July 02, 2007, 10:15 PM — Vending machines are not just about soda and candy and chips anymore.
Wireless technologies that enable credit card purchases are spurring companies to market a wider variety of items from vending machines--everything from suntan lotion to golf balls to consumer electronics.
Say, for example, your cell phone dies and you desperately need to replace it. These days you can simply buy a new one from a vending machine. How about a new pair of shoes? For awhile, Reebok was selling sneakers this way.
"Cashless is really opening up the marketplace for what one would call very high-ticket items," says Steve Herbert, president and chief operating officer for USA Technologies Inc. His company's e-Port hardware, which can be installed in vending machines, handles credit card processing, tracks inventory and monitors the "health and welfare" of the machines, alerting technicians in case of trouble.
The device, used by customers including Motorola and Reebok, includes a general packet radio