I used vending machines multiple times a day when I was overseas; water was the number one buy. I would try the pizza in a pinch but it would be hard to get me to eat that as more than a novelty.
When do the salad machines come on line? Fresh (as is still on the vine tomatoes) picked, sliced, and tossed with the fresh greens while your coin is still rattling in the box... Now that's what I'm talking about.
While this seems to be an obvious progression - I personally would have a hard time trusting food items such as the pizza maker. Even with prepackaged foods I have seen stale out-of-date product come out of a vending machine. Restaurants clean their food processing machines daily - how would that happen with a vending machine? And I have real concerns with the pharmaceutical model as well. How do you prevent fraudulent use or someone even just breaking into the machine to obtain the drugs inside? I would also like to know my recourse if I buy a defective product from the Best Buy kiosk.
When these things work well - they are great. But when they fail to work as designed...it is the consumer that loses with a lot of time and aggravation to get their money back or just deciding its not worth it and taking the hit...
From experience, it seems vending machines have come a long way in the last few years. The engineering technology to provide these machines is truly fascinating. I can remember times when I would deposit money push the designated buttons, wait for the item to drop--wait for the item to drop-wait for the item to drop then bang, bang, shake, tilt. You get the picture. The technology has definitely improved over the past few years and includes a much greater variety of products. I think this trend will continue although I definitely agree I'm a little nervous about food items that need to be processed. I would also venture a guess that the FED will get in the picture, if they have not already, when the level of sophistication continues to improve. All it will take is one death resulting from a "bad vend".
On the topic of food safety and sanitation, this new generation of automated kiosks pushes beyond delivering dated, prepackaged foods into preparation and processing. The end products are made fresh to order, and the automated equipment, storage, and handling are certified to NSF sanitation and food safety standards. One step further, smart controllers and machine-to-cloud telematics are keeping track of the freshness of ingredients and the parameters of the process. For example, machines can automatically halt sales of products that require fresh milk when it expires or if the storage temperature drops below safety thresholds. They can notify technicians of the need for service as well as cleaning and restocking requirements.
I think we are all excited about the progress in payment systems that is unfolding right now. Technologies like Square have allowed independent service providers to take credit cards from any smartphone. And, the next generation of vending equipment has little need for cash or coins; instead focused on credit cards, contactless payments, NFC, and loyalty programs.
I too would vend a fresh salad versus peering beneath the sneeze guard to pick it up from the aging bar.
As an ancient history buff, I really enjoyed finding out that vending machines are as old as the Egyptians. If someone comes up with one that dispenses very fresh, perfectly cooked filet mignon, or excellent Chinese food, I'll be there. But the food quality and freshness of what's out there now is just too poor.
Cabe, Looking at some of those pics, it seems that some of them do have credit card slots. I would think that would almost be a requirement for drugs and Best Buy products. I can guess that the vendors just don't want the added expense for $1.40 soda...or they don't want to raise the price even more to cover it.
I'm interested to see how the NFC (Near Field Communication) application will work and how broadly it will be accepted by the marketplace. I'm curious to see how the advantages of this type of technology will play out in the vending machine and kiosk world and how sought-after it will be.
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