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Protronics airtime vending machine now going through patent process

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Remember George Chingore?  He was the Harare Institute of Technology dropout who built an airtime vending machine and pitched it at Emerging Ideas‘ Pitch Night in March. Well I caught up with him at the April Pitch Night held last night and he says his product is taking the first steps towards commercial production, first by going through the regional patents office.

He managed to reveal that the Protronics airtime vending machine patent papers were filed at the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) headquarters in Harare. The papers were submitted four days after the prototype was on display at the March Pitch Night.

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We also understand that George has received three different offers for funding from two local companies and a Zimbabwean-managed South African based company. The identities of the companies courting Protronics are known to Techzim but he has asked us to keep it under wraps until a deal is finalised.

We however know that there is one promising front-runner. This is the company that has already helped him link with lawyers to facilitate the patent process and Chingore is optimistic that a deal will be agreed in the coming weeks. He is also impressed with this particular suitor for their proven business acumen and he hopes that this will help him focus on what he does best – the technical side of things.

According to Chingore, once the patent process is complete. The provisional plan is to assemble several machines and place them in different centers around Harare. Currently, the cost of producing one Protronics airtime vending machine is between $2000-2500.


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9 thoughts on “Protronics airtime vending machine now going through patent process

  1. I still don’t understand how this is any different to a pos terminal? please can you highlight the systems advantages.

    1. It’s unmanned, a POS machine requires an operator to be present for every transaction. That’s his biggest selling point in my view

  2. I appreciate what George is doing in terms of tech development in Zimbabwe,however i feel he needs to do more research in as far as issuing a patent is concerned because thats a costly process and it might not be worth the investment in the long run.Why i say so i was recently in Kenya and they already have airtym vending machines past the ussd phase and with touch screens and thus as a suggestion he might consider starting a company that brings these machines into Zimbabwe and deploy them at various stations such as supermarkets.Its jst a thought considering the cost of making those machines is quite high maybe since he is a startup he can consider renting as an option and raise his own money to eventually maybe setup a factory to manufacture these in the long run and as a long term plan.

    1. And maybe really you might as well build an app that allows airtym to be retrieved from the different mobile networks and buy a large screen tablet and connect this to a wireless printer and there u are your airtym vending machine in one day at less than 2,000.You can add other functions from there such as paying your bill but at the end of the day wat u have george is no different frm the airtym we get from TM or Ok except for the idea of self service.

  3. sorry to say but this gentlemen is just wasting time. how can it cost 2000 to build such a basic device. Considering he made is prototype off junk. even if he gets patented what stops anyone from bringing in a ready made vendeing machine doing the same service

  4. It costs about USD 10 000 to write a descent payroll/accounting s/w and USD 40 000 to write insurance or medical aid management s/w. Now these have been written over and over the world over. To suggest that Zimbabweans stop writing these is counter productive. And who knows what function of the system the guy is patenting? It might be a new data compression or authentication algorithm that is applicable across multiple applications. Some of the comments might be given in real good faith but their value does not run deep. The startup ecosystem is moving back to hardware. Who knows with guys like George, Zim could turn out to be the in hardware what Kenya is in software.

  5. Plausible idea for the short term. However as we move to apps and smartphone penetration increases, this could be countered by MNO offering top-up via their own apps integrated with mobile wallets. However he still has an opportunity though and if he can make the machines take payment by card even better for the time being. Cash will be difficult in a multicurrency economy. Do it and get ahead while you can then worry about diversifying later.

  6. its a good idea to patent equipment for whatever will accrue from it. however his pricing at 2000USD is way beyond vendors in SA whose level of affordability anything between 10 to 20 times of Zimbabwean vendors. Rather this guy should concentrate on a simple app through which purchases can be made.

    1. An app is a good idea, but you need to have airtime to buy airtime through an app. i.e You have to have airtime to connect to the internet. This machine comes in handy when you don’t have airtime for an app to connect to the internet

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