Palm readers, robot assistants at vending machine trade show

Above: House of Seafood CEO Francis Ng showing off a vending machine which dispenses chilli crab, black pepper crab and salted egg crab dishes. Top: A machine with palm-recognition technology that collects payment from a customer's e-wallet before di
At the Singapore Polytechnic event, a robot collects food from a vending machine before serving it to the customer. ST PHOTOS: TIMOTHY DAVID
Above: House of Seafood CEO Francis Ng showing off a vending machine which dispenses chilli crab, black pepper crab and salted egg crab dishes. Top: A machine with palm-recognition technology that collects payment from a customer's e-wallet before di
A machine with palm-recognition technology that collects payment from a customer’s e-wallet before dispensing the drinks.ST PHOTOS: TIMOTHY DAVID
Above: House of Seafood CEO Francis Ng showing off a vending machine which dispenses chilli crab, black pepper crab and salted egg crab dishes. Top: A machine with palm-recognition technology that collects payment from a customer's e-wallet before di
House of Seafood CEO Francis Ng showing off a vending machine which dispenses chilli crab, black pepper crab and salted egg crab dishes.ST PHOTOS: TIMOTHY DAVID

A vending machine that can "read" your palm for cashless payments is among the highlights at a trade show for vending machines.

Besides technology embracing artificial intelligence and robots, some 61 vending machines which dispense products as varied as stationery, snacks, pet food and toner cartridges are on display at SP VendTech 2018.

The three-day event, which opened yesterday at Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business, ends tomorrow.

It is organised by the polytechnic's Diploma in Business Administration students, who work with the vendors at the show.

The polytechnic's business school already has 28 vending machines in its foyer, a project called Innomall, which it claims is the largest cluster of vending machines in Singapore.

Organisers and exhibitors hail the increasing viability of vending machines - including machines dispensing chilli crab and popiah - as a way of reducing labour costs.

Mr Andrew Tan, centre director at the polytechnic's Business Innovation Centre, said: "SP VendTech 2018 is the first of its kind in the education sector. Our objective is to engage industry players and encourage further improvements in vending technology."

MOVABLE FEAST

Besides cutting manpower costs, the advantage of vending machines is that if we choose a wrong location, we can change it, which can save on rental (compared with running a restaurant).

MR FRANCIS NG, chief executive officer of restaurant chain House of Seafood, which has four vending machines selling cooked or frozen chilli crab, black pepper crab and salted egg crab dishes.

A representative of DeepBlue Technology (Shanghai), business development manager Mao Xing, said at the trade show that the Chinese technology company is in discussions to enter the Singapore market.

Its TakeGo vending machines, which can be found in China and Australia, use palm-recognition technology linked to an e-wallet so customers can "unlock" a vending machine using their palm to get snacks and drinks without the need for cash.

Other forms of artificial intelligence are also on display.

A self-driving robot that collects a hot pizza from a pizza vending machine highlights the potential of robotics in delivering food and other items, which can reduce costs and provide consistency in service, said Mr Lee Leong Kar, the managing director of Ascendze, the Singapore company that is exhibiting the robot.

Some food and beverage retailers are looking at ramping up their vending machine numbers as these can operate beyond normal business hours.

Mr Francis Ng, 46, the chief executive officer of restaurant chain House of Seafood, told The Straits Times: "We intend to scale up to 50 locations in total in about two years."

House of Seafood currently has four vending machines selling cooked or frozen chilli crab, black pepper crab and salted egg crab dishes.

 
 
 

Mr Ng said: "Besides cutting manpower costs, the advantage of vending machines is that if we choose a wrong location, we can change it, which can save on rental (compared with running a restaurant)."

Meanwhile, popiah business Mr Popiah, which has 10 vending machines here, plans to unveil its more-compact, second-generation machines next year, citing interest from hotels.

Singapore Polytechnic student Sheryl Tan Wen Ping, 19, who tried a $2 nonya popiah from the machine yesterday, said it came out piping hot and fresh.

One of the organisers, Mr Ryan Wong, 19, who is in his final year of the Diploma in Business Administration course, said that working on the trade show had been an eye-opener in terms of grasping the needs of businesses.

"It helped me to understand how industry partners operate in the real world," said Mr Wong, who is specialising in entrepreneurship.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2018, with the headline 'Palm readers, robot assistants at vending machine trade show'. Print Edition | Subscribe