Texas Startup Enables Mobile Payment in Vending Machines

Sept. 16, 2013

A mobile payment solution backed by Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire tech entrepreneur Mark Cuban launched at a San Francisco trade show late last week. LikeUs Network, which enables vending machines to accept PayPal, Google Wallet and other mobile payment methods, also lets consumers “trade” a social media shout out for a free drink or snack. Users that log in to the LikeUs Network’s app using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and post a message about the specially equipped machines (e.g. “Next time you’re at Walmart, check out the vending machines out front. They give out free soda!”), receive free items.

LikeUs Network enables a machine to accept mobile payments by plugging a small device into an open or split MDB port that connects the machine to a wireless network. The customer accesses the machine through a mobile app and the device allows machine owners to track their customers (a feature not available on traditional vending machines for obvious reasons). The company said there are no other hardware upgrades required on the machine including special screens, tap zones or NFC chips.

The company also noted that a look at Japan compared to the U.S. is instructive when estimating the market for mobile payments in vending. Both countries have around five million vending machines. Revenue from them in the U.S. was $15 billion versus $50 billion in Japan. Less than five percent of vending machines in the U.S. are mobile enabled, LikeUs Network said. In Japan, more than 90 percent accept mobile payments.