To understand why FutureLogic leaders say their products are future proof, you first may want to know about the company’s past and its culture of creative innovation that continues to bring specialized products to meet the needs of various industries.
Years before FutureLogic worked with IGT for the show launch of its ticket-in/ticket-out solution, the company was working with printers and couponing in other industries and finding great success. Mark Meyerhofer, the current CTO, founded FutureLogic in 1983. In 1986, Eric Meyerhofer, the current CEO, joined his brother as the company’s first full-time employee. They started out doing broad-based consulting work with microprocessors.
In the late 1980s, the brothers began working with Catalina Marketing Corp., doing coupons at the checkout stand based on what customers were buying. Eric Meyerhofer recalls: “We did two generations of printers for them and Mark was involved in some of the work on the back end of servers to collect the store traffic as far as what people were buying. That project really galvanized for us a strong interest in printing solutions and printer technology.”
FutureLogic narrowed its focus in the 1990s to work on printing solutions, technology and couponing, which Meyerhofer says really prepared them for the gaming industry. In 1999, FutureLogic introduced its GEN1™ printer. This came in conjunction with the company’s work with IGT to introduce TITO in 1999. A fast, four-month development process led to the successful release of a broad-based system that allowed players to use tickets from machine to machine.
The GEN1 printer sold strong until 2004, when the company introduced the GEN2™ printer. This product offered a higher ticket capacity, presenter and a burster on the unit that prevented jams caused by players pulling their ticket and causing problems with the next ticket in the queue. Then the GEN2 Universal™ printer was released, which allowed for a cross between various game interfaces.
The work FutureLogic first did with TITO solidified the company’s commitment to the process of developing customized solutions for gaming needs, which it had done for other industries throughout its first 16 years. Meyerhofer says specializing in custom solutions is still the way the company works. “We’re much more interested in adapting a platform to a various set of technical requirements.”
Of course, refining and selling TITO solutions kept FutureLogic employees busy in the 2000s. But company leaders already had their goals set on introducing casinos to the couponing systems that were so successful in retail. Meyerhofer recalls, “It’s taken a long time, but we’re finally at the point of getting trials installed and having that technology ready in a form that a regulator recognizes and operators can use.”
First, FutureLogic needed a printer that could handle the requirements of couponing. G2E 2010 marked the introduction of just that, the GEN3® Evolution printer. Meyerhofer says: “We think this is a quantum leap even from our GEN2 series or where gaming printers have been. The reason is the printer is designed from the ground up with an orientation toward couponing.” GEN3 Evolution printer offers enhanced printing quality, which is necessary for the near-photographic quality desired for images on coupons and tickets. GEN3 Evolution printer has a higher paper capacity, built-in system interface cards and enhanced technology in the printer itself. The printer also has a 2.5 time improvement in speed from past and other enhancements in reliability and durability for harsh conditions.
With the GEN3 Evolution printer in place, FutureLogic is now demonstrating its PromoNet® coupon solution. It allows operators to securely reward valuable carded and non-carded players at the game through automated real-time play metrics and/or host-assisted triggers. The printer has a dual-port arrangement, which means one channel is talking to the game and the other to the couponing system.
The rewards are printed at the game using advanced graphics that help players visualize the experience they’re being offered. The coupons are also customized for each property, so the images, messages and offers are unique to a specific casino.
Meyerhofer says: “Properties now have a tool to reach players and in some cases steer them to things they want them to do, obviously by offering an incentive for that. I think people are going to say it works very well. It’s very simple, easy to understand. The ticket communicates fully what it is you’re getting or being offered.”
It took the company decades to move what it learned about couponing from retail to gaming. As Meyerhofer explains, challenges in the regulatory process and garnering interest from slot machine manufacturers is what took time. But he believes taking the time was appropriate and has set the company and the PromoNet solution up for success.
It also took time to educate operators about couponing. Now, Meyerhofer says the benefits seem obvious to them, but it wasn’t always that way, especially in the early 2000s when operators were just focused on getting their TITO systems up and running. Around 2005, operators were ready to listen to FutureLogic’s message about using printer technology to benefit the player in an enhanced way. Meyerhofer says: “TITO is really done as a benefit for operations.
The players, I think have come to recognize some benefit from TITO tickets, but primary at its outset it was more about operational efficiency. The coupon is the opportunity to use the ticket to do something for the player.”
In 2006, FutureLogic made some progress with system providers who told them to build something and they would integrate it. That began a three-year process of development, and now operators are planning the PromoNet solution into their floors and budgets.
Nick Micalizzi, VP of sales and marketing, says he’s seeing a tremendous amount of interest and excitement about the PromoNet solution as he visits with casino operators. “I don’t want to make it sound too simplistic, but people get it. People really get it,” Micalizzi says. “Let’s face it, isn’t everyone looking to increase the number of people in their players club? Aren’t they looking at increasing revenue, retaining customers and adding new customers? All of those come into play with PromoNet solution.”
