Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Apple ATM? Patent Suggests Reinvented Cash Machines With iPhone Marriage

Apple ATM patent

Apple's patent applications have got a bit single-minded of late, with lots to do with near-field communications radio—including this one, which has a cool twist: Apple, with its iPhone, wants to reinvent the ATM.

We mentioned a previous NFC-centric Apple patent concerned with paying for stuff before—Apple's intention is that because we take our iPhones pretty much everywhere, then there's no reason why with some tricked-out short-range radio hardware and clever apps they can't reinvent how you pay for things in stores (think of it as a more sophisticated solution than Visa's recent iPhone hardware). This patent, dug up and explored by the folks at Patently Apple, extends the idea pretty far, and imagines the iPhone being used as a super-handy, super-secure device that changes how users interact with future ATMs.

In Apple's patent parlance that ATM is a blocky "transaction terminal," as you can see from the imagery up top, but it's really not much different to the ones you know today—it just has some clever radio tech aboard. The clever bit is that notion that the iPhone (or presumably iPad, since the two devices' hearts beat as one) does replace some of the ATM's user interface, like the keypad, as part of the dedicated "Transaction" app. This, because it's programmed in software, may even jumble the position of the numbers after every keypress so that an astute observer-thief couldn't guess your PIN by watching your fingers move.

Just having the iPhone identify itself to the ATM via NFC is an added layer of security, though—it would be capable of sharing much more info than the fragment of code stored in a magnetic stripe or in-card chip. And Apple's even thought of enabling Bluetooth, wireless, and even GPS data from the iPhone to definitely identify it, and its location next to the ATM—ensuring that there're few opportunities for high-tech hackery. Part of the transaction may even involved photographing a QR code on the ATM's display, which a dedicated iPhone app would recognize and respond back wirelessly to definitely identify it.

apple atm patent

And here's the best bit, in my opinion: Much of the patent I've referenced so far is about identifying the iPhone ... but how about the user? Apple's got this covered with a neat bit of thinking. The iPhone's packed with movement sensors, so why not get the ATM user to "write" their signature on the casing of the ATM with the corner of the phone—or even in mid-air? Totally neat. And very hard to fake.

To keep up with this news follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take your smartphone to my Twitter feed too.