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Nelson’s SMRT1 Technologies brings vending machines into the future

This consumer checks out the new SMRT1 vending machine located near the Scotia Bank ATM at the corner of Ward and Baker Street in Nelson. — The Nelson Daily photo

Jesse Cole, The Nelson Daily

They’re in our recreation centres, our high schools and our workplaces. Vending machines have become a staple of western culture, but imagine is they could do something more than just provide a can of Coke or a bag of Chips.

That’s exactly the idea that Brad Pommen, the founder of SMRT1 Technologies, had when he created the SMRT1 vending machine. Equipped with a four-foot digital touchscreen, the vending machine acts as a bridge between traditional consumer needs and the wider Smart Cities movement.

“We’re helping to weave a network that will lead to smart cities and regions,” said Pommen, who’s flagship machine can be found on Baker Street. “We’re targeting the smart cities movement as well as helping to bridge that last mile for some of those remote communities.”

Pommen said that his product can supply items Canadians wouldn’t traditionally associate with a vending machine. Things like healthcare products and community information.

“You could have one healthcare worker watching over 20 machines that can distribute products to remote locations. That could be everything from sexual health Products to bandaids to naloxone kits,” Pommen said.

With three units currently installed in Nelson, Kaslo and Crawford Bay, Pommen sees an opportunity for local businesses and tourism agencies to take advantage of the technology

“Our Kootenay Lake machine has 500 points of interest and provides users with a free map. It tells you where to shop and dine,” he said. “We’re also looking at going after locally made products, rather than just chips and chocolate. Maybe there’s a pound of Oso Negro coffee available or sample bottles from the Nelson Olive Oil Co.”

To date, SMRT1 Technologies has produced just 10 units but Pommen said they’re in the process of connecting with partners able to produce and distribute up to 1,000 units daily across North America. The technology can be implemented in new machines or retrofitted to old machines for a cost of $6,000 CDN.

Pommen see’s the technology as beneficial for both vending machine operators and the companies that own them. The new technology collects user data anonymously and can help marketers and owners better tailor their product options or advertising.

“We can tell them what their inventory is and what their sales trends are,” Pommen said. “We can tell them when (a particular machine) might run out of items or requires a service call.”

Pommen is ready for “world domination” as he put it, saying that he’s already found the support of three major vending machine companies.

“There are roughly 15-million machines worldwide, with 1-million more being produced each year,” he said. “Everyone can utilize it to their own needs … it doesn’t require them to change their existing product, it’s an upgrade path. We’re repurposing an existing tool to new markets like smart cities, healthcare and education.”