The Vending industry is at an inflection point that will usher in a new era of vending- “Intelligent Vending”.  We all have stories from our past- those bad moments when your plans were dashed by a vending machine either eating your money, dispensing the wrong product, or being sold out of what you desperately wanted.  Now with technology to make these machines smart your expectations of that vending experience should be increased.  Arguably, the vending industry is about to cross a chasm, from where vending machine technology has sometimes been considered as out-dated or not relevant within todays digital world, to a world of intelligent vending machines, let’s take a closer look.

What is an Intelligent Vending Machine?  The key elements are that the platform should have a touch screen interface, multiple modes to transact (ex NFC, cash, credit card), security for the transaction, always connected with seamless networking,  remote management and inventory control, and lastly a compelling user interface that is intuitive.  To be cost effective this solution should embrace open industry standards.  This VIDEO portrays how this new platform will reinvent the way vending is done today.

The consumer will benefit from having a machine that can display more information about the products and enable multiple ways to transact with the device.  Trends like gameification with the machine, new user interfaces like touch and gesture will make the purchase decision much more engaging.  By enabling the owner/brand to seamlessly manage the inventory levels and keep the machine in working order the hassles of the past should become a distant memory.  In todays world of vending, driving vending operators revenue potential is key to the viability of the vending industry. In support of this, the flexibile and centrally managed software of intelligent vending machines enabled by Intel Architecture can facilitate the introduction of new efficiencies such as dynamic route planning and the introduction of new innovative revenue steams. One such revenue steam is that of advertising.   Advertisers will benefit from being able to dynamically advertise product at the point of purchase and then have data on what the consumer selected- linking the advertising spend to purchase behavior.

The most exciting aspect of this transition is that the ecosystem is ready today with production ready systems as well as UPGRADES to existing vending platforms.  For example, with the simple change of the mechanical door on the front a legacy machine can become intelligent.  By 2016 industry reports predict that new vending machine shipments will top 2MU per year- that is a 49% Compounded Annual Growth Rate for intelligent vending machines!

Even more interesting is market forces that will spur this technology transition: such as NFC, governmental regulations requiring food content marketing, and scalability of technology ingredients like digital signage platforms.    Imagine the new business models that will be available as these systems become intelligent: Ad funded networks, flexible pricing, multi-vending, linking to vouchers, loyalty programs, interaction with social media platforms and more.

To summarize – the vending industry is at an inflection point that will enable a win-win solution for consumers as well as brands/vendors.  They key will be moving to industry standard platforms and employing technologies that link to consumer usage models.  I’m ready to enjoy the benefits of intelligent vending…. Are you?