Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vending Machine & It’s Audience: Personal Information in exchange for a Drink

Vending machines have been like a friend who would exchange a drink for some coins. These machines serve to be the closest shop to get a drink wherever we go around the world. Hero of Alexandria invented the first vending machine in the first century that dispensed some water for a coin. Thomas Adams Gum Company created the first vending machine in the U.S. in 1888. Since then, vending machines have fed people with hot and cold drinks, snacks, ice creams, candies, DVDs, and even electronics. The types of vending machines vary specifically to attract the audiences the companies want. While many of us may not have thought too deeply about these machines, there have been many efforts to appeal to customers.

Now, starting in Japan the vending machines have taken new strides to collect personal information about their consumers to appeal to them much more personally. Japan has now installed new touchscreen vending machines all over Tokyo from 2010. These vending machines have a HD touchscreen to select your beverage, while a smart camera above the screen detects the customer’s age, gender, BMI, etc. in order to recommend certain drinks for that particular customer. The camera’s accuracy is about 75%, and the screens display various ads of drinks when there are no people standing in front of the machine. When you select a drink by touching the screen, it shows you the price, content of the drink, and other recommendations for the buyer. You can make your payment simply by putting your IC-embedded card near the IC-reader on the vending machine, or simply by using your NFC-incorporated (near field communication) cellphones. The vending machines are constantly collecting consumer data, and they are relating more personally to the audience every time you go buy a drink in front of the machines. What was once thought of as an ordinary service for everyone, is now thirsting for mass audience’s personal information.

- June Chung

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