PepsiCo's SnackBots Helps the Brand Create Mobile Vending Machines
Self-driving vehicles have been hitting the headlines a lot over the last year or so, and not always in the most positive way. Uber has been having issues with the safety of its driverless taxis and self-driving consumer vehicles have yet to earn the confidence of the driving public.
However, one field in which robotic vehicles have been enjoying some success (or at least showing great promise) is in the arena of home delivery. Amazon is hoping to make Prime Air more widely available in the near future (once safety and regulatory concerns have been addressed) and offer within-the-hour delivery via flying drone. Food and beverage delivery companies such as Dominos and Food Panda have also been experimenting with air- and land-bound robots to bring hot takeout food to their hungry customers as well.
Now, PepsiCo is using autonomous vehicles to bring its huge range of snack foods to its hungry customers.
There's a famous moment in The Simpsons where Homer has an anti-technology rant before pulling out an iPhone and asking Siri to send him a beer. At which point an Amazon drone flies through the window and delivers a single can of Duff to him.
Thanks to an innovative partnership between PepsiCo and Robby Technologies, the day where such convenience becomes possible just got a little nearer.
The partnership has resulted in the development of a fleet of "Snackbots". Resembling a beer-cooler on wheels, the Snackbots can deliver a range of snack foods - mainly from the PepsiCo owned Hello Goodness brand - including Smartfood Delight, Baked Lay's, SunChips, Pure Leaf Iced Tea, bubly, LIFEWTR, and Starbucks Cold Brew.
"Building upon the initial successes of our Hello Goodness platform, we began exploring how we could expand from more traditional vending machines into new formats," said Vice President of Innovation and Insights at PepsiCo Foodservice, Scott Finlow. "We dug deep into consumer insights and preferences, and together with our partners at Robby Technologies, offer consumers the healthier snack and beverage options they are looking for in a fun, mobile-enabled convenient format as they navigate their busy on-the-go schedules on campus."
Initially being trialed on the University of the Pacific campus, the Snackbots enable busy students to order snack foods using their smartphones and then meet the Snackbot outside. The Snackbot uses facial and voice recognition software to confirm the identity of the customer - adding a nice level of interaction between consumer and robot - and then opens its storage compartment so they can retrieve their order.
University students consume a lot of snack food as their studying schedules have them flying from one place to another throughout the day. This leaves them little time to prepare meals, so they often turn to convenience food as a way of keeping their energy levels topped off. Unfortunately, these kinds of foods often come with high levels of fat, sugar, salt, or other unhealthy ingredients. This can leave students hungry for something with a little more substance, which was one of the main inspirations behind the Snackbot initiative.
"College students are strapped for time and they are seeking convenient and healthier options," added Finlow. "The University of the Pacific was an existing customer and very receptive to partnering with PepsiCo to adopt innovative technologies. The purchased snacks can be sent to more than 50 designated areas across the 175-acre campus without charging delivery fees. The bots have a range of more than 20 miles on a single charge and are equipped with camera and headlights that allow them to see and navigate in full darkness or rain, as well as all wheel drive capabilities for handling curbs and steep hills."
Should customers have any issues, there are several Snackbot technicians and student ambassadors on campus who are able to help with everything from navigating the smartphone app to addressing any technical concerns or errors.
It's great to finally see an autonomous vehicle delivery system ready to bring delivery services to customers - albeit in a restricted area. Hopefully, the trial period with the University of the Pacific will prove fruitful and we'll see more mobile vending machines out and about as time goes on.
With so many brands experimenting with this type of delivery system, one must wonder just how many of these devices will be filling our streets and skies in the future.
Autonomous delivery systems are set to be a hot topic at Digital Food and Beverage 2019, taking place in July at the Hyatt Regency Austin, TX.
Download the agenda today for more information and insights.