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Communications of the ACM


Adding Smarts to Vending Machines Drives Convenience, Efficiency

man using a smart vending machine, illustration

Vending machines, which allow people to easily purchase items without interacting with a human worker, have been around since the 1st century, when a Greek engineer and mathematician named Hero Alexandria created a machine that accepted a coin before dispensing holy water at a temple, to prevent people from taking more than their share of holy water.

Two millennia later, a far greater number and variety of products can be purchased from vending machines, thanks in part to the advent of new technologies including always-on, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, advanced physical and digital controls that allow these machines to be placed in a wide variety of settings, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithms that can capture and analyze customer insights, improve stocking efficiency, and deliver greater levels of personalization to customers.


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