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Apple seeks patent that could turn you into a human ATM

Jay MacDonald

Ever aspire to be an ATM?

If it comes to fruition, an Apple app could make it happen.

Apple has applied for a patent that could turn you into a rolling, strolling ATM (think: animated teller machine!) simply by tapping into an GPS-based network that links those with spare cash to those without. The Apple patent application calls it the “Ad-hoc cash dispensing network.” But, if I may make a suggestion to my friends at Apple, I have a catchier name: The iSoBroke app.Apple seeks patent could turn you into an ATM

Here’s how it might work:

Dude A is wandering around downtown Austin, Texas, one hot, thirsty Saturday when he spies Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, the venerable music and libation dispensary.

“Siri,” he intones into his iPhone, “I find myself sorely parched and in need of a pint of ale, but alas am maddeningly short on funds. Prithee, can you help?” I know, I know — Dude A is a drama student.

“But of course,” purrs Siri. Faster than you can say, “Buddy can you spare me a dime?,” it  opens the iSoBroke app for the occasionally cashless.

Noting Dude A’s coordinates via GPS, iSoBroke quickly locates Austinites nearby who have registered with iSoBroke to dispense dough on demand for a modest fee.

By choosing Dude B from the list of local lenders, Dude A seamlessly submits the electronic equivalent of “I would gladly pay you Tuesday for an IPA today.”

Dude A and Dude B then meet outside Stubb’s, exchange electronic protocols that confirm that our thirsty pilgrim has received $20 cash to be debited from his iTunes account plus a small vig for Dude B, and Dude A proceeds to slake his thirst, kneecaps intact.

iSoBroke, or whatever Apple eventually calls it, could face stiff competition in the United States, where we’ve saturated the market with 135 ATMs per 100,000 people or one machine for every 750, third in the world behind Spain and Canada. But in countries such as India, Russia and China, where ATMs are rare as Texas barbecue, Apple’s buddy system could easily fit the bill, so to speak.

From Apple’s perspective, an ATM app is a low-risk, high-reward way to leverage its iTunes payment infrastructure without actually soiling its hands dispensing all that filthy currency.

Would Dude A agree to be dinged a couple bucks to obtain cash as opposed to using a credit or debit card? I suppose, if he were stuck inside of Austin with the cardless blues again.

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  • SD

    I hate to be the cynic, but this is a bad idea. Basically, this is a “who has cash around me” app that would allow less-scrupulous folks to basically know who to target to…let’s say pickpocket to keep things “nice.” Secondly, what’s the practical way to dispense the funds to Dude B that doesn’t fall into the grey of money laundering? I’m not saying there’s no merit to the idea, but there are a lot of potential issues with it.