Camera, infrared-equipped snack machines arrive at City College

The San Diego Community College District is confident in the steps it is taking to protect the privacy of students using the machines.


Sonny Garibay

A San Diego City College student uses the Smart Market vending machine. Photo by Sonny Garibay

Scott Gardinier , Copy Editor

Smart Market vending machines, equipped with cameras, infrared sensors and fingerprint scanners, were placed in the bottom of the S building over the summer, providing students and faculty with easy access to food items like bottled drinks, packaged salads and ready-made sandwiches.

“I think it honestly makes it easier,” City College freshman Matthew Flanders said. “For some vending machines, you pay for it and it won’t drop or whatnot. I think these are a pretty cool idea. I don’t have a problem with it.”

Still, the machines have raised privacy concerns as companies treat consumers’ personal data as a commodity and schools across the country turn to technology such as facial recognition to enhance security.

To use these machines, students can create an account online at or at the kiosk with cash or card, register their fingerprint for convenience, or use their credit card to make a quick purchase.

Those creating an account will have to provide an email address as well.

After verifying payment, the door of the machines unlocks, allowing the customer to take the items they want directly off of the shelf rather than waiting for a vending machine to dispense one item at a time. 

Infrared sensors inside the machines are designed to monitor each purchase to ensure you are charged only for the items you take out. 

Officials from the San Diego Community College District say they have taken measures to ensure the machines don’t just protect your wallet, but also your personal information.

“Payment information is maintained confidentially and in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations and payment card industry data security standards related to the protection of cardholder data,” wrote Jack Beresford, communications director for San Diego Community College District, in an email.

Camera footage is recorded only during transactions for security purposes. The footage is not networked or shared and is deleted after 30 days, the email also stated.

Some retail Smart Market machines are equipped with iVend software that collects data to be used for advertising and target marketing. However, according to Beresford, iVend is not installed on these machines.

“The feedback we have received so far has been very positive,” Beresford wrote. 

The Smart Market smart vending machines were added as a way to reduce the impact the unfinished cafeteria will have on students. 

Vice President of Administrative Services Roxann Solis explained the S building was chosen because of the short window between classes that many science students have.

City Times has obtained a copy of the contract between Canteen, the company operating the Smart Market and the district. Canteen has agreed to provide vending services to City College for a term of five years and will pay the district between 28 and 36 percent of net vending sales per month.

The contract can be read in its entirety here.

Editor-in-Chief Sonny Garibay contributed to this report.