I heard a news story about an interesting development in vending machines. New “smart” vending machines can use facial recognition technology to restrict an individual customer’s choices. According to the manufacturer, this can be used to prevent kids from buying cigarettes or keep dieters on track.
I think this is an interesting proposition. There are obvious flaws to the system. However, it could have a needed effect of increasing the amount of healthy items available in a vending machine. I mean, if it isn’t going to let you buy a Twinkie or Snickers, there has to be an alternative apple or carrot sticks it will let you buy. Right?
What do you think? Are you for or against technology like this? Should we help people by restricting their choices on a person by person basis? Or should we just change all options in a vending machine to be healthy? Share your thoughts in the comments.
2 thoughts on “Smart Vending Machines”
A RESPONSE FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE INDUSTRY…
As a vending machine business we regularly look out for developments within the industry and fellow industries relating to us. There is no question that this is a great ‘idea’ especially in terms of making sure children are not purchasing items they would not normally be allowed to buy when their parents are not around and preventing underage individuals buying items such as cigarettes.
In terms of dieters I myself as a fad dieter with very low will power would love an extra helping hand to guilt trip me into not cheating when I’m supposed to be healthy eating and cutting out the treats! The sheer embarrassment of a machine telling me NO would no doubt deter me from trying to cheat again.
However, from our point of view as the venders this embarrassment and denial of that treat in a public place, although the consumer has told the machine not to allow it, may frustrate them and deter them from using the machine all together. This therefore could be detrimental to our business and anyone else who chooses to use these SMART machines. In addition to this as a company we have the facility to supply various healthy options of soft drinks, confectionary, snacks and food but the truth is these items just don’t seem to sell! The options are there right in front of the consumers faces yet more often than not they prefer the ‘unhealthy’ versions. This may be because of the idea of what a vending machine is for is ingrained in the consumers’ minds.. it’s there for a treat, to cure a craving, for a sugar boost! (We do not feel this but we know it’s what many of our consumers think!) Therefore I feel that until this image of vending machines = junk food only is changed and people accept that a vending machine is a quick way to get a snack whether it be healthy or unhealthy rather than just for junk then consumers will continue not to buy into the healthy machines or healthy items available in machines alongside less healthy ones!
Yes they may buy into the novelty of the intelligence of the technology in ‘knowing’ who they are personally and this feeling of a connection with the machine. (Psychologically this idea is very smart way of manipulating what is inbuilt into human nature!) However, they as consumers may not like what the machine has to say as wants and needs are two very different things!! You may know you NEED to probably lose a few pounds or would like to so you programe this into the machine. But on the particular visit to that machine you may NEED a sugar boost as you feel faint, you really NEED something to eat because you are hungry and haven’t eaten all day or you may really WANT your favourite drink, yet you are denied the product. The machine can only do what it is programmed to.. it is incapable of making allowances for the situation !
I feel the overall problem of unhealthy eating lies within the education of the nation. To get to the root of the problem people need to learn the importance of healthy eating and the consequences of overindulgence. A treat is OK but not on a daily basis. We do not encourage our customers to eat every meal from our machines even though we do provide healthy options! A balanced healthy diet is key and then you can look forward to those treats rather than those treats = your daily diet! By removing responsibility for the decision making process people will become mentally lazy and not learn from the actions of their behavior!
Thank you so much for you perspective! I agree that education and real behavior change is always better than making artificial scenarios. As a consumer, maybe the extra deterrent from going to the machine in the first place would be a good thing. As a machine owner, I could see how that would not be a good situation.