GNU Taler Snack Machine

The ‘GNU Taler’ system hosted at Bern University of Applied Sciences represents a secure and transparent alternative to the best-known digital currencies right now. A GNU Taler payment system was installed in a standard snack machine as part of a project. This will make it quick and easy for students and staff to buy food using contactless payment with GNU Taler.


  • Lead school(s) School of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Duration (planned) 01.07.2019 - 31.01.2022
  • Project management Christian Grothoff
  • Head of project Christian Grothoff
  • Project staff Marco Boss, RISIS
    Andreas Habegger, HuCE
    Dominik Hofer, HuCE
  • Partner Braumann AG
    Taler Systems SA
    The GNU Project
    GNUnet e.V.
  • Keywords Cryptocurrencies, Digital Money, GNU Taler, Data Protection, Electronic Money, Virtual Currency

Starting Point

Digital money like Libra or Bitcoin is dominating the news these days. Meanwhile, politicians and regulators are busy seeking answers to the new currencies and payment platforms. Given the market demand, however, national regulations may prove insufficient. This is because consumers are longing for a more user-friendly online payment system and merchants are hoping for a cheaper replacement for current credit-card-based systems. One alternative for electronic money is the ‘GNU Taler’ system hosted at BFH. It offers a more socially acceptable and yet equally transformative payment technology.


The GNU Taler payment system is a free software implementation of digital cash. GNU Taler offers data protection for consumers and accountability for companies. In the past, GNU Taler payments were mainly incorporated in web browsers to facilitate web payments. The goal is now to enable secure, private payments with GNU Taler using Near Field Communication (NFC) – which is the contactless exchange of data.

Buying snacks with GNU Taler

In the project, a snack machine serves as a sample application. In the future, students will be able to buy snacks with the GNU Taler currency via NFC.
This called for special hardware to enable the software to mediate between MDB and Taler. For this reason, the software was developed using a Raspberry Pi (prototype) with an NFC card reader and a special MDB Hat.

The solution was tested using an MDB test system provided by Braumann AG and then integrated into a snack machine. In order to enable real purchases, a ‘bank’ app was also developed. This enables students and staff at Bern University of Applied Sciences to exchange digital cash for physical cash. In addition, the GNU Taler Android Wallet application was adapted by Taler Systems SA to enable various corner cases in our use case.

The snack machine with the integrated GNU Taler payment system will be available to students and staff of the Engineering and Information Technology Department at Höhenweg 80 in Biel.

Postulate from 30.9.2022

In a postulate, GLP National Councillor Jörg Mäder asks the Federal Council to examine the costs and possibilities of introducing the system in Switzerland. The Federal Council is asked to show what legal basis is necessary for the introduction of an anonymous electronic payment system in Switzerland by the National Bank and in what timeframe this would be possible. In particular, the concerns regarding security, reliability, scalability, but also theft and (tax) fraud should be taken into account.