IRVINE, CA -- LikeUs Network is rolling out technology that enables vending machines to accept payments from PayPal and Google Wallet, among other services.
LikeUs Network's device plugs into an open or split MDB port and immediately connects to the wireless network. According to the company, vending machines instantly begin accepting cashless payments, without the need for operators to change any settings -- and there are no special screens or tap zones or NFC chips. The customer specifies the payment amount that will be sent to the machine through the LikeUs app.
The plug-and-play mobile payment solution also allows customers to "trade" a social media promotion for a free drink or snack. Users open the LikeUs app, log in with their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, and post a message like: "Next time you're at Walmart, check out the vending machines out front. They give out free soda! http://www.walmart.com #walmartvending."
LikeUs Network's use of APIs like Facebook Connect enables it to track demographic information. The developers are investigating variable product pricing, depending on the "influencer status" of the purchaser. And they are looking at "geofencing" -- employing software that uses GPS or RFID to define geographical boundaries -- on some vending units to broadcast their locations for impulse purchases. The system has loyalty capability built in, too.
Ray Hernandez and Keyston Clay conceived the initial prototype for the LikeUs Network in 2011. They obtained a round of seed funding a year later from billionaire investor Mark Cuban that enabled them to bring the mobile payment device to market.
Cuban owns the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures and is the chairman of the HDTV cable network AXS TV. He is a "shark" investor on the TV series Shark Tank.