SmartVend: Smartphones and Vending Machines

April 23, 2014 9:00 AM

Old Vending MacineAlthough paying for drinks or treats from a vending machine wirelessly isn’t exactly new, in Australia, Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) have revealed that the next stage of paying wirelessly for their vending machine products is using Smartphones.

This is possible by banks having near-field communication, which are chips with wireless technology embedded in a phone. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia already has an app with wireless chip technology on Samsung Galaxy S4 phones that can enable consumers to pay for purchases up to $100 with a swipe of their Smartphones.

However the evolution of vending machines won’t end there for Coca Cola Amatil (CCA). They are working with Germany business software corporation, SAP to have vending machines that are equipped with video cameras, touch screens, even facial recognition software and 3G connectivity. This technology will enable the vending machines to map buying patterns and send personalised offers to customers who are passing by. SAP’s aims with the technology will provide customers with information on who is buying what from which vending machine, other buyers’ social connections and data on how customers respond to special offers.

It almost sounds like a vending machine Facebook.

Smart vending machineAccording to a report released by Intel two years ago, priorities for expanding vending machine technologies and capabilities include installing LCD touchscreens to promote an interactive experience, cashless payments by phones and credit/debit cards, wireless connections, voice recognition software, digital content and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Globally, the most important priorities are installing LCD touchscreens, cashless payment systems and wireless connections.

So does having Smart vending machines make the world a better place? Maybe that’s going a bit too far.

When I first read the article on this in the Sydney Morning Herald, I thought it sounded bizarre and really out there, I even thought that technology was going too far with this one. It sounded like our decisions on what soft drinks and/or chocolate bars to buy at the uni, office, hospital or train station vending machines were going to be made for us. I worried about possible glitches with credit/debit cards and being charged for the 3pm chocolate bar multiple times, which would be the equivalent of vending machines happily eating my coins but not keeping up its end of the bargain and giving me my chocolate bar.  I also worried about my personal vending shopping and social information getting out.

However I have come to realise that despite my feelings and fears, this, like any other technological evolution is going to happen no matter what, I should just accept it.

Smart vending machines or intelligent vending machines, as they are more commonly known are just another retail and economical technological revolution like PayPass. Technological evolutions or upgrades need to happen and are inevitable as vending machines, like any other product and/or business, need to keep up with and cater to their customers to keep up their business.

Say goodbye to the days of having to rustle for coins, taking ages to make a decision on what soft drink or chocolate bar we want (due to the possibilities of our and other people’s buying habits being shown) and hoping that the vending machine will keep up with their end of the bargain. I’ll let you know when I use a Smart vending machine for the first time.

Comment on your experiences with Smart vending machines below.

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