Woman using Qiba product in vending machine

MDB 4.3 and Remote Vending

MDB 4.3: The Ultimate Guide to the Latest Vending Protocol

Remote Vending now possible!


Woman using Qiba product in vending machine

What is that new version of the Vending Machine Peripherals Protocol, and how does it affect me?

MDB (Multi-Drop Bus) is THE standard for interfacing payment peripherals to Vending Machines. Its internal controllers (commonly written as VMC- vending machine controllers).
The standard is decades old, it was first defined in the 1980s and since that time evolved quite a lot. Earlier versions of the standard did not define or implement ‘cashless’ media support, so you might still meet an older vending machine supporting MDB, which does not work with a card reader/credit card terminal. However, since MDB 4.x has been out for more than 10 years, most recent machines have no problem with card readers.

NOTE: Even factory new vending machines might implement an older version of the MDB standard! There is NO guarantee that an actual vending machine supports MDB 4.3!

How do I find this out? Well – ask the vendor.

So – if the MDB standard has supported card readers for some years – why a new version?

MDB 4.3 is the FIRST version of the standard which defines functionality to “remote vend” – in simple terms – to tell a vending machine to dispense a product. Before MDB 4.3, there was no standardized way to “tell” a vending machine to sell a product, which is the dream of most app developers.
The “remote vend” function is finally here with MDB4.3, but there is NO guarantee a vending machine supports it.

Another noteworthy new feature is the possibility to support baskets. There are more enhancements of course, we recommend studying the standard, find it here.

How did remote vend work with pre-MDB 4.3 machines? Either through vendor specific (usually not open) interfaces, or – the most common approach – was to ‘hack’ the keypad (simulate key presses). We have done this ourselves with the VEMIO-1 product.

You might want to ask: Can I upgrade my xxxx vending machine to MDB 4.3 with your interfaces ? Unfortunately, NO: the VMC in the vending machine which implements the protocol is the core of the vending machine. WE cannot update or replace that vending machine controller. You need to ask the supplier if an upgrade to MDB 4.3 is available.

So what does Qiba bring to the table?

Our Qiba MDB interfaces support generic communication modes, and you can implement what you want using those (generic master mode to implement a VMC on, for example, a raspberry, and generic slave/peripheral mode to implement a payment device). We also provide an implementation of a cashless slave/peripheral device. This only partially implements MDB 4.3 at the time being as the use cases for MDB 4.3 are quite rare these days (remote vend is of course supported).

So – to conclude: 

  1. MDB 4.3 brings new features, mainly the remote vend function;
  2. Qiba devices can be used today to implement MDB 4.3 based applications;
  3. If you wish to add a vend functionality on your vending machine, you need to ensure that the machine comes with MDB 4.3 and remote vend support by the manufacturer! This cannot be ‘added’ from the outside;

For our full range of affordable MDB interfaces which support both Peripheral and VMC roles, please check out our online shop here. We ship worldwide, usually the next day.

Thanks for reading,

Johannes R.

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