In many cases the ubiquitisation strategy has been made possible by the development of new technologies. For instance, better catering equipment allowed hot food to be held in better condition more safely for longer, thereby facilitating home delivery. Likewise information technology allowed managers to track sales and monitor performance at a distance, assisting with the development of micro-units.
Technology has also been particularly important for vending machines and kiosks. Because these sites are unattended, they are particularly vulnerable to misuse and vandalisism. This means they have to be designed to highly functional and robust at the same time. Advances in equipment technology and computer software are giving vend operators more control of their business, leading to the term ‘V-commerce’. Such tools are providing benefits in many operational areas, including: route management ie the order in which machines should be restocked, service scheduling ie the level and type of stock each machine requires, cash accountability and product selection ie the range of products that any particular machine should hold based on purchase behaviour of users. Collecting information on machine usage is termed ‘data polling’ and can either be done on site, often using a hand held device that download data in five seconds via a DEX-port in the machine, or done remotely, based on either telephone dial-up connections or online wireless connectivity. Such technology therefore can allow route drivers to know in advance what stock has been vended, so that they use this pick list to take exactly the right amount of stock into a building with them, considerably speeding up restocking times.
Increasingly vending operators are moving to cashless vending, for security reasons and to reduce service times. For vending machines located in office and factories, users may use a card supplied by the employer, but in public settings debit or credit cards may be used. It has been suggested that this tends to increase sales by as much as 30%, as customers no longer have to have cash on them in order to purchase items. Sales can also be enhanced by understanding the pattern of sales through a machine, which may change on a seasonal basis. Hence machines may be stocked with some core items and others that change over time, just as a supermarket changes the number and type of items it holds on its shelves.