I’m in the Sunnyvale BMC office this week, and I’m learning a lot about Configuration Management and how IT departments can manage desktops and servers, automatically sending patches and updates. I’m trying to put myself in the role of an IT system administrator and figure out the best applications of information technology for business purposes.
One innovative application of IT that I noticed recently was that you can turn your loose change into about anything you want using automated kiosks. Coinstar machines are used in the U.S. as a convenient way to donate for charity. While their corporate headquarters are in Bellevue, Washington, Coinstar kiosks were first installed in the San Francisco Bay area, according to their Frequently Asked Questions page. Automated coin counting and tallying technology is applied to turn coins into other things like donations or Amazon gift cards. They have grown from processing $200,000 per year in 1997 to more than $3 million in 2004 and reached $20 million in 2006.
To me, this is a great application of already existing technology to raise money where it’s needed. It also gets money circulating again that might have stayed in a coffee can in your house for a long time. Coinstar estimates that American households contain about $10.5 billion in uncounted change. I doubt my house contains even $50 worth of loose change, but then again, I haven’t overturned the couch cushions in a while. But there are certainly people who like to collect their loose change in one location and then find it’s quite unweilding to use to spend on something.
Now, I know there is a basic concept of money for services or products. But coins are getting turned in gift certificates, charitable donations, and even pre-paid wireless minutes. That transformation is really cool to me.
Coinstar has even applied more technology on top of their patented technology by using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to help them figure out where to place kiosks to collect the most change so they can predict performance based on placement. I have no idea how their maps know who is most likely to bring in a bucket of change, but there you go. Using information technology to help others while decluttering at the same time. That’s a neat system to me, and a great application of technology.