At heart, vending machines are problem solving machines since they are designed to be in the right location at the right time. The problem their usually solving is either a dry throat or a growling tummy, but they are capable of solving many other problems. Also, useful things to sell from a vending machine are not limited to small, inexpensive items anymore with the advent of inexpensive security cameras.
An Educational Example
The easy ones that come to mind are vending machines that sell school supplies around college campuses. There’s so many buildings on college campuses and the many campuses are too large to walk across to grab desperately needed school supplies – like pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, USB drives, phone/tablet chargers, or whatever may be needed.
This is not to say that there should be stationary machines littering college campuses, but more that the snack machines should offer these school supplies in addition to the snacks.
The Bigger Picture Problem
Vending Machines are robots that sell things (on behalf of their owners) in a convenient location for customers.
So, for the owner of the vending machine, the vending machine is solving a real estate problem. The vending machine owner could have a store front that attracts people to it, but instead, with a few vending machines, the owner can get their products in the right spot (a bar, perchance) at the right time (literally any time the establishment is open), and to the right customer (someone who’s phone died and needs a charger). The right customer also needs to have the money or the means to use a credit card on the machine. No use in selling items to a toddler if the parent isn’t also sold on it.
Vending Machines are Automated Sales Factories
Just the automation that enable more productive factories, vending machines offer a solution to provide more productive sales of physical items. The human is only involved in supplying the items as input and picking up the money as an output. The machines must be maintained, but otherwise, the machine will just hum along and sell its wares around the clock.
There’s certainly many useful things to sell from a vending machine, so let your mind wander! And let your eyes wander over to listings on Micro Real Estate.