“How Beer Vending Machines Will Verify Your Age” by Mike Pomranz, Food & Wine Magazine

beer machines

Self-service beer machines are yet another thing blockchain technology could make possible.

When you hear the phrase “blockchain,” your instinct may be to change the conversation before you’re stuck listening to unsolicited Bitcoin investment advice. But though blockchain makes cryptocurrencies possible, the technology behind it has plenty of other potential applications as well… like selling you beer.

In a partnership between identity verification platform Civic, vending machine company Innovative Vending Solutions, and brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, the world’s first “crypto beer” vending machine was revealed at today’s Consensus 2018 blockchain technology summit. Using the buzzworthy tech, this new machine can give drinkers a buzz by verifying their age to unlock a free can of Budweiser.

To use the new vending machine, you first verify your identity in the Civic App; then the app uses blockchain to interact with the vending machine to make sure you’re over 21. From there, the machine scans the user’s face to authenticate that the person holding the phone is who they say they are, and if everything goes as planned, the machine spits out a cold brew. According to Civic, “This represents the first zero-knowledge proof age verification demonstrated in a real world use case.”

Beyond the example of a beer vending machine, Civic makes a reasonably compelling case for the need for a better age verification system in general. “With over 190 countries and respective ID documents out there, it’s hard to know them all,” the company wrote on its blog. “What’s more, we give decision-making power to people who are often unqualified to deal with the complexities of ID verification. They are the chosen gate-keepers that let people into bars, clubs, casinos or allow people to purchase age-restricted products like alcohol.”

Currently, self-dispensing beer machines—primarily seen as pour-your-own-beer draft lines—require a traditional identification check at some point in the process either at the point of entry or the point of sale. Civic’s phone-based verification system could theoretically automate that process and remove the need for “gate-keepers” (beyond having someone around to deal with any problems that arise), but for now Civic says it has no plans to commercialize this beer vending machine. “It is a demonstration to show a practical way of bringing crypto tech to a mainstream audience,” a rep told us.

Turns out the people over at Civic aren’t just masters of blockchain technology; they’re also masters of getting people’s hopes up!