Scientific Game

Evolutionary Shift

The aptly named DNA (Dynamic Network Applications) signals the way forward for JCM Global’s reinvention, as the company’s Vice President of Global Marketing Tom Nieman explains

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 13:31
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Going into 2013, JCM Global’s prime directive was to “evolve” as part of its ongoing pursuit of “newer and better technologies that help casinos do business better, smarter and faster.”

A clearer idea of just where that evolution might lead was on display last month in London at the International Casino Exhibition, with JCM showing off new innovations that could lay the foundation for redefining the company over the next several years.

Judging by the throngs of visitors at the JCM booth during the show, customers seem to be excited by the prospects, and the company says this year’s ICE was its most successful to date.

JCM is a leader in currency validation and the development of innovative automated transactions solutions for the banking, gaming and retail industries. Among its market-leading gaming-specific products are the iVIZION, Universal Bill Acceptor (UBA) and Vega-RC bill validators, Intelligent Cash Box (ICB) and the PayCheck 4 thermal printer.

For JCM, evolution now means a lot more than merely squeezing incremental performance out of the company’s traditional product line. “It’s a company that’s been thought of as the bill validator company for decades and knows it needs to be more than that,” explains Vice President of Global Marketing Tom Nieman. “So, as a company, we’re evolving and diversifying our revenue streams.”

For example, by increasing its investment in Nanoptix Inc. in May last year, JCM renewed its relationship with printers in gaming, having built and sold printers in the past. According to Vice President of Global Sales Mark Henderson, Nanoptix was chosen because of its reputable printer technology.

“It was the best in the business—it just needed a strong distribution partner,” he said. “We also saw the PayCheck 4 printer as a perfect partner for our iVIZION bill validator because both products have openended architecture that enables them to be added upon, giving them longer shelf life and greater capabilities.”

Since JCM’s initial investment in Nanoptix in 2011, the PayCheck 4 Thermal Printer has been rebranded, marketed and sold as a JCM product, and in the months that followed, it was estimated to have earned more than a 40% ship share to new casinos openings in 2012.

The deal appears to have been a win-win for both companies. The team at Nanoptix agrees, with the company’s president, Daniel Vienneau, stating, “We have found a tremendous partner in JCM Global. When two technology companies share a vision to dramatically improve the gaming industry, incredible things happen, and that has been the case with our partnership with JCM.”

Mr Nieman reveals that Canadian-based Nanoptix had been exploring the potential of the gaming industry, seeing limited success prior to JCM’s investment. He says, “We put our arms around them, and today they’re a significant player in gaming. We not only had worked on a cooperative basis to develop some things, but we invested in the company. Today, that collaborative effort is developing new technology that could only be realized by two market leading companies who share a common vision. I suspect there will be a day when two become one.”

Meanwhile, JCM has also gotten involved in the digital display business, realizing the importance of offering the critical elements to a successful display implementation—the best display technology for the application, the best hardware/software to deliver and publish the operator’s content and, finally, the best content solutions to meet the operator’s budget—a true one-stop solution for the industry.

Another new JCM product on display at ICE was the iV8 bill validator for table games, named for its ability to process eight banknotes per second. It features a sleek, compact design and a proven ability to increase playing time.

the iv8 bill validator
The iV8 bill validator for table games is named forits ability to process eight banknotes per second.

“iV8 was designed specifically for Macau and Singapore because of the big volume of buy-ins,” explains Mr Nieman. “The European customers see it, they love the concept, but right now iV8 is not the product they need most, given the volume of table play and the very high capacity that iV8 is capable of. So I suspect with our table solution development path there will be a light version of iV8 that would be more compact and doesn’t need to process eight bills a second, given that the typical buy-in in the European market is less than those in Asian markets. So we’d slow the speed down a little bit, bring the cost down and modify it specifically for [the European] market. This would allow the European table operator an intelligent ROI.”

JCM has made another notable move towards diversification with the development of “Mobile Wager Wallet” (MW2), which was also exhibited at ICE. Part of the world’s first fully interactive mobile wager network that connects players, a redemption ATM kiosk and a gaming device, MW2 delivers mobile transaction capability across an entire casino operation, quickly, easily and, most importantly, securely.

The ICE demonstration is the result of a partnership between JCM Global, Techfirm and NRT Technology Corp. The integration between MW2 and NRT’s QuickJack ATM network enables casino patrons to withdraw virtual funds from ATMs onto their phones for use at gaming machines and potentially at retail, food and entertainment venues within the casino. Additionally, players can transfer funds from the MW2 back into their accounts on the NRT ATM, or dispense funds, if desired.