Micalizzi says the PromoNet solution is a great example of what the creative culture at FutureLogic leads to. Meyerhofer explains the creative process he encourages, in this way: “It’s like when you apply energy into a closed system, there’s just so many ideas bouncing around, and things move so quickly. I think if you’re not out there in the process with other people, either customers or essential partners, you really miss a great opportunity.”
Meyerhofer says the incubation of ideas is deeply rooted in how FutureLogic thinks as a company. So much so that a joke around the office is that a meeting cannot officially end until someone has designed a new product. Meyerhofer explains: “It’s just people kind of drifting off and free-form ideas coming up. Inevitably, contagious people start pitching in and discussing the thing, and before you know it we’ve sketched this new idea. And even though most of those go to the waste can, the idea is over time, they often culminate into something larger.” The Meyerhofer brothers themselves also make time to collaborate on technology and products with employees.
With the creative development process complete for the PromoNet solution, the system has now gone through trials, and Meyerhofer says data shows a high level of acceptance and that people simply get it. “They went really well and the redemption rates for coupons were surprisingly high,” he explains. “It does seem to appear that players will take the ticket and do things with it.” In 2011, Meyerhofer expects a number of trial site installations and is looking forward to the results. Four trials are already set, all in different jurisdictions.
In June, FutureLogic received a green light from GLI to bring the PromoNet solution to the market. GLI completed the evaluation of the system, finding the system does not have any access or control over the accounting/ticketing systems and it does not affect revenue, gaming or the integrity of the system. Regarding this milestone announcement for FutureLogic, John Hilbert, VP of systems development and compliance officer, says, “We want to build a reputation with the regulators and with our customers for system performance, reliability and security, and this response from GLI is a great first step along the road.”
In late July, FutureLogic received authorization from the Nevada Gaming Control Board to proceed with an administrative field trial of the PromoNet solution at a casino in Las Vegas. The casino has more than 2,400 slot machines with TITO technology and more than 52 table games.
The next FutureLogic product expected to hit the trial stage in 2012 is the TableXchange® printer/scanner. This brings TITO and couponing to tables. But Meyerhofer says this product is even more significant than that. “I think it’s the beginning of the connection of table games and the slot floor, creating a more harmonious experience.”
Micalizzi says he’s received tremendous feedback from casinos trying TITO at tables with the TableXchange printer/scanner. The product also cuts down on the work required in the pit. “One of the big advantages is that in many cases, chips will never leave the table. So that’s kind of neat. It reduces the refills for the casino,” Micalizzi explains.
There have been some challenges along the development path for this product. FutureLogic spent 18 months reworking the TableXchange printer/scanner based on operator feedback. The company is also now working with regulators to see where it fits in the regulatory matrix.
Meyerhofer believes the extended development time is necessary to get the best product out the first time, avoiding the release of an improved version in a year or two. He’s confident now that the TableXchange printer/scanner will come out and have a good lifespan. He says: “It’s certainly going to cover somebody’s interests and needs into the future and is going to give us the couponing opportunities that really make the unit a win. It’s enough of a win just with TITO tickets, creating that more cohesive floor, but I think it really just knocks it out of the park when you add couponing to it.”
Although printers are the company’s core business, Meyerhofer and Micalizzi are excited to have the opportunity this fall at G2E to show operators how the PromoNet solution and the TableXchange printer/scanner can add value to the printers they buy. They say operators are more interested in solutions like this than in equipment.
FutureLogic will be demonstrating the PromoNet solution in full on major manufacturers’ slot machines. You’ll be able to look inside the game and see the interface card. FutureLogic will also demonstrate how operators can use the monitoring window, the campaign studio and all the different tools that can be used on the web-based system to control who gets what coupon rewards.
Meyerhofer is excited to show off the real-time play metrics that can be used. He explains: “You can look for a player that likes a type of denomination game, or plays for so long. There are a number of different meters you can combine to narrow it down pretty specifically. Typically what you find with that type of behavioral marketing is you get a very high redemption rate. Because if you do a good job of what it is you’re giving them and targeting that player, they will very often find interest in that promotion.”
The company will also be introducing its OnyxTM printer, which is its new low-cost printer. Micalizzi says it’s ideal for Class II products and international markets.
FutureLogic has evolved since its beginnings in the early ‘80s, and its leaders believe its products will truly be future proof. First, Meyerhofer backs this claim by pointing to the plug-in card in the GEN3 Evolution printer. It is built to drop right into the profile body of the printer and not take up any extra space, allowing the printer to fit the current space allotted for it in slot machines. The card itself has a memory expansion module that will deal with the kinds of changes Meyerhofer expects to see as promotional printing catches on and expands. That includes increased memory needs for advanced graphics and fonts. Second, Meyerhofer looks to that same card that will allow the printer to deal with expanded data required by GSA standards.
Meyerhofer says, “Even though we might not be able to define exactly what the interface requirements are today, we have an expansion capability in the printer that will meet it.” With knowledge of FutureLogic’s history, it’s easy to see that this truly is a market-leading technology company focused on customized solutions that become trend-setting products.
Sarah Klaphake Cords is the New Media Editor for Casino Enterprise Management. She can be reached at editor3[at]aceme.org.