Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Marketers frequently discuss the role of digital technology in cutting edge areas of content distribution, such as email, display ads, mobile phone campaigns and streaming video. However, the relentless march of innovation extends into surprising places.

The staid world of outdoor billboards, for example, is being transformed by exotic technology, including image recognition systems that can pitch targeted content based on the type of car that passes by. In a similar manner, vending machines are being transformed, with some systems pitching specific products based on data on individual consumers while other machines promote social media pages or seek to attract customers by offering the novelty of robotic delivered products.

In becoming high-tech devices, modern vending machines are no longer hindered by outdated systems that may have only accepted coins or other systems that often rejected frustrated consumers’ dirty or excessively worn dollar bills. Indeed, PYMNTs.com notes that the adoption of electronic payment systems is playing a big role in the growth of smart vending machines. For example, one study found that gross sales rose 110% overall in the 18 months after cashless options were added to machines. Cashless payments and other advances in technology, furthermore, are expected to help smart vending machines grow into a $15 billion market by 2025.

Some of the digital payment systems, furthermore, don’t even require a smartphone or debit card. In China, UTStarcom and China Mobile Group have launched goBox, which is a 5G-connected vending machine that accepts biometric payments by using face recognition technology. According to Biometricupdate.com, the companies are developing the technology for a variety of locations, including high-speed rail stations, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels. Biometricupdate.com adds that biometric enabled vending machines are also predicted to grow rapidly in Singapore, where more than 1,000 of the devices are expected to be deployed in the near future.

Indonesia is also experiencing vending machine innovation with the introduction of the OVO SmartCube, reports Forbes. OVO is Indonesia’s leading digital payments, rewards and financial services company. Its technology includes a rules-based system for delivering data-driven marketing and its Kinetica Active Analytics Platform for creating customer profiles.

As an example of the smart technology, the system uses its digital payment technology to identify individuals who have just paid for a meal at a restaurant that is close to the vending machine. OVO then uses that information and data on the individuals to send special offers, such as discounts on desserts, to the restaurant diners. The diners can then go to the nearby vending machine to buy the items.
In another advancement, Innovative Vending Solutions has developed social media-connected vending machines. When consumers use the machines to Tweet a specific hashtag, the machines dispense free items, such as bottled water.

Nissin Foods USA, which is well known for its ramen cup noodle products, has launched similar technology that encourages consumers to post pictures on instagram, according to a press release from the company. Nissin has teamed up with marketing firm FOODBEAST to create a vending machine that dispenses free cup noodles and even videogames to individuals who post pictures of themselves holding Nissin products. The machines have been placed in the Del Amo Fashion Center in Los Angeles County and the Las Vegas Premium Outlets South.

Other smart vending machines lack the ability to promote social media content or pitch customized offers to consumers. Rather, they simply seek to generate sales by attracting consumers with novel features, such as robotic technology. In Columbia, South Carolina, about 20 robot-operated vending machines are being rolled out that will serve frozen yogurt available in a variety of flavors, reports ABC Columbia. The machines have been developed by Generation Next, which is owned by Reis & Ivy. The machines, which use artificial intelligence, are the first ever robotic devices, according to claims by Reis & Ivy officials.

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