Tech Workers Help Themselves with Self-Service IT

Vending machines provide self-service computer accessories 24/7.

You’re still at work burning the midnight oil and now you’ve fried your keyboard with a spilled cup of coffee. The IT department has been closed for hours, as has the local office supply store. Time to call it a night? Perhaps, but a pilot program at Intel is helping to keep dedicated — and occasionally clumsy — employees productive any time of the day or night by letting the employees help themselves to the tech they need when they need it.

Self Service Computer Accessories from Vending Machine

Intel employee Anna Blankenheim selects a computer accessory from an IT on the Go vending machine.

Vending machines are being stocked with an array of computer accessories on Intel’s Folsom, Calif. campus. Unlike traditional IT support that is staffed during regular work hours, the machines are open 24/7. Employees can get a keyboard, mouse, flash drive or any of more than a dozen other items from the “IT on the Go” machines, all with just a swipe of an employee badge.

“Every company is looking to be more efficient and maximize the skill sets of employees,” said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group, a retail and hospitality research firm. He said the pilot program “marries the kiosk with the vending machine,” and puts an internal operations spin on the electronics-stocked vending machines travelers have seen at airports for years from Best Buy and Sony.

The 6-month pilot is still in progress, but Intel IT Client Services has already seen positive results with 95 percent or greater reductions in billing time, time technicians spend on inventory management and employee satisfaction.

“The 5 percent who said they weren’t satisfied with the pilot said the drawback was over variety,” said Intel project manager Catalin Baicu, “not because a machine was out of a particular item.”

The two machines in the pilot now stock 23 items, but as the program moves to its next phase, the vending roster will expand to 35, according to Baicu. By the end of 2013, 120 machines — a second-generation version with a touchscreen and optical recognition — are slated to be placed at Intel locations worldwide.

Most Popular self service Vending Machine Computer Accessories

A USB flash drive is the most popular of the 23 items available from IT on the Go vending machines during the program

“The next deployment is to capture all of the products except PC docking stations and the PCs themselves,” said Baicu, explaining that the former item is too heavy, and the latter requires personalization; data transfer and job-specific software downloads are part of the service with employee PC upgrades.

Intel isn’t the only tech company to put IT products inside glass-panel machines, according to Mike Pitts, president of Indianapolis-based International Vending Management. Facebook last year installed three stocked with a range of items from keyboards to computer screen wipes. Google, Logitech and Nvidia have also run similar pilots.

IVM and Intel are technology partners on the second-generation vending machines, which will be on the Intel Core i5 processor platform and are scheduled to deploy in 2013. “Touchscreen is a whole new thing for us,” Pitts said.

Chris Timmins of Intel’s visual retail group said touchscreens have a big consumer advantage over simply looking at a product through glass, especially with what’s inside the IT on the Go vending machines.

“With touchscreens you can reduce the errors people might make,” he said. “They can read displayed information on the product and see if it’s compatible or does what you want it to do. With a wireless mouse or keyboard, it would be good to know if it needs AAA batteries, which could also be sold at the vending machine.”

Keyboard in a self service Vending Machine

Wireless keyboards are among the most popular items vended from IT on the Go vending machines.

The second-generation IT on the Go machines will also include optical, or product recognition. Cameras inside the machine will ensure that the right product is in the right slot.

“No one is going to get angry and punch out the vending machine door if they selected Diet Coke and got Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, but you might if you were at the Best Buy kiosk and wanted an iPod Touch and got Skull Candy headphones,” Timmons said.

Pitts said that while all this whiz-bang technology has a “wow factor” for consumers, from a return on investment perspective it needs to match the inventory being vended.

“Product recognition software and touchscreen capabilities are revolutionary, but traditional vending [with sodas and snacks] is not going to avail itself to these technologies because the items are so inexpensive,” Pitts said. “But when the items are like the ones in Intel’s machines, then it makes sense.”

Tech Workers Help Themselves with Self-Service IT

Vending machines provide self-service computer accessories 24/7.

You’re still at work burning the midnight oil and now you’ve fried your keyboard with a spilled cup of coffee. The IT department has been closed for hours, as has the local office supply store. Time to call it a night? Perhaps, but a pilot program at Intel is helping to keep dedicated — and occasionally clumsy — employees productive any time of the day or night by letting the employees help themselves to the tech they need when they need it.

Self Service Computer Accessories from Vending Machine

Intel employee Anna Blankenheim selects a computer accessory from an IT on the Go vending machine.

Vending machines are being stocked with an array of computer accessories on Intel’s Folsom, Calif. campus. Unlike traditional IT support that is staffed during regular work hours, the machines are open 24/7. Employees can get a keyboard, mouse, flash drive or any of more than a dozen other items from the “IT on the Go” machines, all with just a swipe of an employee badge.

“Every company is looking to be more efficient and maximize the skill sets of employees,” said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group, a retail and hospitality research firm. He said the pilot program “marries the kiosk with the vending machine,” and puts an internal operations spin on the electronics-stocked vending machines travelers have seen at airports for years from Best Buy and Sony.

The 6-month pilot is still in progress, but Intel IT Client Services has already seen positive results with 95 percent or greater reductions in billing time, time technicians spend on inventory management and employee satisfaction.

“The 5 percent who said they weren’t satisfied with the pilot said the drawback was over variety,” said Intel project manager Catalin Baicu, “not because a machine was out of a particular item.”

The two machines in the pilot now stock 23 items, but as the program moves to its next phase, the vending roster will expand to 35, according to Baicu. By the end of 2013, 120 machines — a second-generation version with a touchscreen and optical recognition — are slated to be placed at Intel locations worldwide.

Most Popular self service Vending Machine Computer Accessories

A USB flash drive is the most popular of the 23 items available from IT on the Go vending machines during the program

“The next deployment is to capture all of the products except PC docking stations and the PCs themselves,” said Baicu, explaining that the former item is too heavy, and the latter requires personalization; data transfer and job-specific software downloads are part of the service with employee PC upgrades.

Intel isn’t the only tech company to put IT products inside glass-panel machines, according to Mike Pitts, president of Indianapolis-based International Vending Management. Facebook last year installed three stocked with a range of items from keyboards to computer screen wipes. Google, Logitech and Nvidia have also run similar pilots.

IVM and Intel are technology partners on the second-generation vending machines, which will be on the Intel Core i5 processor platform and are scheduled to deploy in 2013. “Touchscreen is a whole new thing for us,” Pitts said.

Chris Timmins of Intel’s visual retail group said touchscreens have a big consumer advantage over simply looking at a product through glass, especially with what’s inside the IT on the Go vending machines.

“With touchscreens you can reduce the errors people might make,” he said. “They can read displayed information on the product and see if it’s compatible or does what you want it to do. With a wireless mouse or keyboard, it would be good to know if it needs AAA batteries, which could also be sold at the vending machine.”

Keyboard in a self service Vending Machine

Wireless keyboards are among the most popular items vended from IT on the Go vending machines.

The second-generation IT on the Go machines will also include optical, or product recognition. Cameras inside the machine will ensure that the right product is in the right slot.

“No one is going to get angry and punch out the vending machine door if they selected Diet Coke and got Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, but you might if you were at the Best Buy kiosk and wanted an iPod Touch and got Skull Candy headphones,” Timmons said.

Pitts said that while all this whiz-bang technology has a “wow factor” for consumers, from a return on investment perspective it needs to match the inventory being vended.

“Product recognition software and touchscreen capabilities are revolutionary, but traditional vending [with sodas and snacks] is not going to avail itself to these technologies because the items are so inexpensive,” Pitts said. “But when the items are like the ones in Intel’s machines, then it makes sense.”