The Prevalence Of “Smart” Devices

March 26, 2015

Consumers will soon expect a vending machine to be smart. That is my prediction. I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the term “The Internet of Things,” sometimes referred to as IoT.

In a very basic definition, the IoT means physical objects, like vending machines, thermostats, phones, cars, fitness devices, etc., that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to the Internet. This embedded technology allows the “thing” to achieve greater value and service because it can be accessed remotely, talk to other devices or monitor the person near it.

The IoT has already been happening around us. There are thermostats that can be controlled from anywhere, cars with remote start initiated with a key fob, and fitness devices that send physical activity or biometric information about the wearer to the Cloud. The list goes on if you consider smart TVs and smartphones that are connected to the Internet continuously.

Some people look at these as a path towards destruction like an artificial intelligence sci-fi movie. I’m not there; I prefer to look at the trends more pragmatically. The IoT is directly related to vending machines and those operators using telemetry are already ahead of the game.

Big names going IoT

Recently an announcement about Amazon acquiring a software company made news because the software enables location and proximity sensing, facial recognition and geofencing. If you’ve been to any of Prof. Kasavana’s talks on V-engineering you have heard these terms connected to vending. Very real examples are a vending machine that can reach out to a person walking by with a targeted ad or change the message displayed on the touchscreen based on the gender/age of the person standing in front of the vender. These technologies already exist, albeit in small sample sizes.

Kraft launched a dessert dispensing machine in 2012 that used facial recognition to dispense product to adults only. VE Global Vending Inc. and Intel partnered to create VE Connect which can target advertising or vending apps based on anonymous demographics. PayRange can communicate with a nearby smartphone with the PayRange app. These are just some of the examples.

Future of IoT

Some smart devices are already commonplace, such as cellphones and TVs. Some less so, such as fitness devices, baby monitors and residential control of heating and cooling systems. However, the very fact that these technologies are available means the perception of the consumer, especially the younger generation who has been connected with tablets, computers, gaming systems and smartphones their entire lives, will expect every machine to be “smart” in one way or another. Vending machine operators have a unique opportunity to plan ahead for this day. As they upgrade machines and the associated technology, they can be as “cool” and modern as these other smart devices, giving vending a cutting edge reputation that it hasn’t enjoyed in quite a while.