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Linux-ready UP board drives IoT framework for vending machines

Feb 4, 2017 — by Eric Brown 2,864 views

Aaeon and Kii unveiled a “Smart Vending Now” platform that combines Aaeon’s Atom-based UP SBC with Kii’s cloud-based IoT platform for vending machines.

The Internet of Things has matured to the point where we’re now starting to see vertical ecosystems that combine IoT endpoints with industry specific IoT cloud ecosystems. Asus-owned embedded equipment vendor Aaeon has joined up with Kii to create just such a platform for controlling and aggregating data from vending machines. The partners’ Smart Vending Platform Alliance has initiated a limited launch of the Smart Vending Now platform, and plans a full roll-out in April.

Kii’s IoT Solution Enablement Platform
(click image to enlarge)

Smart Vending Now is based on a vending specific version of Kii’s IoT Solution Enablement Platform, as well as vending machine computers built on Aaeon’s maker-oriented, first-gen, Intel Atom x5-Z8350 based UP board. Aaeon has informed LinuxGizmos that the Kii Agent component deployed on the UP-based vending node can run on either Linux or Windows. It’s unclear if the Raspberry Pi-like UP board will be deployed in the form of the recently released, UP-based UP-GWS01 IoT gateway. (See farther below for more on UP.)

The customizable Smart Vending Now platform enables mobile Android and iOS device controlled automation, optimization, and 24/7 real-time visibility and remote control for vending operations. The platform can save customers money by being able to remotely power down machines based on historical or projected buying patterns, says the Smart Vending Platform Alliance.

Detail view of Smart Vending Now hardware platform, which is identical to the UP board
(click image to enlarge)

Customers can also generate revenues from onscreen advertising while attracting customers by offering wireless hotspots and other services, says the Alliance. The platform supports informational kiosks and other interactive “smart venue” systems in addition to vending machines.


Different interfaces are available for operators, refill attendants, technicians, and even consumers. Mobile apps can help identify the location and services of nearby vending machines.

A Sanmina
vending machine

Kii’s IoT Solutions Enablement Platform provides cloud-based backend functions like management of users, data, devices, notifications, and analytics, and provides business rules and backend logic code. The top API and SDK layer enables the development of mobile and web apps.

The Kii Agent stack residing on the UP board includes different device agents for device, sensor, and gateway level integration. These connect to the cloud platform, which provides extensible server extensions, APIs such as REST, and SDKs for Android, iOS, JavaScript, and C. The system provides real-time monitoring of purchase patterns, inventory management, and functional diagnostics.

The solution appears to be based in part on the “open” Space: The Infinity of Things cloud platform that Kii sponsors along with SoftBank’s Brightstar wireless distribution and services firm. Space supports several Linux-friendly frameworks including AllSeen and OIC, the forerunner of OCF, which hosts the IoTivity framework.

The Smart Vending Now Alliance can also provide turnkey design and manufacturing of smart vending devices equipped with the UP-based computers in partnership with Sanmina. Customizable products include enclosures, cable harnesses, and complete vending systems.

Aaeon’s UP

Aaeon’s UP board is not fully open source, but it offers hacker-friendly services and a lower price than commercial Atom-based SBCs. It sells for $99 with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC, and for up to $149 with 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC. The UP SBC runs on Intel’s 14nm “Cherry Trail” Atom x5-Z8350, a quad-core SoC clocked to 1.44GHz with 1.92GHz burst speed and low, 2 Watt consumption.

UP board

The board has a similar port layout and 85.60 × 56.5mm footprint as the Raspberry Pi, and offers a 40-pin RPi-compatible expansion interface. Other features include GbE and USB 3.0 ports, as well as 6x USB 2.0 connections, including 4x real-world ports. Other features on the Ubuntu, Android, and Windows 10 IoT compatible board include HDMI, eDP, CSI, and I2S connections, as well as an RTC.

In April, Aaeon plans to fulfill the investments of Kickstarter backers with a second-gen, $98 and up UP Squared board. The UP Squared features a faster Intel Apollo Lake SoC, and offers up to 8GB DDR4 of RAM and up to 128GB eMMC 5.0. Additional features include 4K video encode and decode, dual GbE, dual HDMI, SATA, M.2, and mini-PCIe, as well as new 40- and 60-pin GPIO connectors.

Further information

Aaeon and Kii will formally launch the Smart Vending Now platform at the Nama OneShow 2017 in Las Vegas on April 19-21 at booth #1611. More information may be found at the Smart Vending Now website.

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