I have the crazy idea of programming a VeriFone credit card machine for this purpose. I am curious for feedback, as I might just go do this. I already own the SDK for the newest line of VeriFone credit card machines, and this seems like the perfect kind of match.
For example the VeriFone Vx570 costs under $400, is programmed in normal C/C++, has Ethernet/TCPIP, two serial ports including one providing 9VDC power, a 21×8 character soft white backlit display, a 200-some MHz 32-bit CPU with 2-4 MB RAM, 6-12 MB onboard flash memory, a multi-threaded OS, and not to mention a built-in roll printer that can print useful stuff like activity logs in real-time, or system configuration. It also has a built-in modem that can accept standard voicemail AT-commands and so it could be programmed as a voice response unit or an emergency dialer. It sits on a desk or mounts nicely on a wall.
To me, this hardware sounds like a home automator’s dream for the capabilities versus price, google “Vx570” and click “Images”. In my eyes, such a thing would make a gorgeous front-end appliance for an EzBridge or EzSrve if just the right app existed for it – the advantage being it’s a standalone appliance with its own keypad, its own screen, and its own appeal to certain needs. I may very well just get ants in my pants and decide to start writing it. Anyone?