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Solar power to enable banking and ATM facilities for Rural India

According to reports, Vortex Engineering, a company focused on developing sustainable products for rural India, decides to develop an ATM to meet this segment’s banking demands. The ATM is powered by solar energy consumes just 4 per cent of the total energy that is required by a conventional ATM to function. It has the capability to serve Indian villages — indicating an opportunity for over half a million ATMs across the country.

IIT Madras worked in collaboration with Vortex Engineering to develop a low-cost and reliable solution that would address the concerns of the rural population. This solution took the form of a unique ATM meant exclusively for rural locations.

As Vortex began developing the new ATM, it arrived at the following list of requirements for it:  

  • It needed to cost less than conventional ATMs.
  • It needed to consume less energy. 
  • It needed to be independent of the air conditioned environment that conventional ATMs require. 
  • It needed to be able to dispense soiled notes, as the supply of fresh notes to rural areas is very limited.

Low power usage. Because of the conventional CDM system, ATM machines require a lot of power to dispense cash. The system also requires air conditioning, as it consists of a processor and operating system that consume a lot of energy. Generally, a conventional ATM requires around 2,500 watts of power per day (that is, about 700 watts for the ATM and another 1,800 watts for the air conditioners).

Redesigning the CDM helped Vortex to reduce power usage by 80 per cent. This was due to the absence of motors and a conveyor belt, which are required in conventional ATM machines to propel notes to the dispensing system. Moreover, the new machine uses an Atom processor and Linux operating system, which help in reducing the power usage further. It has a single computer, as opposed to the two computers required in conventional ATMs. Its low power consumption allows it to be operated with solar energy instead of conventional power supply.

The ATM also allows biometric authentication of users’ identities.

Huge energy savings, reduced cost
The potential impact of such an innovative product can be seen across a lot of parameters:

Energy savings: The new ATM does not require air conditioning. It is powered by solar energy, due to which it consumes less than 72 units per month. This is just 4 per cent of the total energy that is required by a conventional ATM to function, and indicates a saving of 1,728 units per month.

Lowered cost. The design changes have reduced the cost of the new model by a fourth of the cost of a conventional ATM machine, helping save at least Rs 1,20,000 per year.

Increased uptime. The ATM can operate in spite of power fluctuations and failures, as it has an inbuilt battery which provides four hours of backup.

Cleaner environment. This unique ATM will help reduce CO2 emissions by at least 18,500 kg per year.

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