Have you ever put your money into a vending machine only to discover your selected soda is sold out? This is a common frustration all over America – however if you were to live in Japan, your annoyance may be a little bit more warranted. This is because in this innovative Asian nation, you run the risk of not being just out of soda – but perhaps bread or pornography as well.
Japan is truly the innovator behind the vending machines, having invented them about 80 years ago. Now the new news is the fact vending machines are popping up all over the country selling beer, underwear, fried foods, potted plants, sexual lubricants, and anything else you could possibly imagine. In fact, it is quite possible this year that a Japanese consumer could complete their entire grocery store list just by hitting the vending machines if they knew where to go.
But how do they control who patronizes the machines geared more toward adults? This is where Japan’s most innovative vending technology comes into play. Starting in 2008, Japan will be distributing a Smart Card geared specifically toward tobacco sales. Called a Taspo, (short for “tobacco passport”), the card will be required to purchase cigarettes (and perhaps other adult-geared paraphernalia in the future). It has been in development since 2001 and will work toward reducing the amount of underage Japanese who smoke.
a taspo machine, image courtesy of ITpro
The circuits of the card contain a diverse amount of information about the owner, including age. Cards are off limits to all those under 20 years old. Those wishing to have a card can sign up by filling out an application and providing other forms of ID. The card can have cash loaded onto it like a debit card, and the card itself is contactless, meaning the vending machines can read them without it having to go through any sort of credit card slot or swipe.