Apple patent could turn all of us into walking ATMs

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

Finding an ATM isn't as difficult as it once was, especially since we can quickly search for them using our smartphones. But when you can't find one, you're basically screwed if you need cash. Apple's got a patent that could make helpful strangers into convenient and lucrative ATMs with just a few taps in an app.

Filed in July 2011 and made public last Thursday, Apple's "ad-hock cash-dispensing network" patent details a method for a person to use a smartphone app to key in how much cash they desperately need. The app then uses their location to find other people nearby who have cash and who have made themselves available as ATMs through the app. From there, it's all a matter of picking a person, meeting up, and making the exchange.

In return for helping out someone in need, the person acting as the cash dispenser would get a small cut of the transaction and so would Apple. For example, a $50 transaction would see the cash holder get $3 while Apple would get $5. Sure, in this scenario the requester loses 16 percent of their money to fees, but it may be worth it for the convenience of being able to potentially get cash immediately from someone standing right next to you right when you need it.

The patent also discusses an in-app rating system that can be used to help filter out the good human ATMs from the bad ones. While the app would give people a financial incentive to help others out, it wouldn't guarantee anyone's safety during the meetup, good ratings notwithstanding. There's also no way to verify if the cash exchanged is genuine and not counterfeit. I don't know about you, but I'd rather wait until I'm at a real ATM instead of getting cash from a stranger.

USPTO, via New Scientist

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