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Blog Post

My Shark Tank Idea: The Corner Vending Machine that “Knows What You Like.”

Posted by Norman Miglietta on 10/09/2013

In the world of M2M, there’s always been a ton of talk about making everyday items “smart:” Smart refrigerators, smart highways, smart streetlights, smart door locks. While some of the ideas that spring up are fairly far-fetched (do I really need my toaster to tell my iPhone when my toast is ready?), there are others that make a lot of sense; E.g., buildings that can sense their moment-to-moment occupancy and automatically adjust lighting levels and climate controls for a constant, perfect balance of safety, comfort and energy conservation. Things like this are certain to become the norm.

That being said, my million dollar idea (this week) comes in the area of “Smart” vending. I was reading about a new phone application from SAP Hana that essentially syncs the phone up to the point of sale. The vending machine activates a touchscreen on the phone itself, and provides the customer with purchase options, promotional offers and way to offer feedback on current and prior purchases. It also allows for gifts to be exchanged between users.

While I can’t say I’d be terribly impressed to receive vending machine credit as a gift, the idea got me thinking. What if we were to enhance the vending machine itself with facial recognition technology so the unit in your office lobby or your local shopping mall – wherever you frequent – would literally recognize you as you walked by, then grab your attention with personalized offerings it knows you cannot resist, based on your purchase history. Taken to the next level of big data analytics and crowd-sourcing it could intelligently offer an “Amazon Recommends”-like service promoting pairings of complementary items (chocolate milk to wash down that peanut butter confection or energy bar anyone?) This rather takes the vending machine app concept to the next stage, and maybe, just maybe one day I’ll formalize my thoughts and submit my pitch to Mark Cuban & company.

Personal aspirations aside, examples like SAP Hana demonstrate how M2M is helping application solution providers transition from a money-saving focus to that of advancing new or incremental revenue streams. With the application in place, not only will vending companies know exactly when to restock individual machines, but also which items are hottest sellers, which products are primed for promotions and which products are simply not selling, all in real-time. Such factors can quickly change from day to day, or even moment to moment, with consumer preferences flowing in step with weather conditions, advertising, diet fads and other external influences.

On the other hand, I suppose the idea of a vending machine cat-calling you as you walk by could be perceived as a bit unnerving. Cue your best HAL 9000 impression: “Hello, Dave. You’re looking a bit famished today. Can I interest you in a Snickers, or perhaps some Barnum’s Animals. I know you like them.”

Perhaps I should leave the Shark Tank pitches to the product development “experts.” But the fact remains, M2M is making its way into everyday life in bigger and richer ways. Having the opportunity to watch innovation happening as a result of an ever-increasing web of connected devices makes me relish being part of the fabric of this eco-system, providing arguably the most important ingredient – the wireless connectivity.

By Stein Soelberg, Director of Marketing

Stein leads a team whose responsibility is to own the branding, advertising, customer engagement, loyalty, partnership and public relations initiatives designed to propel KORE into the 21st century. With over 15 years of technology marketing experience in the business to business software, Internet services and telecommunications industries, Stein brings a proven track record of launching successful MVNOs and building those brands into leaders.