IoT gives Japan’s vending machines high-tech makeover

SOURCE:China Central Television (CCTV) – Vending machines in Japan have become increasingly intelligent – thanks to new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), which allow people to enter a new world of smart and personalized shopping experiences.

Since their introduction in Japan in 1888, vending machines have undergone constant changes with technology advancements, and now they are equipped with facial recognition and global positioning systems as part of a trend enabled by the IoT technology that connects traditional devices with the internet.

Many vending machines in the country are so smart that when someone walks by, coupons will automatically pop up from social networking apps on the person’s smartphone.

Meanwhile, they use facial recognition technology to identify customers’ age and sex and make recommendations accordingly. With a tap on the machine’s display, users can even check the calorie count in the recommended drink, which can be purchased simply with a swipe of an IC card used for paying transportation fares.

According to industry insiders, the Japanese vending machine market is dominated by five local and international beverage giants, including Coca-Cola and Suntory. The companies hold a combined 80 percent of the market share with more than 1.96 million machines located across the nation.

Seeking a bigger market share, some beverage companies have started to install machines outside private properties.

The device itself has also acquired new features, according to Koike Yuta of the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association.

“With time, vending machines have become more than just something that dispenses products after you insert a banknote, but have increasingly turned into a service provider. For example, they can provide more information to consumers after being connected to a mobile handset, or sell more products apart from food and drinks,” said Koike.

It was estimated that vending machines generated revenues of two trillion yen (about 18 billion U.S. dollars) in the country in 2016.