As technology continues to evolve, cashless transactions are becoming the norm in various industries, including vending. In 2021, the UK saw an average of 98 million cashless transactions every single day, with almost 36 billion cashless transactions over the year – a 16% increase over the previous year. Though this is the most fundamental shift in vending technology over the last 20 years, there is much more to be seen from the industry’s innovators.
In this article, we explore the cutting-edge technologies that may just redefine the vending experience and revolutionise how we buy our favourite snacks and drinks in future years.
Internet of Things (IoT) and Vending Machines
The future of workplaces most definitely involves the Internet of Things (IoT) – the network of increasingly smart devices that exist in the world around us, from smart fridges to laptops and Ring doorbells. In just 10 years we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of everyday devices being fitted with their own CPUs and storage, as well as an array of sensors and user interface technologies.
Now we have the ability to see what food and drink products are in our fridges without opening doors and can access and control our security systems from anywhere in the world, provided we can get online. Technology is giving us much greater access to data and insights from both the consumer side of a transaction, and the retailer’s.
Though already ‘smart’ in many ways, there’s a lot of new connectivity to come from vending machines and coffee machines. We fully expect that in the future coffee machines will be able to identify your face using facial recognition technology, and provide options for drinks that you might like, based on your previous dispense history. It’s also quite likely that you’ll one day be able to walk into a shop and pick up a drink that you ordered through the shop’s app, before you even arrived, using a commercial coffee machine.
Similarly, snack vending machines are going to become much better at monitoring buying habits and creating bespoke deals to drive repeat purchasing, without any human intervention. It may also be the case that snack machines will be capable of ordering their own replacement products when levels are low, reducing the time taken to replenish them by eradicating manual stock checks.
Biometric Payment Systems for Vending Machines
Biometric authentication is already used in some unattended retail environments, but there’s plenty of room for growth of this technology over the coming years. One such example you might see is on a micro market, with some system providers like 365 Retail Markets and 3 Square Marketplace utilising fingerprint readers to allow one-touch login to a user profile on a kiosk.
In the future we can see there being much more biometric technology utilised specifically for the purposes of paying. Rather than using fingerprints or palm prints to log into an account, the unique physical properties can be used to verify a transaction, alongside a secondary authentication method such as PIN or entering a password.
This would mean an end to the need for any physical cards to be carried, as well as the end of needing your smartphone to be able to access your digital card wallet, and will revolutionise vending machine convenience.
Blockchain Technology in Vending
Most people have heard about blockchain by now, either in the form of cryptocurrencies or possibly in a retail banking sense, as a technology to provide even more secure peer-to-peer transactions. Blockchain technology can help in the vending industry to remove the need for middle parties and enable tamper-resistant purchases from vending machines.
Blockchain technology’s main benefit is that there’s no need for a middle party to facilitate a transaction between two other parties. When money is needed, that is managing directly between peers, and removes the need for a bank to handle the transaction on behalf of both those parties. Whenever you’ve used a snack vending machine or a coffee machine in a public place, you’ll have paid using a contactless terminal – these allow the payments to be made and require a bank to utilise their services to facilitate the payment, incurring a cost. Without the need to do so, your products may just get a little cheaper.
With blockchain technology, there’s no one place for a transaction to be held – by nature the information is decentralised and shared amongst a range of different nodes, making it impossible to dispute the reality of a transaction when there are so many copies of the information in existence. This will one day add an extra level of security to vending machine transactions and enable vending operators to manage refund requests much more quickly and easily.
Augmented Reality (AR) Vending Experiences
One of the most exciting future vending machine technologies is the implementation of augmented reality. AR technology could transform traditional vending machines into interactive experiences, giving consumers the power to virtually examine products, including unwrapping and disassembling them to see what they’re made of, and to provide nutritional information at the touch of a button.
The technology of today requires a user to have a smartphone with AR technology available, though in future years we can see this being something built directly into machines, adding an extra level of depth to the buying experience.
With AR also comes the possibility of richer, deeper brand experiences, with ads being run in real time in front of a user’s eyes, whilst browsing machines for food and drink that they are considering purchasing. From an engagement perspective, this could be huge.
Whatever the future holds, we know from experience that innovation in the vending industry is a big thing, and manufacturers are no doubt already exploring some of the options we’ve discussed today as they seek to make quicker, more convenient and more immersive experience for consumers around the world.
Bring it on!