Apple patent turns every stranger into an ATM
17:55 31 January 2013
Niall Firth, technology editor
You're starving but the cafe won't take cards and you've got no cash. Not only that, there isn't an ATM in sight. That sandwich might have to wait...
A new Apple patent, published today, might help save your lunch. It describes an idea for an app that lets you use nearby strangers as mobile ATMs.
The idea for what Apple calls an "ad-hoc cash-dispensing network", is that you launch the app and tap in how much you need. The software uses your location details and broadcasts your request so that everyone else with the app in the vicinity is notified of your predicament.
When someone agrees to stump up the money, you are told their location, and go and pick up your cash. Other iterations of the idea include a map in which would-be bankers are indicated with either a star to say they have accepted your request, a question mark to say that they haven't or a cross to say they have declined.
Ratings could also come into play, with ad-hoc "bankers" given a score to say how satisfied - or not - other users have been with their service. Then you can filter your request to only ping others who have been given a certain rating or above. All depends on how desperate/hungry you are.
Once you've met your creditor, you confirm on your iPhone that the transfer has taken place and your iTunes account is debited. The incentive for would-be good Samaritans to help you out is that a small service charge is also taken from your account and credited to theirs, as well as the cash that you have taken.
Apple doesn't lose out either, of course, it also takes a little slice of the service charge for hooking the two of you up. The patent describes a scenario in which $50 is transferred between two parties. Apple snaffles $5 as a service fee, while the person who provided the cash nets $3. A price worth paying if you're in real need, perhaps.