By Mustafa Shamseldin, Senior Vice President Foods Category, Middle East, North Africa and Asia Pacific, PepsiCo
While supermarkets, restaurants, and a myriad of other retailers and services providers are going online, the traditional vending machine has remained somewhat static. There have been minor upgrades over the years, such as accepting credit cards or selecting snacks via a touchscreen, but overall the concept has remained the same: large, bulky, static machines that require a dedicated space. They offer convenience – but not on the level that we, as modern consumers, want.
Imagine this scenario: you’re in the middle of a conference, you’re unable to step away in search of a bottle of water, and there’s no-one you can ask to go for you. Presently, if you’re out of range of a vending machine or store and you haven’t got an accessible beverage, your only option is to wait until the opportunity arises to go in search of a drink. This, understandably, is not ideal, but through smart solutions and innovative uses of technology, last mile delivery for the snacks and beverage category is on the verge of an evolution suitable for our digital age.
The smartbot is just one of the ways that customer understanding technology has been implemented to revolutionize snacking and drinking on the go. An autonomous, mobile evolution of the vending machine, the smartbot carries snacks and beverages that can be ordered through an app – the smartbot then delivers the goods to the purchaser at designated locations before it heads off to its next destination.
The smartbot has already been trialed in the United States at the University of the Pacific where students ordered PepsiCo snacks and beverages between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. via the Smartbot App. PepsiCo products were delivered to more than 50 designated areas across the 175-acre campus, meeting their needs for quick, on-the-go snack solutions. Additionally, the smartbot are equipped with cameras and headlights to help them navigate at night or in the rain, while the all-wheel drive allows them to handle curbs and steep hills.
This user-friendly innovation will be revealed for the first time in the Middle East at the Dubai and Abu Dhabi editions of Think Science, an initiative by Emirates Foundation to support, encourage and empower the youth of the UAE to embrace a future in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Visitors will be able to place their orders at designated stations where the smartbot will meet them to deliver their order.
Given that February is Innovation Month, there is no better time than to demonstrate how technology can and has been used to change the world around us, making life more convenient than ever before.