A satellite of the Mars candy and pet food empire has licensed smart card technology from Digicash Inc.
Mars Electronics International, which manufactures vending machines, said it will use the Digicash system to accept stored-value cards that can be used in place of coins and currency.
Digicash is also the developer of the computer-based digital money system called Ecash.
By enabling its machines to accept smart cards, Mars hopes to further the acceptance and development of Ecash, officials said .
"We feel quite sure that electronic cash is going to develop, and we feel that the Digicash product platform is an excellent one," said Nick Habgood, marketing manager for Mars Electronics International.
"I think it's a matter of convenience for the consumer," Mr. Habgood said. "With electronic cash, you've always got the right change."
The Mars unit's products include food and beverage vending machines as well as "unattended point of sale" devices that sell train tickets and casino chips.
Mars Electronics, based in Berkshire, England, makes vending machines and associated payment systems not only for its parent, Mars Inc. of McLean, Va., but also for "big branded companies like Pepsi-Cola and Coca- Cola," Mr. Habgood said.
The alliance is a significant step for Amsterdam-based Digicash. The company has been trying to cultivate relationships with banks around the world, and has licensed Ecash to Mark Twain Bancshares in St. Louis and to institutions in Sweden and Finland.
Along with the Mars partnership, Digicash said it has opened an office in Sydney, Australia, and indicated it is a prelude to agreements there.
"Introduction of Ecash in Australia will make it much easier for people in the region to make and accept electronic cash payments on the Internet," said David Chaum, the inventor of Ecash and chairman of Digicash.