean?
       SmartMech provides for a tamper-proof environment by providing a controlled and visible audit trail over the vending transaction. The SmartMech board tracks vends by the hour, battery insertion and operating temperature. From the back office server reporting is available to alert the operator to unusual and unexpected data patterns, which they can review.

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  9. Why is the SmartMech software provided as a service?
       Software as a service has several advantages:
    • Lower total cost of ownership
    • No capital investment
    • No server hardware & server operating system license maintenance costs
    • No hardware obsolescence
    • Physical security
    • Data integrity - hardened servers and backups
    • Up-to-date applications

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  11. What is included in the service fee/charge?
       The software to load on the PDA, the use of the applications on the back office server, and the data storage as well as any updates, and support.

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  13. Where can I buy SmartMech?
       SmartMech is available from SmartMech, OEM's and selected distributors.

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  15. Why can't I buy the software?
       The entire software industry is going the route to provide enterprise applications as a service. It ensures that the operator is always utilizing the most current release and has the latest tools available to run their business. The operator can concentrate on running their business and not worry about maintaining hardware, servicing the operating system, performing regular backups and ensuring that the data is safe.

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  17. I do not have any employees - how do I benefit from SmartMech?
       Incorporating SmartMech into your business provides even the small operator with tangible benefits due to verifiable data:
    • Business valuation
    • Reduced time spent book-keeping - time can be spent on data analysis
    • Credibility with locations
    • Access to traditional financing to grow the business
    • Access to new business - local and national charities

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  19. What does SmartMech cost?
       There are 2 elements to the SmartMech system.
    • The hardware cost: Included is the switch (patent pending) which gets attached to the coin mech, a wire with connectors and the electronic SmartMech board. Please contact us for pricing.
    • The software to load on the PDA*, the use of the applications on the back office server, and data storage is charged on a per coin acceptor per month basis. Please contact us for pricing.

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  21. Why does SmartMech track vends by the hour?
       Until now there has been no practical way to tell how long a machine has been empty - with SmartMech you can detect the lost sales opportunity! SmartMech provides the data and the tools to enable merchandising in the vending industry. Is that product moving, at what time of day, does the product placement on the stand affect sales provinding a sales pattern over time.
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  23. I have machines with different coin denominations, how does Smartmech account for the sales?
       The amount of revenue each vend represents is either set on the handheld when a coin mechanism is associated with a machine, stand and location or at the back office. This can be changed at any time should a different coin mechanism with a different coin combination be used.
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  25. What is taking you guys so long to bring SmartMech to the market?
       We demonstrated the concept of wireless interrogation in April 2004. Since we have developed and refined the hardware and software to deliver an enterprise end-to-end solution for the vending operators around the world. We will only release the product to the market-place when we are satisfied that it will meet our own quality requirements. We are currently beta testing with a large US based operator.
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  27. When will I be able to order SmartMech for my operation?
       SmartMech is available. Please contact sales.
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  29. I would like to work with a local charity - how can SmartMech help me?
       Charities are probably the largest untapped market for the vending industry. The issue of accountability is now solved by implementing SmartMech into your operation. Charities require controls to account for their revenues. SmartMech provides the reporting to the charity to permit public disclosure for the benefits derived through vending. SmartMech enables the trust between the operator and the charity for the accounting of public funds.
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  31. I want to sell a route that is using SmartMech - how do I go about it?
       Every SmartMech tag is assigned a unique owner id. This owner id code is assigned to an operator when he/she is set up on the SmartMech server. The first time a service person communicates with a new SmartMech board the owner id is transferred and recorded on the SmartMech board. To change the ownership id SmartMech is contacted by the owner of the vending machines and SmartMech then issues an encrypted code that changes the owner id to the new owner id.
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    Data/Software

  33. Is my data safe?
       Your data is stored on secure enterprise grade servers in a data center hosted by Rackspace. Thier sole business is servers, storing data for others. All connections are secured using SSL encryption.

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  35. Who can see my data?
       You have total control of who has access to your data. SmartMech applications have tight security setup that you control. Access is password protected and you decide who may see what data by assigning specific roles only allowing controlled access to applications and data.

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  37. How do I retrieve my data?
       The SmartMech back-office system is accessed from any computer connected to the internet using a standard browser (i.e. Explorer, Firefox)

    Virtually all reports incorporate the option to export the data in a CSV format which can be used to import into may applications.

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  39. Can I do Route Management?
       SmartMech is a complete Route Management Solution. Manage your routes, locations, service persons, commissions, inventory, stands and machines.

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  41. Where can I get a demo?
       Contact SmartMech through our website at www.smartmech.com to obtain a guest login.

