"Data Pro Quo" The First Vending Machine Where You Pay With Data

"Data Pro Quo" The First Vending Machine Where You Pay With Data

May. 06, 2021

While all the experts are theorising that data is the new currency, Shackleton, part of Accenture since 2019, have actually put this into practice with Data Pro Quo, the world's first vending machine where products are paid for with data.

You can buy a smoothie with your email address, a snack by answering two business questions, and even some airpods by filling in a questionnaire. In this project, Shackleton collaborated with Accenture Interactive's innovation team, the Kenai Workshop, to build the machines, and with the Evoca Group, a leading multinational company in the vending machine sector.

Intended for B2B environments, its goal goes beyond implementing the new business paradigm and capturing real data to use to refine the consultancy's future projects. The V1 is already up and running at Accenture’s Digital Hub in Madrid.

Just as with any other vending machine, the user chooses the item they want to buy, but when it's time to pay, there is no slot into which to insert money or a payment terminal for a card. Instead, the buyer finds a screen on which to answer a series of simple questions, but designed to provide useful and actionable data. It also features an interface designed to offer a seamless user experience.

In addition to their email address, the first set of questions involves the user's job title, after which, depending on whether they are a CEO, CMO, CIO, CTO, CFO, etc., they answer different questions, from choosing the three main challenges they will face in coming months to revealing how they think their company will face them with help from third parties.

Until now, we have seen isolated initiatives where information is exchanged for tickets in digital sweepstakes, or even for discounts, but they were never taken this far, and thus their potential was untapped.

Pablo Alzugaray, CEO of Shackleton, said:

"Talking about innovation and the value of data is fine, but Data Pro Quo is, once again, communicating with facts."


Carmen López Muñoz, Managing Director of Accenture Interactive, said:

“Experience is the new playing field, one that needs design and creativity, but also a business strategy, technology and data. The use of data is crucial in decision-making. Because of this, we have to move towards an increasingly smart model for both operations and processes.”


Data Pro Quo has a lineup of 55 different products (32 foods and beverages and 13 designer stationery products and 10 electronic items), distributed in three “price” categories (A, B and C), each one associated with its own set of questions. The products in category A require answering the questions in set A, and so on.

 The project's technical challenge was two-fold:

On the one hand, to come up with the entire communication interface with the user through the touch screen, with the question, answer and evaluation system. The machine features an internal server that makes it possible to not only store the data obtained, but also to personalise the questions, refresh the product catalogue and, in general, enable flexible operations in any context.

For this interface, we worked with open standards and a database managed by a CMS in order to customise the contents without the need for programming. Overlaying all this is an HTTP communication layer that sends the orders to the control element that is described later.

And, on the other hand, the challenge of hacking the machine, that is, taking external control of its electronic and mechanical elements to make it work under conditions for which it was not manufactured. This was achieved through reverse engineering processes. By simulating the input of data through an external hardware circuit, the machine's matrix keyboard receives instructions on the price achieved with the answers and the product that is desired, operating the vending machine as if a person were entering data on the alphanumeric keyboard. To do this, the hacker circuit on the machine's motherboard was electrically isolated using optocouplers to avoid ground loops and communication errors between the two elements.

All the data handled by the machine is stored safely and access to it on the server is restricted.

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