Real-time connectivity has arrived

CPI captivated crowds at G2E this year by showcasing its most recent innovation, Easitrax Connect.  We spoke with Eric Fisher – CPI president of Gaming – about what this revolutionary new connectivity platform means for the industry.   

Casino InternationaI: What exactly is “connectivity,” and why does the gaming industry need it?

Eric Fisher: When we talk about connectivity, we’re referring to real-time communication between machines, peripherals and operators over a wired or wireless network. Our SC Advance bill validators, for instance, collect tremendous amounts of data while accepting, authenticating and denominating banknotes. This information, in turn, can be used to create new operating efficiencies, save on costs, and elevate the player experience – but only if operators can access it, make sense of it, and respond to it in a timely manner.

The drive for greater efficiency in Gaming is actually the primary reason why so many operators have turned to Easitrax and why Easitrax Connect, in particular, offers such an attractive solution. It works by collecting transaction and performance data from each game’s bill validator. It then organises that information into reports that help operators accelerate the drop process, resolve soft count variances, optimise slot performance and improve maintenance practices – all in real time. As a result, operators can react to threats before they become emergencies.

CI:  Easitrax is known globally in both gaming and other unattended industries as a business intelligence software platform that can help improve efficiencies. How is your new Easitrax Connect system different than your previous releases, Easitrax Soft Count and Easitrax Web? 

EF: The first iterations of Easitrax utilised RFID technology to store data collected from the banknote validator within the cashbox. What makes Easitrax Connect different than its predecessors, though, is that it operates in real time, so operators no longer need to wonder how full their cashboxes are or wait until cashboxes are collected to find out how their banknote validators are performing. Now, they can simply access the Easitrax Connect dashboard to get a live look into their machines and floor. They can even receive instant alerts for issues that require immediate attention.

Imagine knowing exactly how much cash is tied up in any machine at any given time.  Easitrax makes that possible. Our system will send a Cashbox Nearly Full alert so that operators can deploy a team to drop the cash before a cashbox-full event takes the machine out of service. Likewise, operators will be notified if a player attempts to use a suspicious banknote at a game, or when it’s time to perform preventative maintenance on the bill validator to keep it running at its highest performance.

CI: What experience does CPI have in connectivity?

EF: CPI has been a leader in connectivity technology, including cashless payment and asset management software, for more than 10 years. With the rapid evolution of Internet of Things– or connectivity –technology and the proliferation of available payment types, CPI increased its investment in connectivity solutions with the launch of Crane Connectivity Solutions (CCS) division in January of 2017.

Focused exclusivity on connectivity hardware and software solutions, CCS supports CPI in delivering these connected solutions to unattended markets, including Gaming. We have more than 500,000 machines equipped with ePayment devices and manage more than one million machines with enterprise software. Our mobile platform also services more than 50,000 machines each month.

These capabilities, available to our vending customers for years, are now being designed exclusively for our gaming customers.

CI: What does it take to “get connected” with Easitrax Connect?

Easitrax Connect is designed to work with our SC Advance bill validators, and the solution comprises three simple components: a small hardware extension called a Universal Connectivity Box (UCB), the casino’s Ethernet network, and our mobile-friendly Easitrax Connect web application software.

The Universal Connectivity Box attaches directly to SC Advance and utilises an Ethernet connection to communicate data from the bill validator and host machine to the casino’s on-premise server.   Operators can then use a computer, tablet or smart phone to access that data – which we distill into powerful insights – live through the Easitrax Connect dashboard.

CI:  Connectivity certainly sounds like the way of the future – but what if the gaming industry doesn’t rely so heavily on cash or banknote validators in the future?  Will Easitrax Connect continue to be relevant?

Cash has been a very important part of the gaming industry for a long time, and it will continue to be important for the foreseeable future.  Even in environments where TITO or prepaid cards have become “cashless” means for play, cash is still used to complete initial deposits and redeem winnings.

That being said, look at the world beyond the four walls of a casino, and consumers have more choices than ever to pay with what they want. Most carry at least one card on their person. Some even prefer to pay through a mobile or wearable device.

Considering players aren’t restricted to using banknotes and coins anywhere else in their daily lives, we expect the demand to use cashless at the game will naturally grow to the point that regulations finally allow it – and, with Easitrax Connect, operators can be ready for that day. Our Universal Connectivity Box features an array of ports to enable any kind of cashless payment alongside the traditional bill validator – including mobile wallet and contactless closed-loop card payments. The key, of course, is to add (rather than replace) payment options as they become available in Gaming. That way there’s always a way to accept player cash and maximise revenue streams.

CI: What else can Easitrax Connect do?

Easitrax Connect is highly flexible and, as a platform, does something that one single product typically cannot: it leaves room to grow. Our roadmap includes additional software modules, live heat maps and player behavior analytics that will help operators optimise floor placement of their most profitable machines. We are also working on an alternate version for the Route market so that operators in distributed environments can also manage their machines and their cash more profitably.

CI:  And now for the big question – when will Easitrax Connect be available?

We are excited to say that Easitrax Connect is currently in field trial and will be available to the market in the first quarter of 2019.