Why ATMs would be a great gateway device for outdoor IoT

Internet of Things (IoT) is already a part of our daily lives with applications ranging from smart locks to factories, from cars to smart meters. However, one thing you probably noticed in your home is after installing all those sensors around (as if we are in USS Enterprise), finally one had to put the smart into smart homes: a 'gateway' that will make us feel like Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Historically, being the gateway to something has always been important regardless of the way or the gate. Especially if it is the gate to information and controls what you know and even better; what you buy. Then came Alexa (conveniently as the voice of the largest trade platform) who connected all the dots in the home.

18Now more than 10 million homes in the US are also home to Alexa. There are sensors that can connect to Alexa, and there are hubs that can connect multiple sensors and connect them to Alexa. (Do admit it, after a hard rain, you called Alexa for damage report didn't you?)


Many devices in the home has the benefit of talking to each other, as well as there is additional benefit to have a single interface with humans and the machines around. (The long term risks of a machine being the interface between humans and machines is the topic of another article.)

However, when we think of all the machines and sensors outdoors, there are no central hub points that the machines may interact with the humans in the vicinity.

If we consider the potential of a sensor hub network, the first thing is to check what kind of machines are already installed globally close to the locations where people usually are. Some examples and their approximate installation bases (US Numbers) are as follows:

  • 75,000,000 smart-meters
  • 10,000,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • 7,125,000 vending machines
  • 500,000 ATMs
  • 330,000 Cellular base stations

Ideally, from a hub that will provide man-bot relations, the following features would be expected:


  • Being close to where people spend time, when they are not at home
  • Be governed by a trusted 3rd party
  • High availability
  • High computational power
  • Enough space for new installations in the installation site
  • Sparsely utilized resources with respect to time
  • Good IT backbone for data transfer
  • Means to connect to the people
  • Means to connect to the sensors


The ATM network matches first 7 requirements, however lacks the 8th and 9th requirements, since it only interacts with the people that have access to the ATM with their debit cards.

Since, most of the people have mobile phones with them all the time, there should be an access methodology for connecting to the phones on one end, and another one to connect to the IoT devices in the region. Even though there are multiple connection protocols for IoT, a low power WLAN application such as LoRaWAN would do the trick.

The toughest competition would come from the wireless cellular networks. But those networks have some major caveats:

  • Cannot be very close to people due to electro-magnetic emission requirements
  • Very expensive to acquire from a third party
  • Their processing power and bandwidth is highly utilized by the wireless network users

Hence, I think It would make a good and relatively cheap investment for a company such as Amazon to acquire a few hundred thousand ATMs and power up them with off-the-shelf communication devices, converting them to an outdoor Alexa network and rule the remaining part of our daily lives. What do you think?

DR. Tolga KURT