Vending machines are not just about soda and candy and
Wireless technologies that enable credit card purchases are
spurring companies to market a wider variety of items from
vending machines—everything from suntan lotion to golf
balls to consumer electronics.
Say, for example, your cell phone dies and you desperately
need to replace it. These days you can simply buy a new one
from a vending machine. How about a new pair of shoes? For
awhile, Reebok was selling sneakers this way.
“Cashless is really opening up the marketplace for what one
would call very high-ticket items,” says Steve Herbert,
president and chief operating officer for USA Technologies. His
company’s e-Port hardware, which can be installed in
vending machines, handles credit card processing, tracks
inventory and monitors the “health and welfare” of the
machines, alerting technicians in case of trouble.
The device, used by customers including Motorola and Reebok,
includes a general packet radio service cellular
connection. While the wireless credit card payment capability
solves the problem of requiring end users to stuff $100 or more
in cash into a machine, it also solves a related problem: At
$1.50 or $2 for a soda, the currency systems in a soda machine
can fill up before the machine is empty, Herbert says, cutting
into potential sales and profits. Operators want to allow users
to buy with credit cards in order to be able to sell every last
item in the machine.
The e-Port and related software also fuel a variety of
wireless applications beyond vending. Sony uses software from
USA Technologies in digital photo printing kiosks to enable
credit card authorization and head off problems. For example,
if paper runs out, the software tells a technician that it’s
time for a refill.
Next up: a vending machine that sells gold wedding rings? It
would be a hit in Las Vegas for sure.