Vending Machine Safety


Vending machines are ubiquitous in big, crowded Japanese cities. Wouldn't it be great if they did more than dispense cold bottles of green tea and hot cans of coffee? Like, what if they could also protect people? In Osaka, they can.

Security company Network Security Japan (NSJ) has created a network in the city's hipster hub Amerika-mura (American Village), an area packed with cafes, clothing stores, clubs and bars. The network integrates antennas placed on vending machines with portable panic buttons.

Here's how it works: if a woman is being followed or harassed, she presses her panic button, which are even outfitted with a web cam. Called a "robot locator," the panic button sends notification to the NSJ command center. Via antenna, the company is able to pinpoint the location, and an NSJ guard in a mini-car or on a bicycle comes directly to that specific video machine.

Since NSJ patrols the area, the service conceivably should be more responsive and faster than calling the cops. And it only costs ¥300 ($2.52) a month to join. That's the same price as two bottles of lactic beverage Calpis Water from a vending machine. Cheap!

by Brian Ashcraft