The Chennai-based Vortex Engineering, provider of rural automated teller machines (ATMs), has bagged a large-scale order from State Bank of India for deploying 545 ATMs across semi-urban and rural areas at a cost of Rs. 18 crore. Of these, over 300 will be solar powered, according V. Vijay Babu, Chief Executive Officer, Vortex Engineering.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Mr. Babu said Vortex's solar-powered Gramateller Duo ATMs have been developed in collaboration with IIT Madras.

The R&D has been built over the years, with a steady focus on rural need and with an aim to have low power consuming ATMs for semi-urban and rural areas.

Vortex was founded with focus on improving the quality of rural life by building technology for practical use. With an ATM penetration of about 0.04 per 1,000 people in India, there was a huge need for rural ATMs. With this solar innovation becoming a viable option, Vortex looked forward to revolutionising the rural ATMs market, he added.

Mr. Babu said by installing these ATMs, banks could save 50-70 per cent in capital expenditure and 80 per cent in operational expenditure. The product was built on UPS and battery back-up. It had rugged design and could be run either on solar or electrical power. A conventional ATM consumes about 1,000 watts of power and requires an air-conditioned environment — another 1,500 watts — for functioning.

Five patents had been filed for the Gramateller rural ATM series.

Vortex's solar-powered Gramateller Duo ATM was the latest product in the company's Gramateller Rural ATM series.

With built-in biometric capabilities, these ATMs had been used by the Union Government to disburse wages under the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) programme.

However, he said there would be some initial challenges for banks for installing ATMs in rural areas.

The initial usage of these ATMs would be low and there would be long power cuts. There would be lack of fresh and crisp currency notes and less awareness on the ATMs.

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