Vending machines are awesome! For a few coins or dollars, you can quickly buy just about anything from a can of Coca-Cola to random used books or even Holy Water. Now a new California-based startup called Byte Foods is looking to reinvent vending machine food by keeping theirs fully stocked with fresh, healthy, locally sourced food and drinks, according to TechCrunch.
Internet-connected vending machines aren’t new, but Byte is taking the next step forward by adding RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology and smart analytics software. Byte’s vending machines—which are filled with mostly organic beverages, iced coffee, sandwiches, soups, salads, and even burritos—look like the refrigerated displays and kiosks you’d find at any convenience store, only the units are locked and come with a touchscreen menu with a list of item descriptions and pricing. When you’re ready to buy, simply swipe your credit card through the reader and just take your items and go.
Each item features an RFID tag, so you can take as many items as you’d like once you’re inside the unit. If you change your mind, simply put the items back and you won’t be charged; your credit card will only be billed after you close the door. The vending machines also feature software that allows vendors to know which items are proving to be particularly popular and are in danger of becoming out of stock for a faster turnaround. It also features surge and dynamic pricing on items that are in demand or products that are about to spoil.
“Byte is fine tuning their food offering and variety, which is important in attracting repeat customers,” Jin Park, a Byte Foods board member, told TechCrunch. “There are many opportunities here to partner with various local food providers. One key revenue driver will be expanding the number of refrigerators.”
Byte Foods just raised $5.5 million in seed funding and plans to add more smart vending machines in offices, hotels, college campuses, and hospitals around the San Francisco Bay Area before expanding to new regions in 2017.