We’ve all had this happen to us at least once: you’re out and about, doing your shopping or hanging with friends, and you realize you have no cash. The place you’re at/going doesn’t accept debit or credit cards, and the nearest ATM that you can use without a ridiculous surcharge from the machine (and your bank) is ten blocks away.
So what do you do? Normally, you’re forced to trek to the nearest ATM, eat the exorbitant surcharge, or have one of your friends spot you (if you’re not by yourself). There has to be a better way, and apparently Apple’s working on one.
The United States Patent & Trademark Office recently published an application from Apple that proposes a crowdsourced mobile banking solution. Essentially, the system would work similarly to your friends spotting you the money, except your ‘friends’ are now every Apple user that’s a part of the system.
Through the proposed system, which remains unidentified in the patent application but goes by the title ‘Ad-Hoc Cash Dispensing Network,’ users would be able to send out a message requesting a small amount of money (let’s say $30). Other users in the area would receive a notification, asking if they’re willing to lend the $30. If the user responds ‘yes,’ the system exchanges the locations of each person so they can meet up to exchange the cash. When the transaction takes place, the requesting user’s account, potentially iTunes, is charged the prescribed amount plus a small service fee (yet to be determined). The lender’s account is then credited with the amount of cash lent, plus half of the service fee (with the other half going to Apple). The requester gets their cash, the lender gets the loan back digitally plus a little extra, and Apple makes a fee as the middleman.
It seems almost strange that a peer-to-peer, crowdsourced-lending system can be patented, but at the same time it’s almost stranger that someone hasn’t thought of this sooner. With microloans becoming a very popular method of financing third-world businesses and individuals, mainly through nonprofits, this takes the microloan to a more immediate level.
While it’s becoming more uncommon for establishments not to accept credit and debit, or to not have an ATM nearby, this could prove to be a convenient, economical, and effective twist on ‘spotting your friend’ $30. The key thing to watch for next is how the platform manifests itself, whether it functions through iTunes, another operating system, or maybe even a partner system.
Would you lend a stranger $30 on the spot if it meant that you got, potentially, $32 back digitally? What about at night? There’s a safety aspect of the system that goes unmentioned, but maybe that will be addressed when the patent is further fleshed out.