One of the most difficult aspects of rolling out Wi-Fi in cities has been where to place the equipment. Do you put it on lamp posts? Do you put it in trees? On the sides of buildings?  Well, if you’ve ever visited Japan, there is one simple solution that should leap out at you immediately: Vending machines.

The Asahi Soft Drinks company has announced that it will be adding free Wi-Fi to some of its bending machines around Japan through out 2012.  The current plan calls for 1,000 machines to be rolled out in five areas – Tokyo, Sendai, Chubu, Kinki and Fukuoka – over 2012, and eventually 10,000 machines within the next five years.  Bear in mind that Asahi operates 250,000 vending machines (yes, 250,000) all over in Japan, so it isn’t like this will be appearing in every street corner.

Surprisingly Asahi will be offering up this Wi-Fi for free.  Considering it will be atop a vending machine you would think one would have to buy a beverage to activate, but that won’t be the case.  You can login to the free Wi-Fi for up to 30 minutes at a time, and once you login you will be shown localized ads for businesses in the surrounding area as well as tourist information.  The machines are said to have a range of 50 meters, so at least you won’t have to all huddle around the machine at once to check email on your tablet, you can spread out a bit.

This is one of those ideas that makes you smack your forehead and go, “genius!”, but it is sadly one that will only truly work in Japan.  It is not unheard of to see these ubiquitous machines in alleys, in banks of ten on a street or even at an intersection of roads surrounded by fields, the Japanese society truly lives on the backs of vending machines.  It’s a perfect idea for spreading Wi-Fi there, but it’s difficult to see it being successful in the United States.

Would you use free Wi-Fi if you found it on the top of a vending machine?
Wi-Fi vending machine