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Ireland will be the first European market to see a new generation of coke-vending machines, which will also sell mobile phone top-ups, ringtones and music.

UK-based Inspired Broadcast Networks has signed a deal with Coca-Cola to distribute digital content from its soft drink vending machines. The vending machines will be linked to Inspired's online content management system using DSL broadband connections. The content will be transferred to the purchaser's phone through their mobile operator's network, or may also be transferred directly to the phone using Bluetooth. In the future, the company plans to allow people to collect their content by plugging their phones' memory cards into a drive on the coke machine.

Inspired has developed the new interface for the machines, which have already been installed in five locations in Ireland. The company plans to roll the technology out to more than 200 locations over the next few months.

Colm Doherty, the digital vending director for Inspired Broadband Networks, told ElectricNews.net that Coca-Cola had made the decision to do the initial rollout of the technology in Ireland. If successful, then the technology may then be extended to any of 26 EMEA markets under the company's agreement with Coca-Cola. Doherty said that Inspired has not concluded a deal with Coca-Cola for the US vending machine market, which lies beyond Inspired's current expansion plans.

The Coca-Cola deal is not the company's only link with Ireland. Inspired was co-founded by Irish dotcom entrepreneur Norman Crowley, the founder of e-commerce firm Ebeon, which was swept away in 2001 by the dotcom crash.

Crowley subsequently co-founded Inspired and sold a 70 per cent stake of the company to UK-based Leisure Link for EUR8 million in 2002. The company also sells fixed-odds betting terminals, which are used in casinos and bookies in the UK. Its other products include a jukebox terminal which sells music from an online catalogue of 2.1 million songs. Inspired employs 120 people, with just six employees in Ireland. To the end of September 2004, Inspired had turnover of €11m and a pre-tax loss of €6.2m. The company is reported to have become profitable in recent months and is expected to report revenues of up to €42m to the end of September 2005.

Copyright © 2005, ENN

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