There's a reason why booze, medicine and marijuana aren't in vending machines in the US.
Besides the whole matter of age authentication, there's also the need to make sure people aren't getting too much of it. That's why a responsible bartender would cut off bumbling drunks, and why most pharmacies limit cough syrup sales to make sure people aren't abusing them.
American Green Machine is trying to create a smart vending machine that can get around the need for human scrutiny. It works by using a biometric sensor that can identify unique veins within the finger to verify that a person has an account set up with the company.
Vein recognition uses infrared lights to view patterns underneath a person's palm, which are different even among identical twins. The security measure is meant to make sure that someone who isn't old enough to drink (21 in the US) can't steal someone else's account and buy alcohol illegally. The same technology used to keep medical records secure could thus make sure people can't buy beer or marijuana when they're not supposed to.
The Phoenix-based company hopes the technology will open the door to what you can sell through a vending machine. Sure, some vending machines already offer some kooky stuff -- but for the most part, it's really just snacks and drinks. And who wouldn't want to skip the lines at a baseball stadium and grab a quick beer from a machine?
Having an account tied to your unique identity has its benefits. A smart vending machine would also be able to track how much you're buying and cut you off based on the venue's preferences, said American Green Machine Chief Operating Officer Stephen Shearin.
For example, that same baseball stadium may want to make sure fans don't get too rowdy and might limit its machines to selling only three beers per customer, Shearin said. And then once they've been cut off, people wouldn't be able to pretend to be somebody else and buy more drinks -- you know, unless they can rearrange the veins in their palms.
It's not like being cut off from drinks at one tap and then heading to another section where the bartender doesn't recognize you. These smart vending machines remember customers based on their accounts, and if they get banned on one machine, they get banned on all of them, Shearin said.
"It tracks everything, because smart vending does this," Shearin said. "Tracking who has purchased it, how much they've purchased, which of course, leads you to think of predictive marketing or sales."
The machines recognize a person's account and remember what he or she ordered for up to eight months, for marketing research purposes, said Lindel Creed, the company's vice president of automatic dispensary technology.
American Green Machines hopes to have its machines in marijuana dispensaries, as a secure solution to providing limited amounts of pot. The company is in talks with sports stadiums, dispensaries and casinos near New York, California and Las Vegas, and expects it to be available to the public in the next two months.
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