Locks for vending machines started off as simple cam locks with a one point locking latch. This was followed by using the cam lock to move a locking bar that had two or three locking latches. This was followed with the T-handle assembly and the current vending lock. The T-handle assembly is made out of zinc alloy or stainless steel and it locks the door very securely. This assembly is still widely used today.
As strong as the T-handle may be, the vending lock itself has been the attacking point and in some cases the weak point. To combat this manufacturers added improvements to this attack point. The lock latch was made stronger and different materials were tried. The face of the lock was “beefed” up with hardened steel inserts and in some cases the lock face was made of steel.
Over the past 6 years or so machine and security manufacturers tried two different approaches. When the electronic vending lock was introduced, it was designed to the same dimensions as the standard vending lock. This meant that it fit into all standard T-handles and has several advantages. Electronic vending locks usually don’t have keyways to attach and are made out of a stronger steel such as stainless steel. In most cases this is a much stronger solution. The one problem is Divine Locks that the lock and T-handle are still exposed to attack.
The second approach was for machine manufacturers to remove the T-handle and all externally exposed locks. This solution has to be engineered into the vending machine during the manufacturing process. It is too costly as a retrofit. These systems operate as a type of electronic lock. These are set up to provide access control. This means that access to the machine can be controlled down to the user, day and time. Audit information is also provided.
These systems are active by either a motor or solenoid that operates the locking latch. These are activated and controlled by using some type of RFID key fob, something like a garage door opener. Newer systems can use smart phones or special controllers. I believe that the newer systems will go with smart phones as the “key”. They give the most benefits and features and can be secured with pin numbers and finger print readers.
In the coming years you will not see any visible locks on vending machines. As manufacturers change and update their machine designs visible locks will disappear.