A Look into the Modern Vending Machine

Vending machines continue to grow ever-more integrated into our lifestyles due to
their efficiency in delivering products on demand for people increasingly on-the-
go. Almost all public environments provide vending machines for people who want
a quick drink, snack or shot of caffeine without the need to go through the more-
lengthy procedures of buying the same item from a grocery store. The relevance
of the vending machine to contemporary life is illustrated best with the recent
changes and innovations modern vending machines have adopted. More and
more vending machines are beginning to offer a wider variety of types of
products: for example, full meals such as pizza and even transportation, like a
bike. Recent innovations also take modern technology into account. A look into
the most recent innovations implemented can give an idea into what customers
are beginning to look for and expect from the modern vending machine.

There is a great increase in the types of products vending machines provide. Many
workers and students will at times skip their lunch to grab a snack and drink from
a nearby vending machine, simply because of lack of time. In response to the fast-
paced nature of modern life, many vending machines are beginning to offer
various types of food, including pizza and bowls of noodles. These vending
machines contain packets of food that, upon purchase, are reheated and delivered
to the purchaser for their convenience. These vending machines also make
customization of the purchaser’s order possible. The oden (a type of Japanese
noodle) vending machine in Japan broke records in the winter of ’06, selling
14,000 cans. Other vending machines have also been reprogrammed to provide
victims with free drinks after catastrophes, such as an earthquake.
The price range of products provided via vending machine has also greatly
increased: expensive products, such as Apple iPhones and medication, can now
also be purchased. These more expensive products accept larger bills and also
incorporate the option to pay by debit/credit (another rather new implementation
that can also be found on many standard drink machines now). Some of these
more-expensive vending machines have increased security and will implement
touch-screens or provide receipts.

Speaking of new methods of payment, the technology available today has given
purchasers various options when choosing a product. Users can now purchase via
their phone or online, using technologies such as V-Commerce. In schools
sophisticated sensors can allow payment via id cards with a single tap. This same
card system can be also used to verify a user’s age, enabling products such as
alcohol and cigarettes to be sold to legal customers. Technology also allows the
machine to be smarter and keep track of its own stats. Vending machines can now
contact its distributor to alert them when a product needs restocking. They are
also able to alert the distributor of other problems, such as internal jam problems
or temperature fluctuations. They are also able to do dynamic pricing on goods,
an idea implemented by Coca Cola, where the price of the drink varies according
to its temperature. Vending machines can also talk to customers, creating a more
memorable, enjoyable experience.
With the great proliferation of vending machines comes the issue of its
environmental impact. In response, vending machines have come up with some
new ways of keeping its impact to a minimum. Ozone-depleting refrigerants are
becoming replaced with more eco-friendly means of keeping cool, such as
hydrocarbons and dry ice. The most common refrigerant, HFC, is a highly
deleterious compound that leaves a heavy carbon footprint and depletes ozone
rapidly. Using the cooling nature of evaporating carbon dioxide and other more
natural materials creates for a drastically more energy-efficient machine. Other
vending machines lets users bring their own cups to fill, to minimize the disposal
of bottles and cans, and many are beginning to consider other energy sources
such as solar energy or the of-grid fuel cell.
Vending machines will continue to grow in popularity and importance in modern
culture, and their relevance in the future is most apparent in the fast-paced
evolution the modern vending machine is currently undergoing. Their speed and
streamlined interface allow users to purchase and acquire needed items quickly
with minimal procedure. A wider variety of products can now be guaranteed to be
found in a vending machine, and their importance as a food source in the current
lifestyle continues to grow more apparent. The study of current innovations also
shows a growing concern on the vending machine’s environmental impact and
also brings up the exciting question of what kinds of innovations are possible with
the technology available today. Technology has already provided new and more
convenient payment options and means of keeping up with a machine’s status.

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About foldingwishes

I am a 3rd year CM major interested in animation and narratology. I believe that design is important and highly applicable to all fields and that good design creates enjoyable experiences. My favorite shows are Samurai Jack, My Life as a Teenage Robot and Avatar the Last Airbender and my favorite movies are Le Grande Chef, Ratatouille and the Great Mouse Detective.
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