Self-service vending machines and computerized kiosks already pervade the private sector, from soda machines to ATMs. Now, more local governments are using the machines to improve efficiency in interacting with constituents and employees.
Since September, the Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff's Office has housed six self-service kiosks at the county jail to handle financial interactions between the inmates and their families, says Capt. India Davis. The kiosks, which are owned by Las Vegas-based EZCard & Kiosk, allow inmates or their families to deposit money into the inmate's account to pay for commissary items or medical charges, to post bond, and to deposit any money the inmate has at the time of booking into their jail account.
Automating inmate financial transactions eliminates the county's liability incurred when handling cash, Davis says. “[Handling inmate transactions] just gets very expensive, and there's a high liability because if we were to misplace or mishandle something, then the county has to reimburse that.” EZCard & Kiosk charges service fees to people who use the machines, so the county pays nothing for the service.
Self-service machines can be used in internal operations, as well. Several Sacramento, Calif., departments have begun using vending machines to distribute equipment, from goggles to gloves, to employees, says Tom Webber, operations general manager for Sacramento's Traffic Signs and Markings Department. The machines track the use of the supplies and automatically notify the machines' owners, Winona, Minn.-based Fastenal, when an item has to be restocked.
The city paid a $1,000 one-time delivery fee, and it pays for the supplies at bulk-rate prices. City staff members do not have to spend time placing orders for and picking up supplies, Webber says. “Now I've got those people out doing what their job really is, which is taking care of signs and markings in the city of Sacramento,” he says.
The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has kiosks that residents can use to renew vehicle registrations. The machines dispense the registration and decals.
Chicago and Milwaukee residents use kiosks from Chicago-based Pay-Ease to purchase parking permits and pay parking tickets.