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  43. I operate in Mexico - does SmartMech work in Spanish?
       SmartMech works in any language. Any language that is not yet supported can easily be incorporated - all phrases in SmartMech are maintained in a file that allows easy translation. This feature even allows you to change the field labels in the system. A user can select which language to use in SmartMech.
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  45. My company is in Britain - can I work in £?
       SmartMech can operate in any currency.
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  47. I have two separate companies - can I run them at the same time on Smartmech?
       Smartmech supports unlimited number of companies. At the time of logging into the system the user selects which company to work in at that moment.
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  49. How can I see what my service persons are doing on the road today?
       SmartMech provides an on-screen view showing the locations and times for every service person during the day.
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  51. Will SmartMech calculate commissions for the service person?
       The PDA software calculates the commission due a location based on all the machines at a location. If the commission is paid on the spot the PDA accepts the signature of the recipient on-screen to verify the acceptance of the funds. This signature is transferred and visible at back-office.
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  53. How do I maintain the commission rules? Every location is different?
       Commission rules are easy to set up. They can be very simple and can be the same for one or more locations, or can be more detailed allowing for different commission levels based on the inventory item sold. It is totally under your control.
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  55. Managing sales taxes is costing me a lot of time every month. How can SmartMech help me?
       SmartMech incorporates a complete system to manage single and multi-level sales taxes. SmartMech handles the special requirements for setting up multiple tax jurisdictions at the same time with managed tax amounts and percentages based on selling price range and inventory category. Rules for value added taxes (VAT) as well as layered sales taxes. Appropriate reporting is available to make the preparation of the monthly sales tax remittance(s) quick and easy.
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  57. I have been approached by another operator to service machines for a national chain in a certain geographic area. How can SmartMech benefit our two operations?
       Both operators benefit because of the built-in accountability of the SmartMech transaction logging system. The operator and their employees are trusted by the account holder and the locations. SmartMech allows for the servicing of different routes with separate owner id's. The data will automatically flow to the correct companies. SmartMech has the unique feature to permit and track third party bank deposits by the service person, just for such an arrangement i.e. the service person is instructed on the PDA what amounts to deposit into which bank account while on the road.
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    Hardware

  59. Can I attach SmartMech to any vending device?
       SmartMech is developing switches (patent pending) to attach to many vending devices such as bulk vending machines, sticker machines, kiddie rides, crane machines, pool tables. Please contact us at www.smartmech.com to inquire or have your OEM or distributor contact us.

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  61. Can I attach SmartMech to other devices (i.e. Non-vending)?
       SmartMech has an adapter that can be configured to take an electric pulse from virtually any device to permit the recording of transactions.

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  63. What is the life expectancy of the device(s)?
       SmartMech devices have no moving parts with the possible exception of some switches on specific models of coin mechs. The battery on the SmartMech is replaceable and has a life expectancy of at least 5 years under normal operating conditions.
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  65. How often do I have to change the battery?
       The battery has a life expectancy of at least 5 years at normal room temperature. Theoretical battery life is 7 years or 250,000 vends.
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  67. Is this a special battery?
       The battery used by the SmartMech tag is a standard coin cell Model CR 2032. A high temperature version is available for warmer climate applications.
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  69. Where do I obtain the correct PDA?
       The SmartMech system currently works on Blackberry 5.x, 6.x and 7.x devices. These Smartphones (cell phone and PDA in one) are available from most cellular network providers and in some cases directly from manufacturers or wholesalers. In addition to the normal phone connection plan a data plan is required to permit the transmission of the vending data to the SmartMech server. Support for legacy devices includes most Palm OS 5.0 devices (Palm Treo 650, 680, 755p, and Palm Centro), and most Windows Mobile 6.x devices.
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  71. What is the warranty period?
       The SmartMech board and switch (patent pending) is warranted for 5 years. The first 2 years allow for full replacement and the subsequent 3 years are prorated.
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  73. What do I need to get going?
    1. SmartMech tags and switches (patent pending) to match your particular applications
    2. Smartphone with data plan - one per service person
    3. A login to the SmartMech backoffice server
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  75. Do I have to equip all my vending machines to work with SmartMech immediately?
       We suggest that SmartMech be installed one route at a time.
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  77. Why does SmartMech track temperature?
       Some product in vending machines is temperature sensitive and this gives the operator the ability to monitor the placement of the vending machines as well as select the appropriate product mix. Tracking the temperature also assists in selecting the right battery for the location as elevated temperature adversely affects battery life.
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  79. Do I have to open the vending machine to read the data on the SmartMech tag board?
       Most vending machines are opened during servicing and during this process it is easy to read the SmartMech tag board with the PDA. The SmartMech board is connected to the coin mechanism switch (patent pending) with a wire allowing the placement of the SmartMech board anywhere in a machine where it is convenient to access.
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  81. What is the difference between embedded and retrofit SmartMech?
       Retrofit is the addition of SmartMech technology to existing coin mechanisms that are in the field. The switch (patent pending) is installed on the coin mechanism, which is then connected via a cable to the SmartMech board. For embedded, the OEM manufacturer of a coin mechanism adapts the design to allow for the embedding of the SmartMech board inside the coin mechanism. A small sealed polycarbonate window in the front of the coin mechanism permits data exchange with the PDA.
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  83. When will embedded SmartMech be available?
       SmartMech is actively assisting OEM manufacturers to offer embedded SmartMech technology in their coin mechanisms. Please contact the OEM manufacturers directly to discuss their plans.
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  85. My vending setup contains multiple heads on a special custom stand - does SmartMech offer a board than can collect from multiple devices at the same time?
       SmartMech is testing a multi-channel board that permits multiple coin mechanisms to connect to a single SmartMech board. The data transfer to the PDA will permit the data to be exchanged in the same manner as a single channel.
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  87. When you first demonstrated the concept you were using wireless RFID technology, why switch to infrared wireless communication?
       When we first worked on the concept of battery transaction logging system, we extensively researched all the technologies available in the market and concluded that RFID architecture was the lowest power method. At the time we were not able to source a cost effective RFID reader to connect to standard PDA's. We developed our own reader. Providing the reader added to the cost of equipping a service person. It also put us in the position of adapting RFID readers to new models of PDA's. We revisited the different wireless technologies and discovered a newly introduced infrared port that was cost effective and low power - that enabled us to utilize the standard infrared port on most PDA's and eliminate the radio.
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