We try out the new system at a high-tech digital vending machine in Tokyo.
Whether you’re after a persimmon, a hamburger or even a bottle of soup stock containing flying fish, in Japan there’s a vending machine ready to deliver your dream item at any time of the day or night. For those looking to quench their thirst, however, there are a variety of branded machines offering all types of hot and cold drinks throughout the country, and one of the most innovative types on the market is the eye-catching Acure model which features an impressive digital screen.
Now Acure is pushing the boundaries of vending machine technology even further into the future with a brand new lineup of machines currently being unveiled at East Japan Railway’s main stations around Tokyo. What makes this one so special is the fact that it takes orders from customers via their smartphones, who are able to make a purchase for themselves or their friends without even being anywhere near the machine.
To see how the system works, check out the introductory video below:
Curious to try the new system out for ourselves, we headed down to one of the new machines located at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. According to Acure, the first of the new “innovation vending machines” was initially set up at Tokyo Station on 14 March, and about 20 new units will be installed at popular JR East stations by May this year.
At Shinjuku Station, the vending machine can be found immediately left of the turnstiles at the Central East exit. When our Japanese-language reporter arrived, the first thing he noticed about the shiny new machine was the fact that there was no place at all to insert any cash or coins. Instead, there was an oval-shaped reader, which scans prepaid commuter passes for purchases, along with another brightly lit reader next to it.
This rectangular reader is a new addition that specifically scans QR codes. This is the new technology that allows customers to make pre-paid purchases remotely, as the QR code is generated via a mobile app, which can be used by the purchaser themselves or sent via smartphone to a friend.
After downloading the app and completing the registration process, which includes registering your credit card details for payment, the drink menu pops up, allowing you to make a selection from the screen. There’s the option to make a single, one-time purchase, or you can subscribe to purchase a drink on a regular basis, which offers a small discount per bottle.
The first 15,000 customers to make a purchase at one of the new vending machines will receive a free bottle of water, which can be redeemed at any time before 10 September.
Our reporter was one of the lucky 15,000 to receive a free bottle, and the unique process of placing the QR code to the reader to redeem his free bottle made him feel like an excited kid again.
Playing with his smartphone is one of his favourite pastimes, so being able to combine this with a shiny new futuristic-looking vending machine, along with the promise of a free drink at the end of it all made him fall in love with the new purchasing system immediately.
Our reporter said he would definitely be using the app again and sending QR codes to all his friends so they can enjoy the fun of picking up a free drink at a vending machine too. And while he’s being generous by purchasing drinks for his friends, he’ll be accruing points on the app so he can receive more free drinks in the future too!