It's time for coffee machines to wake up and smell mobile payments.

Payments processor Cardis USA and mobile commerce vendor Spindle are joining with vending machine manufacturer Multi-max to enable mobile payments at its machines, where most consumers still buy coffee with cash.

"Vending machines are still relatively new to mobile commerce, there are a lot of legacy older style payments where there is no way to accept digital payments," says Nebo Djurdjevic, CEO of Cardis International.

The group of companies plans to distribute the mobile-enabled K-Cup systems to businesses and coffee service providers in the U.S.

To reduce expense, Cardis' technology will allow a number of individual consumer transactions to be aggregated as one "large" transaction.

"For vending machines, a typical payment is less than $5, and the cost of processing each of those transactions individually can be high," Djurdjevic says. "Instead of processing ten $3 transactions, for example, we are processing one mega transaction."

Those savings enable businesses to provide incentives and lower the cost of products in the vending machines, he says.

Spindle will integrate its MeNetwork mobile commerce platform into Multi-max's K-Cup vending machines. The Spindle mobile wallet supports Near Field Communication, QR codes and numerical code entries to enable transactions at the point of sale, and connects to Cardis via an application programming interface for processing. Spindle will also use voice recognition technology form ValidSoft for authentication.

The combined technology enables loyalty programs, electronic coupons, rebates and instant offers through a mobile app. Consumers can use the app to locate merchants, view offers and make payments.

"The payments app works like a reloadable gift card. It's not an open loop card," Djurdjevic says. The companies draw funds from deposit accounts.

Other companies are also looking to combine mobile payments with vending machines. The telecom-led Isis mobile wallet, which launched Nov. 14, is offering free drinks at Coca-Cola vending machines to encourage adoption. Isis has also partnered with USA Technologies to enable Isis mobile payments on up to 7,500 machines. 

"It's not a big market yet, you will see a vending machine once in a while with NFC acceptance, sometimes combined with a mag stripe. So it's happening but it's on a small scale, in parallel to the overall growth of NFC payments," says Gil Luria, a managing director at Wedbush Securities.

As more NFC phones and terminals enter the market, vending machines should also expand as a mobile acceptance venue at the same time, Luria says.

"At some point we'll hit a critical mass of NFC payments that are in the market," says Luria. Vending machines that accept mobile payments are more common in Australia and Poland than in the U.S., he says.

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