The product is ahead of its time, however, as Mr Nieman acknowledges. “The timing for this product in the US isn’t today, probably not tomorrow, but it is certainly coming, and in the near future. As individual mobile device users we’ve all become more NFC-equipped with our phones [“near field communication”—a set of standards for smart phones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity], and there exists today the ability to use our mobile just like we use a bill clip. Casino players will also be able to store their loyalty cards in their MW2. Additionally, a player will be able to receive and save any promotional offering she/ he receives from the casino in their “folder” inside the MW2. So, as a player, if I need those cards or offers I can find them and use them because they are right there on my phone. So everyone sees the convenience and benefits of mobile transactions coming down the road, and casino operators just want to stay attuned and stay involved. The display on the MW2 would be ‘skinned’ with the operators branding, so it appears an extension of the operator. So it’s very interesting.”

More important than the diversification of JCM’s revenue sources, however, is the evolution of its main product line— the award-winning iVIZION, which is packed “with an incredible set of bundled enhancement tools that empower casino operators to do much more than they ever thought possible, and in real time,” the company says. “iVIZION’s bundled enhancement tools fulfill iVIZION’s promise of delivering apps that keep it future-proof.”

Contributing to that “future-proofing,” a new product unveiled at ICE called DNA (Dynamic Network Applications) “enables iVIZION to become so much more than a bill validator,” says Mr Nieman.

“[With DNA] iVIZION becomes a communications hub, connecting with all of the peripheral components in the device. DNA maintains a two-way dialogue with the bill validator, with the printer and the display, which are the three critical elements in the gaming machine, and that communication gathers and delivers performance metrics as well as operator-defined alerts that are delivered immediately to the appropriate people. Further, DNA also does some predictive analytics that will inform the appropriate people to take overt action prior to performance degradation—refilling paper supplies, cleaning bill paths or collecting a full cash box. All this information optimizes machine up-time and revenue generation.

“As DNA continues its two-way dialogue with the peripherals inside the gaming machine, DNA also passively monitors the SAS line, identifying what the game is, what the model is, what the platform is, what software version it’s operating. And because DNA is only passively monitoring the SAS line, it cannot affect any of those things, but by listening and knowing those things it helps deliver critical alerts and reports to the operator and assists in defining the action that needs to be taken. DNA also provides bonusing or couponing, so that when a player has wagered ‘x’ amount, the casino can trigger the printing of an award coupon for use at a restaurant on property.”

Furthermore, with DNA, operators can get extensive reports in real time and deliver firmware updates instantly, with no down time, across the entire operation. DNA also enables regulators to instantly verify peripheral devices, software versions, view reports and more. In other words, the technology is capable of further enhancing profitability, productivity and efficiency.

“And this is all done on a wireless, encrypted network we created that is in the EGM’s candle tower [at the top of the slot machine],” adds Mr Nieman. “The transponder is about the size of a [US] 50-cent piece, and it’s both sending and receiving the data. DNA created this super candle that now is the communications port. The beauty of DNA is that it can function either wirelessly or hard-wired— it is the operator’s preference. So if an operator is in an older property and cannot tear up the floor to hard-wire, we will install a series of transponders throughout the property to create a safe, secure, wireless ecosystem. This is unique and separate of the hard-wired back-end CMS systems supplied by the OEMs. We don’t touch or affect that data.”

DNA creates a unique and separate data stream and is agnostic to EGM supplier or platform, allowing even legacy machines to be included.

“When we introduced iVIZION and said it was going to be the foundation of intelligent validation, this is the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. We have moved from promise to reality,” Mr Nieman says. “And new ideas and new apps keep coming. Every time we exhibit at a trade show, someone visits our booth and asks, ‘Wow, can iVIZION ever do this?’ Then we’ve got another potential idea. We originally went into the design phase thinking only about the operator and what we can do with iVIZION to make the operator’s life more efficient, more productive. But regulators have come in and seen DNA and said it is outstanding. Regulators are excited that the type of information DNA delivers could be available in a seamless and secure fashion without interrupting operations.

“We envision a day when JCM’s DNA will play a critical role in greater counterfeit security. The potential to scan images and store images will allow casinos to capture real-time event data that will make the counterfeiter’s decision to use a gaming EGM a poor choice for passing any bad notes.”

tom nieman
Tom Nieman—‘We have moved from promise toreality.’

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