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How does a vending machine work actually?

Some time ago, these machines could only be found in airports, train stations, or bus terminals. But today, we can see vending machines everywhere. Not just in public transportation places but also factories, office buildings, schools or even shopping malls. This happens due to the rapid development of vending machines which at times can also work as a business strategy too. Few brands rely on vending machines to work on their sales drive, since selling via these machines can make products appear stand out from other competitors. With a lot of machines operating out there, it also means that people use them frequently. The glowing machine with products will allure us to buy something, maybe sometime during the long and winding waiting time like in the boarding room or trying to quench thirst during a basketball tournament.

Read more on coffee can vending machine during a basketball tournament here: Of Coffee Culture and Sports Events: Smartven x Kopikalyan x IBL 2022

People tend to get curious about how things work and vending machines are one of them. We must have had those times when we stood in front of a vending machine. We get into thinking as we buy something, how does this big buddy actually work anyway? How do they know the right number we punch in to get our desired product? How do they process the payment? Well, fret not, my kin. We have simplified how a vending machine works in this article. But in order to know how things work, we must know what they actually are.

Types of vending machines

First, we must learn what types of vending machines are available out there. As we speak today, they are not just analog machines where we need to insert coins to get a bottled drink. First, we must learn what types of vending machines are available out there. Today, they are not just analog machines where we need to insert coins to get a bottled drink. Analog machines are the ones with shelves of numbered multiple products on looking from behind a see-through glass, we then usually pick a certain number that we want to buy and we can definitely see the product gets chosen, as we get ready to pick them from the dispense box. Unlike this type, smart vending machines have buttonless, LED touchscreens. For most part, the buying mechanism is still the same. You pick the item from the catalogue on the screen, then you make a purchase and get the product. But you can't see the actual shelves behind the screen. When it is not in use or in idle mode, the screen can display photos and advertisement videos for marketing purposes. So the smart part gets you the best part (didn't expect the rhymes) to do more with vending machines. You can sell products, display your brand, and you can check every transaction remotely with a cloud management system; all done in one machine.

Mentioning about types also takes us into talking about the types of products that can be sold via vending machines. It used to be only crisps, chocolate bars, soft drinks or water; but now daily products from skincare to healthy foods can be sold as well. A digital products vending machine is also a thing, where people can topup their digital wallets, buy game vouchers and such. Even bizarre and unusual products like gold vending machines in Saudi Arabia, are getting more attention these days. The more unique the products inside the machine, the more attention it draws.

How vending machine works generally

Using a vending machine is very easy. All we have to do is select the product, complete the payment process, and the product will immediately come out of the dispense box at the bottom of the machine. Generally, the buttons and the keypads act as a way to channel the user to the computer system behind the machine. After buttons are punched in, the system will send a signal to the computer to process the payment. As the transaction is verified, the product is then released into the dispense box. With smart vending machines, the touchscreen works the same way as the buttons in analog machines.

Rows of spirals in vending machine
Rows of spirals in vending machine

You mostly can see the rows of spirals and a few shelves that store the products in the vending machines. Spirals, or the circular coils you see, are controlled by an electric motor which will be activated each time the payment is successfully processed. Some vending machines also use a clamp so that the product can be dispensed carefully for products that are prone to damage. It may seem simple, but the bottom shelf has a specific component to detect any information whether the product has been successfully released or not.

How a transaction is done

Most vending machines usually accept payments in coins or banknotes. When paying with coins, the machine uses an electromagnetic system to measure the diameter, type and thickness of the coin we insert. Meanwhile, when we pay with paper banknotes, the condition of the money itself must be neat, unwrinkled, and unfolded so that it can be read by the bill acceptor on the machine. An authentication process in the machine has some kind of scanner that sends an image of this money to a computer system, which then checks to see if it matches the amount. Of course, the system needs updates regularly in case a new series of money is issued by the bank.

With the latest developments, vending machines also accept cashless transactions. Card payments usually detect the chip embedded on the card when it is inserted into the card slot. You can also scan QR codes for payments via digital wallets. Vending machines distributors usually partner with certain channels to make sure various payment options are available. For example, Smartven has partnered with Midtrans which ensures the security of the payment process. But if you are still curious about this whole QR system thing, maybe you can learn more from the video here.

Final note

Turns out, in a relatively short moment, the process inside a vending machine is quite long and complicated. But let’s give it a rest and make the machine work as they are. What is more important is that these machines have really helped our daily lives. If you are interested in vending machines and want to start trying a vending machine business, you can click the button down below to contact the Smartven team to schedule your consultation.

You can also check our website and Instagram page. Stay healthy and see you soon!

English translation by: Nadhiya Pradhanitasari


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