Vending machine auction markets in everything

by on December 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm in Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

…ecoATM, a firm based in San Diego…has devised and deployed in several American cities a series of ATM-like devices that will automatically analyse your mobile phone, MP3 player or phone charger, and then make you an offer for it. These machines will give you cash in hand or, if you prefer, send the money as a donation to the charity of your choice. The hope is that this hassle-free approach will appeal to people who can’t be bothered to recycle their old phone when buying a new one.

After taking fingerprints and driving-licence details (to discourage crooks from using them to fence stolen goods), ecoATM’s kiosks employ a mixture of computer vision and electronic testing (they will automatically present users with the correct cable and connector) to perform a trick that even the most committed gadget fan might struggle with—telling apart each of the thousands of models of mobile phones, chargers and MP3 players that now exist. They can even make a reasonable guess about how well-used (or damaged) a device is, which can affect its resale value. Any mistakes the machine does make are logged and used to improve accuracy in future.

Once the device on offer has been identified, the kiosk then enters it into an electronic auction. Interested parties bid, and a price is struck in seconds. This auction is the key to ecoATM’s business model, because it means the firm is acting as a broker, rather than carrying a stock of second-hand equipment which it then has to sell. If the owner of the equipment accepts the offer, the kiosk swallows the device and spits out the money.

Really.  The article is here.

Nick Waddell December 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Maybe we can use this technology to stifle these “cash for gold” scams….

Adam December 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm

This is cool. I’m honestly surprised that the brokerage fees could cover the cost of technology development. I wonder what adjacent markets they plan to get into…

MikeComrie December 25, 2012 at 3:58 am

Love my job, since I’ve been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I’m making it online(Click on menu Home)
http://goo.gl/xqkon

prior_approval December 25, 2012 at 5:54 am

And here I thought this spambot was dealing in used electronic equipment, and had something to say about ecoATM.

Bill December 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Now they need to apply the vending machine auction to the political process. It’s so inefficient to haggle in the Capitol or on K street.

bryan willman December 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

and how many people will be comfortable giving their fingerprints to such a machine?

Brian December 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm

There’s one of these in the mall near my house. I haven’t taken a close look at it yet, but now that I know a little more of what it is, I will. I am -would be- concerned about all the information of contacts’ phone numbers that are stillon there.

NedKom December 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Fingerprints: we leave them everywhere (diner, 7-11, etc) anyway.
Data: can be done, just an opportunity for a value added service if these guys can pull it off: how does military grade phone data sanitation for $0.99 sound to you?

bryan willman December 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Also, in some jurisdictions, this may have legal issues (or not) In seattle, for example, a store that takes in used goods (pawn shops, camera stores, etc) is required to hold them for a period (i think 30 days) and check they aren’t stolen. (regardless of ID presented at sale time)

I suppose the eATM company could claim they are more like craigslist than a used camera store, but it would be an issue to sort out.

sam December 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm

If these automatic pawn shops catch on, part of the diagnostic could be a check against a database for theft reports.

Jeff December 25, 2012 at 9:21 am

There is a machine like this (don’t know if it is precisely the one described here) just inside one of the entrances (not Metro) to Pentagon City mall.

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