Innovation Radar

Artificial intelligence: Terminals learn to walk

Over 50 years ago, we launched the first terminal for the sale of flammable liquids – the Benzin Inkasso Conto Automat (BiCA) (Fuel Collection Account Terminal). We were a trendsetter even back then for the use of artificial intelligence. Find out here how you can be one crucial step ahead of the competition even today with the AI terminal from BiCA. 

Forever change

The founding idea of BiCA was as simple and epochal as the invention of the traffic light: fuel up your vehicle whenever you need to, and not just when the fuel station is open! The traffic light is another example of digitization: the monotonous sequence of the hand signals of police officers on duty was replaced by traffic lights with their colorful displays. 

Automation, robotics and digitization are permanently changing our service environment: even fueling up, payment processes, card sales, reservations, and table reservations have changed entirely today. Times are changing: You will hardly see farmers any more running after their horses or stokers who fuel locomotives. The change from employee-intensive services to routine automation has become part of our daily lives. This trend sometimes goes so far already that you no longer know how to reliably determine if you are dealing with a machine or human being. Just take a look at Google’s recently published visit to the hairdresser

We always used to be driven by disruption connected with mobility

In the Middle Ages, urbanization attracted merchants from rural areas who walked from house to house where they sold their goods directly. In the times since, this “home delivery model” agilely transformed itself into the “retail store model”. Goods were sold in locations with fixed opening hours. This business model remained intact for many hundreds of years. The launch of self-service supermarkets in the 1960s, self-service tills since the 1990s, and finally, online shops since the turn of the millennium destroyed this supremacy of “brick and mortar” market places, which everyone had thought to be entirely secure, with each passing year and month. Fond habits were confronted with rapidly increasing mobility and annihilated, thus leading to increasingly empty high streets in the cities. Today, lifer without home delivery is unthinkable. In other words, we are going “back to the roots”, disguised in a new form of mobility: information flow instead of traffic flow.

Business fields centered on locations and mobility have been in our DNA since the birth of BiCA. Then and now, it was and is hardly possible to take flammable liquids door to door. Stationary fueling in specified locations at set times turned out to be a reliable income model. And it remained that way until our fuel terminals in the 1960s, followed by our self-service terminals in 1990s, went on their triumphal march, in other words long before e-commerce entered the scene- After all, we have been operating “always on” – fully integrated with electronic payment transactions – for over 50 years!

The art of changing metal into a thinking machine

CiRRUS is currently overturning all of its business models developed for more than 50 years in front of our very eyes – and once again we are disruptively taking ourselves apart: Just like a seed, which can only break open if it self-destructs in order to create growth, we have taken apart our sophisticated terminals and made them bloom as “progressive online services”.

We are removing tangible, physical machines from concrete bases and place them back in your hands as a “mobile payment service”. According to Alan Turing, pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), AI means enabling machines, and solving problems. This means that random processes are algorithmized into finite, well-defined individual steps. For example, a flow of gestures is broken down into the individual steps “go”, “attention”, and “stop” in order to digitize them into the signal colors “red – amber – green” and transform them into a well-defined sequence. The “intelligence” of such automated traffic lights is overseeable because it is greatly limited. Quite rightly therefore, no creative interventions are permissible for adding individual steps or changing the sequence of the phases.

The intelligent interaction between fuel terminals and payment terminals is an entirely different matter. Algorithms also control the various machines in this case. However, each connection of machines provides numerous options: The fueling process and payment transaction can each be dissected into individual steps, digitized, then combined in sequence to meet your exact requirements in a new interaction. 

A whole new world of fueling

For example, you wish for your customer to freely select their terminal, start fueling, whilst selecting a wash program right there at the terminal, receive messages of potential waiting times, pay directly for the wash program, and order a table at your bistro within the correct time frame? No problem! Your customer naturally still takes up the discounts for their tailored special offers before conveniently and easily paying for everything together on their mobile device. When your customer turns up next time, the algorithms already know much more about the nature of their visits. They know, for example, that your customer is part of the group of persons who drive up from the left, prefer a certain program, as they have selected it 80% of the time, prefer to sit at the left window with 60% probability, but love your Mexican tacos 100% as they always order them from you. So maybe today, they would be interested in the current “3 for 2” tequila promotion? However, the customer absolutely dislikes receiving push messages. So how about a direct display on the fuel terminal whilst fueling? Or even better – in front of the car wash as they will be waiting a little longer there today? What does their conversion rate look like afterwards? Which offer did they take up, when and where? How and what with could you surprise them during their next visit? 

Your grandmother may still have been able to remember at least half of this, even with the help of pen and paper. But today, you have a much better basis in the form of your digital assistants. They learn from you and your customers, suppliers, and competitors, day after day, week after week – quicker and quicker, more and more. With their tried-and-tested algorithms, they help you to make better decisions, for you and your customers. They often are so good at this that you will no longer know if a suggestion comes from your team or the cloud. All in all, this means that these intelligent machines make a significant difference to you – and not just in terms of acquisition and operating costs, but primarily in the area that is already crucial today – your relationship with your customers.

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