We’ve all been there: You’re hanging out with your buddies on a Friday night, plowing through some Seamless and downing a few beers after a long workweek. All too soon, the brewski supply runs dry, and it’s your turn to replenish the stocks. So, in a tradition as old as time, you dash out to the nearest bodega or gas station to grab a couple more six-packs.
But this is 2018, people, and we’re basically living in the future. Beer runs might well change forever starting this week, when the San Francisco-based startup Civic unveils its new beer vending machine at the annual Consensus summit held by the cryptocurrency site CoinDesk. In partnership with Anheuser Busch, purveyor of fine brews such as Rolling Rock and Michelob Ultra, Civic’s machine will serve the conference’s thirsty, tech-savvy hordes about 600 beers per day. All would-be drinkers have to do is download the Civic app, use it to sign in at the machine, and receive a cold one (free of charge, in this instance, for attendees).
Based on the above information, you might think that Civic is another type of cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or Zcash. But while the app does in fact utilize blockchain (a type of digital ledger, if you will) tokens, they’re not the focus of the spiffy new machine. Instead, the vending machine’s purpose is to demonstrate the efficacy of the Civic product’s main purpose: identity verification and theft protection. Once a user verifies her identity within the app, the vending machine will be able to detect that user’s age, serving her a beer if she’s legal but ending the transaction if she’s under 21.
“We've been thinking about practical ways of bringing crypto technology to a more mainstream audience, and how can we go so so niche that it's so easy to understand for a regular individual,” Civic’s Titus Capilnean told CoinDesk. “Proof of age seemed like the best low-hanging fruit."
Sorry, kids: In the age of cryptocurrency, your older sister’s learner’s permit just ain’t gonna cut it.
After all, in this day and age, our identities increasingly exist online and in the many apps on our smartphones, where we look for hookups, send and receive money from friends, and watch our dogs while we’re at work. Founded in 2016 by entrepreneur and Shark Tank South Africa alum Vinny Lingham, Civic aims to thread itself into every link in a user’s digital network—“We’re building partnerships with banks, credit card companies, online lenders, wireless and cable providers, employee verification services,” the company states on its website—to monitor any unusual behavior and stop identity theft before it occurs. So while Civic’s beer vending machine certainly sounds refreshing, it’s more a PR stunt than anything else, meant to attract investors and bring in business partnerships (because, after all, who doesn’t love free beer?).
Currently, neither nor Anheuser Busch have any plans to move forward with wider distribution of the vending machines, but if the current marketplace is any indication, such services are not far off. In Greeley, Colorado, the gas station Cosmic Market accepts Bitcoin for fuel; 18 ZaZZZ pot vending machines located in three states also take Bitcoin; and the Bitcoin Kinetics washing machine (price tag: $1,950) might soon make your jar of quarters a thing of the past.
The future is (almost) here: in the meantime, grab a free beer in NYC this week if you’re in town.