Can you Patent a Vending Machine?
Author – Amit Koshal and Prayank Khandelwal
A vending machine is an automated machine which dispenses items such as snacks, beverages, tickets etc. to consumer after a transaction between the customer and the owner of the machine. The first machine was made in the year 1883, in England, which was coin operated and dispensed postcards in exchange of coins. Soon after its invention, vending machines became an ubiquitous part of our environment. These machines are used everywhere and the business has grown beyond plants and factories, and machines are commonly used in schools, colleges and universities, railway stations, post offices, health care facilities, offices and the like. The market share for this global product is huge and increasing.According to the market research report of Technavio, the Global Vending machine market is announced to grow with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 17% for the year 2017-23. Growing demand for modern lifestyle that is, ample availability of products, fast delivery and convenient option is boosting the vending machine sales. The huge success of these machines is due to its ability to sell products at competitive prices around the clock, without regard to holidays and also to the significant decrease in the effort and need of human presence for trading. Vending machines are a one-time investment and are operational 24/7 with a very low maintenance cost. The adoption of the vending machine increases the customer shopping experience leading to its huge market growth.
With robust technological advancements like face recognition, voice recognition, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, big data, and their integration with the vending machines have opened more doors for innovations. The usage of smart and sophisticated technologies in these machines, to deploy innovations as diverse as touch-enabled high-definition screens and remote device management software technology, go far beyond simply dispensing food and beverage.
Vending Machines are quite bulky and need a spacious area for installation. Some machines even need more power supply as well. A new trend has been observed in this field. Nowadays, customized vending machines are in more demand than the readymade standard machines. The customized machines can be designed as per the space and power availability. The need of extra space and power can be overcome by using customized machines.
The vending machine market can be segmented into commercial places, offices, public places and others based on the application of the machine. Although, these machines are extremely profitable at places like railway stations, bus stations and airports, the largest market share is taken in the office sector and it is the fastest growing segment over the time. These machines are used in offices to save space and costs. The office sector is increasing day by day as seen in the figure above.
The vending machines can also be categorized into the mode of payment offered to the user. Currently, cash payment based vending machines are more dominating, but this type of machine is limited by variable pricing. The cashless payment is the upcoming trend. Cards, e-wallets and their integration with the vending machine is developing the cashless vending machines. The vending machines companies are partnering with payment service providers companies to meet the growing demand for the cashless payments.
The above diagram represents the patenting trends. The years 2012-2018 saw a significant increase in the developments of various branches of vending machines. This was because of the new inventions in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning and their implementation in embedded systems.
The figure represents the top five countries filing patents for vending machines. The tech-hub Japan is leading the innovation race of the vending machines, with around 50% of the patents filed there. There is a rat race between United States and China with difference of just 2000 patents.
The area chart represents the top 5 companies which filed patents for vending machines overall. The Furukawa Company Group of Japan is the top filer followed by Panasonic Corp and Saden Corp.
The COVID – 19 will boost the development of contactless vending machines soon. One of the recent vending machine to get a patent in India is “Contactless Sugarcane Juice vending Machine” developed by Canectar Foods Pvt Ltd. Canectar is Maharashtra’s largest cane juice operator in the organized cane juice sector as an Agro-based Farm Direct Company, since 2012.
The future trends are bound to make the vending machines more interactive over time. A likely addition would be of features that could make them more “human-like” such as the ability to remember and personalize your order and a voice like Siri that can address, greet and compliment you.
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cover image source – Grabcad blogs.