Future of Vending: Part 2 A Vision of Healthcare Vending
In Part 1 of this series exploring the future of vending, we looked at how the ever-evolving Smart Cities are impacting vending, and the effect of technology on future possibilities.
There were many questions asked, including one which considered the thought, “could a clever machine identify hydration levels in someone stood in front of it and advise the healthy drink prescription?” This got us thinking, where is the opportunity, or even role, of vending in health and lifestyle?
We, along with manufacturers, know vending to be a growing market which must be embraced. The question is, apart from the physical contents, the products that ‘drop’…what else can these machines offer to help support healthy living?
A five minute Google search of smart vending machines will show all manner of concepts, but it’s rare to see many of these ideas become mainstream and rolling out on a global scale.
Smart vending is all about digital engagement, and existing platforms already collect a wealth of data such as performance, revenue, inventory management and logistics. As with much of data collection, this is autonomous. Will the future of these machines mean they become increasingly autonomous? Perhaps we shall see vending machines integrating augmented reality, and adapting to the smart city environment they find themselves in?
If we take a look at some of the machines already on the market, we can look to envision the potential role vending could play within the healthcare sector:
1) Mondelez International & Canonical
These two companies have smart machines with facial recognition to identify users and tailor their on screen offering based on gender and age. This gives rise to the possibility that perhaps repeat customers could be offered recommended products based on previous purchases. Let’s take it one step further with the machine analysing recognition data to help determine the users health. If this visible health service could be combined with touch and the latest sensor technology, what else could it do? In time, could this machine analyse your skin day by day to gauge any potential risks, such as anaemia or high sun exposure? This – certainly – would give people a hugely motivating reason to visit the machine, other than to simply select a drink or snack.
This then poses the question whether there could be a connection to wearable technology? Will vending machines one day link up with a user’s personal health ecosystem via biometric analysis? Could they start talking to users’ online accounts such as health insurance and reward schemes?
Coca-Cola conducted an interesting marketing test in Malta where they placed four vending machines in different locations. Each machine was a Wi-Fi hotspot and completely moneyless.
The machines dispensed ‘free’ drinks based on the consumer having previously downloaded a voucher. Simple yet effective consumer engagement and you can see how this could one day become the expected norm. Tie this in with social gifting to friends around the world and notifications via social media apps and it feels like this should be the current status of machines.
Fast Company Magazine recently wrote an article about the concept machine/vehicle, Moby: a mobile autonomous grocery store, that delivers to a customer on demand. As we begin to move into the age of the driverless car, and drones delivering overhead, you cannot help but wonder why the crowds should come to the machine in the first place, when the machine can come to them! This type of service would certainly bring user experience to a whole new engaging level.
Conceptual as it may be now, this thinking combines the traditional mini-mart with the traditional vending machine, plus delivery. Whether this translates into a viable business model is yet to be seen, but it should push companies to start to really think about the entire service and experience they offer.
Imagine if this technology could be used to bring vital healthcare closer to the consumer, perhaps even to their front door. Elderly patients who find it difficult to leave the house, busy parents who find it difficult to take time out, or simply offering greater lifestyle convenience.
So what could a future with vending look like?
When talking health and lifestyle it’s important to think about the implications vending could have for understanding our environment in greater depth. Using vending combined with new technologies to analyse the environment could teach us more about air quality, pollution levels, oxygen levels, humidity, pollen levels, seasonal variances – all in all, a hub of information, that streams the data on its display and back to a business.
For some time, the focus of technology’s role in healthcare has been on wearable tech and biometric data to help people understand more about their lifestyles. We will continue to see this evolve and the question is, what role could vending play…?
Imagine a vending machine that senses your mood; could this detect early signs of depression?
Or a machine that senses smells; could this detect illnesses?
Furthermore, a machine that detects; then prescribes!
Certainly, it is thought provoking to consider if vending technology can be used to promote a healthier lifestyle. Surely, this can only be a good thing.