Vending machines usually conjure thoughts of food and drinks, but one firm is tapping consumers' love for something much more expensive: gold.
Two Smart Gold ATMs - vending machines that dispense a range of 24 karat gold items - were launched in Singapore this week at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Resorts World Sentosa, luxury venues that attract wealthy Singaporeans and a plethora of tourists.
"We chose Singapore because it's the center of Asia, which is the center of world gold consumption," said Kong Kok Chee, director of Asia Gold ATM, the company behind the launch, referring to Singapore's popularity as a finance and business trading hub for the region.
"Asia accounted for more than 63 percent of total world gold consumption of gold jewelry, bars, collectibles, coins and souvenirs last year," he said.
The Southeast Asian island nation ramped up its bid to become a trading center for gold over the past few years. In June, the Singapore Exchange announced plans to launch a physically deliverable gold contract to meet rapidly growing Asian demand. The launch was scheduled for September but has been delayed to October.
The Smart Gold ATMs dispense items ranging from one to ten gram gold bars, silver ingots and customized gold coins. Customers make purchases using a touch screen that allows them to choose from seven designs including the Singapore Merlion and various Chinese zodiac symbols.
The gold available through Asia Gold ATMs is priced once or twice daily based on benchmark gold prices. When the ATM was launched on Wednesday, a one gram pendant was priced at around 100 Singapore dollars ($80) and a ten gram pendant cost 660 Singapore dollars. Customers can pay using cash or credit cards.
Asia Gold ATM said it's scouting out other locations in Singapore and plans to launch two or three new machines in the near future.
"We are hoping to launch more in the Asian region, such as Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia," added Kong.