Ah, Japan. Land of the world’s best vending machines. It’s hard to go anywhere in the country without finding one, including the summit of Mount Fuji. With over five million scattered around the country, someone should put those hunks of metal to work. Three organizations in Japan are doing just that, teaming up to turn the machines into a lifesaving tool in the event of a disaster, and we aren’t talking about the devices giving out free beverages.

You’ve probably heard about the vending machines, or hanbaiki as they’re called in Japanese, with backup batteries that dispense free drinks after a natural disaster. There’s also been talk of a hand-cranked vending machine that works even when the power doesn’t.

But this new version of disaster-prepared vending machines is a little different. The project, created by Dai Nippon Printing (DNP), DyDo, a Japanese bottling company, and the Nippon Television Network, aims to add digital signage to vending machines. Officially given the long name of “disaster information delivery digital signage vending machine,” they will be installed at Idemitsu gas stations, giving stranded commuters information on the locations of restrooms, evacuation centers, and other disaster-related information, as well as being capable of dispensing drinks.

DyDo has promised to cover the cost of the digital signage through proceeds from drink sales, making installation free for storeowners. The three companies plan to expand to schools, hospitals, and other gathering places with an ultimate goal to introduce 100 machines by 2015. In a country that accounts for 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes over magnitude 6.0, these digital signs could potentially save lives, giving citizens valuable disaster prevention information, earthquake warnings, and directions to emergency facilities. The machines will also prompt a new, never before used phrase: “Quick! Run to the vending machine! It’ll know what to do!”

Source: RBB Today