Verifone makes those horrible card-swiping terminals that you use at point of sale in most Switch-equipped shops these days. It has so many outlets equipped around the US that it has decided to go one step further, and move into cash. Not green paper cash, no. This is an electronic smart card.
You load your smart card from your private ATM, says Verifone. It's a little box you dial into the bank with. Into the card comes cash and then off you go to the shops, where they will have card readers.
Oddly, the demonstration had standalone card readers. You marched into the bar with the $5 worth of "cash" that Verifone provided for demo purposes, and asked for a drink. They fetched the Verifone till, which took your card, and the little card reader said: "Please wait", making it seem like a real machine dialling. But it wasn't... it was just thinking hard. Then the barman typed in the order amount, and you either pressed the green "accept" button and money changed hands, or you pressed the red "reject" and your card was given back. And at $9 for a glass of wine, the $5 demonstration "gift" seemed slightly out of proportion to the local economy in wealthy Palm Springs, said some.
Eventually, these things will be wired up, presumably, and you won't be able to run off with the day's takings by stealing the till. But till then, it looks like an idea whose time is yet to come.