How IoT is revolutionizing vending machine capabilities

  • IoT is driving the dramatic evolution of vending machines.

  • Smarter vending machines are now offering real-time demand fulfillment and customized solutions.

  • IoT allows machines to run maintenance reports, alert local distributors, and so much more.

Imagine that you’ve just landed in Las Vegas on a business trip from the U.K. The first thing you head for are the vending machines, where you plan to purchase a pre-loaded mobile device and an accompanying SIM card: one that will give you affordable network coverage during your stay, without heavy international fees.

Sound wacky? You may initially balk at the concept of buying a mobile device from a vending machine, but vending machines today are beginning to offer more than just candy bars and soda cans. What’s driving the dramatic evolution of vending machines? The burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) market, which, according to the Worldwide and Regional Internet of Things (IoT) 2014-2020 Forecast: A Virtuous Circle of Proven Value and Demand, is expected to reach about $7.1 trillion by 2020 and connect roughly 26 billion devices to the Web.

The distinct advantages IP-enabled vending endpoints have over traditional unconnected systems include:

  • Cashless transactions: Smart vending machines can now coordinate with user Web accounts using mobile devices and QR scanners, which eliminates the need for providing correct change.
  • Better marketing opportunities: A smart vending machine can keep track of purchase histories, which allows you to offer customized suggestions on the fly.
  • Automated maintenance: Fewer things are more frustrating than finding a machine out of order or out of stock. Using smart sensors and predictive intelligence, IoT technology allows machines to run maintenance reports and alert local distributors as needed. This reduces unnecessary repair rollouts, and also ensures greater customer satisfaction.
  • Smart inventories: An IP-enabled vending machine allows distributors to see popular items that are selling, based on real-time conditions affecting consumers. For instance, if the weather is freezing, a vendor could stock its machine with gloves and hats.

The fun really begins, however, when you embrace the possibility of real-time demand fulfillment and customized solutions. Consider Oreo’s Trending/Vending machine, unveiled at last year’s SWSX festival in Austin, Texas, which created customized cookies for guests using a built-in 3-D printer. And SAP’s smart vending machine, which allows customers to log in through Facebook and purchase snacks for friends.

It’s important to look beyond the scope of food. Companies are now experimenting with everything from books to cosmetics. Sephora offers makeup, skincare, and fragrance options in all of its vending machines, and many machines come with built-in mirrors and makeup stations.

You can even buy a car through a vending machine. Using a service like Carvana’s automobile vending machine, you can finance and purchase a car over the Web and pick it up the same day from a local automated distribution center.

Once you consider the possibilities of all that can be sold through a vending machine, purchasing a mobile device from one while on a business trip doesn’t seem that farfetched.

Learn more about IoT solutions from AT&T.

The Networking Exchange Blog Team About NEB Team