I Tap Too

iTapToo: the sustainable drink vending machine of the future

Plastic is extremely harmful to the environment. That's why startup iTapToo has developed a packaging-free drink vending machine. It enables people to fill up their own reusable bottle with water in a variety of flavors. “Good for the planet and for health,” says Daan Beuting, co-founder of iTapToo. KPN IoT makes the vending machine connected via the KPN Things Router.

Essentially, the traditional soft drink vending machine with plastic bottles is a thing of the past. More often than not, the empty bottles end up in the general waste or on the street. In addition, that type of vending machine needs refilling weekly. Transporting the soft drinks is harmful to the environment too. And then there’s the health aspect. According to the Netherlands Nutrition Center, consuming sugary drinks increases the chance of obesity and products containing sugar cause tooth decay.

Sustainable and healthy

The creation of the iTapToo vending machine was based on the conviction that there’s another way of doing it. This drink vending machine fills reusable bottles, doing away with plastic packaging. At the same time, it offers a healthy alternative to soft drinks. The vending machine blends filtered and cooled tap water with a dry mix in a variety of flavors. This produces a refreshing drink that contains a small amount of stevia sweetener but no sugar. Around 1500 reusable bottle can be filled from just one 6-kilo container of powder.

“More and more people are taking their own water bottle with them to school or work,” says Beuting. “But sometimes you need a bit more taste. Our vending machine bridges the gap between the reusable bottle and soft drinks. Some customers consider sustainability especially important. They want to reduce their ecological footprint and regard the vitality of employees as a bonus. For other customers our vending machine is primarily a way of keeping people healthy.”

Start of production

Any company can lease a vending machine, but the startup sees particular opportunities in education. “Educational institutions want to do away with plastic waste and unhealthy soft drinks. They make it compulsory for caterers to offer water free of charge. But caterers earn good money from the sale of soft drinks and have to compensate for that. Our vending machine helps in this. Pupils pay a bit less for their drinks, but the caterer still makes a good margin and operates more sustainably. So we are creating a win-win situation for all parties.”

Following a successful pilot phase, large-scale production is now beginning. The first batch of 100 vending machines will make its way to various customers in the months ahead. Because of the huge interest, a second production run of a further 250 vending machines is already being prepared.

Internal processor

One of the principal features is that the vending machine is connected. “In the catering sector, everything is about data,” Beuting explains. “Caterers want to have an insight into consumption and to be able to take action quickly if a breakdown occurs.” Nevertheless, originally it was not the intention to make the vending machine connected straight away. “We know how valuable this is, but we thought it would be expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, we then came into contact with KPN IoT.”

KPN IoT was able to connect the vending machine easily and quickly to the internet. “The internal processor is linked to a KPN Things Router via a USB interface. By means of the router we can make the machine connected everywhere. We can manage these connections remotely and are therefore not dependent on a customer’s network. Via the router the data from the machine is sent to KPN Things, KPN’s IoT platform. From there, we can make the data available in a portal.” That portal is currently being developed by Valid. “KPN IoT put us in touch with Valid; we’re really happy about that.”

Benefits of connectivity

Entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about the possibilities. “Currently, our customers still have to order the dry mix manually, but that will happen automatically as from next year. We will then get a notification when the powder is almost finished and we will be able to send new supplies immediately. We will also be able to be more proactive in the event of a breakdown. In the vending machine there are sensors that detect the most frequent types of breakdowns. Thanks to remote monitoring we can send along a mechanic in the event of a potential breakdown, even before the customer is aware that anything is wrong.”

Furthermore, the portal provides customers with consumption data. “For example, you can see how much a vending machine is being used and what flavors and strengths are the most popular. You can optimize sales on that basis. A sustainability report can be drawn up as well. How many tons of CO2 emissions and how many plastic bottles did you save last month with the vending machine? We also encourage customers to share these figures online. A caterer or other types of company can then showcase themselves as sustainable.”

Close cooperation

Beuting says the partnership with KPN IoT is exceptionally valuable. “Their role is much more than merely supplying reliable connectivity. KPN IoT looks at the entire IoT chain ‒ from hardware to data integration ‒ and links us to the right partners. Thanks to the tight supervision by KPN IoT, everything runs much more smoothly than we had expected. You feel they believe in our product. It’s a genuine partnership. And hopefully, when we have sold thousands of vending machines, we will both reap the benefits.”

KPN IoT supports iTapToo in other ways too. For instance, the startup applied successfully to take part in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. A pilot with the vending machines is also under way within KPN itself. “As a startup we are just at the start of our journey. The support of an established company like KPN is extremely important, because it enhances our credibility on the market. It’s confirmation that this product is worth its weight in gold.”

If you would like to know more about the KPN Things Router, don't hesitate to get in touch.

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