NEW YORK CITY -- A system permitting patrons to make $1 purchases from any of four bulk vending machines by inserting a dollar bill into a central validator-equipped module has been demonstrated by Bronx operator Alan "The Peanutman" Swiderski. His CAT (Currency-Activated Technology) Rack presently is in use at a test location in upper Manhattan.
Each of the machines on the rack is equipped with a small control board and a solenoid-actuated pawl; they otherwise are set up as conventional venders taking four quarters. They continue to accept quarters, but the rack offers patrons the option of using a $1 bill instead.
To exercise this option, the customer inserts the banknote into a validator mounted in a compact enclosure that also houses the control circuitry. When the bill is recognized, the local controllers in each machine cause an LED mounted above a button to light up and blink.
The patron presses the button on the machine of his or her choice, and the solenoid in that machine pulls in to release the coin mech; turning the knob in the usual way initiates the vend. Pressing the button on any machine locks out the controllers on all the others. After the vend is made and verified by a photocell sensor, the system turns off the LEDs and resets, ready for the next patron to make a purchase with quarters or a $1 bill.
"All the electronics will be mounted on the coin mech; an electric eye will be mounted on the chute, and a bracket will hold up the circuit boards," Swiderski told VT. "A conversion could take a matter of minutes; the hardest part will be drilling a hole."
Accepting both $1 and $5 bills, and most coin denominations for a transaction, the CAT Rack can be programmed for multiprice operation. Machine heads, for example, could be set up to initiate vends at $1, $2, $3 (and on), offer two turns for $1 and operate with uneven pricing like 75¢, $1.25 and $1.50. It can dispense change, too.
The first production run is now in progress, and a video tutorial is in preparation to guide operators through the installation process.
"I feel very strongly about the possibility of this invention having a positive impact on the industry," the bulk industry veteran emphasized. "Not only will it allow the paper dollar, as well as the current coin vend, but it will also set the stage for cashless transactions and unlimited point-of-sale pricing."
The CAT Rack system can be seen in action in a video demonstration on YouTube. Al "Peanutman" Swiderski can be reached at (646) 464-8386.