PayRange, a distribution deal with Vistar, is launching a Bluetooth device through that lets laundry machines, vending machines and parking meters accept payments through the consumer's wireless connection.
Other approaches to accepting noncash payments at vending machines typically require the machine itself to have a cellular connection to approve card payments. PayRange's BluKey device instead relies on the consumer's phone to approve the transaction.
"Why connect the machines to the Net when the user is already connected?" Patel asked.
BluKey is a small device that connects to the inside of a vending machine, then communicates wirelessly to a consumer's smartphone to accept purchases from a reloadable account linked to the PayRange mobile app.
Machine payments are "a $1.1 trillion space that's largely just cash-based," said Paresh Patel, founder and CEO of PayRange. "The industry has been behind the times; 95% of vending machines only accept cash."
The BluKey device costs $49 and vending operators pay 3.95% per transaction, with no monthly fee. "The reason we can do away with a lot of the cost is because the hardware is so much simpler; it's just a little Bluetooth dongle," he said.
PayRange can also work for transit ticketing, luggage carts and other kiosks.
During the National Automatic Merchandising Association conference in April, PayRange signed up 200 customers in 20 states that have been testing the BluKey device for about four months, said Patel. After the conference, the company placed 33,000 orders.
The distribution partnership with Vistar, which sells to 95% of all vending operators in the country, will expand PayRange's client base.
PayRange also received $2.75 million in investment led by the startup venture capitalist firm Nyca Ventures. Nyca Ventures includes Hans Morris, former president of Visa; Osama Bedier, former head of Google Payments and Max Levchin, a co-founder of PayPal that's building a lending startup, Affirm.