Bitcoin began a new chapter in its storied history as the world’s very first ATM that allows for transactions in the digital currency opened in Vancouver, Canada.
The Waves Coffee House downtown is the venue of the first kiosk that converts Canadian dollars into Bitcoin and vice versa. The grand opening occurred at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday and attracted dozens of onlookers who were curious to see how the automated teller machine operated.
The ATM, which resembles typical ATMs but also allows for barcode and hand scanning, is under the charge of the partnership of Bitcoiniacs and Robocoin. The former is based in Vancouver while the latter is headquartered in Nevada. The pair hope to open four other ATMS throughout Canada.
“We think the Vancouver market is enormous and we’re excited to be here,” said Jordan Kelley, chief executive of Robocoin, the ATM manufacturing company. “By the end 2013, we’ll be all over Canada. By the end of 2014, we’ll be all over the world, including the United States.”
In order to use the Bitcoin ATM, customers must allow their palms to be scanned. The daily maximum exchange permitted is $1,000 in Bitcoin. Canadian currency can be inserted or taken from the ATM and exchanged for the digital currency on the VirtEx exchange in Canada.
Bitcoin will be transferred both to and from a customer’s Internet Bitcoin wallet. As is customary at ATMs that accept transactions in non-Bitcoin currency, a paper receipt will be dispensed as proof of the exchange.
“It’s as easy as walking up to a machine, scanning your hand, entering some cash and buying Bitcoin,” Kelley told Reuters. “It’s a two-minute process. For any online exchange, it’s at least two days.”
Bitcoin is currently trading at slightly over $200 USD. Its value has been quite volatile throughout the year, beginning January at about $13 and reaching a high in April of roughly $265. The virtual currency has been exchanged since 2009 and is not controlled by any centralized banking system.
That lack of regulation sparks both intrigue and fear in online poker and gambling operators. To date, only a handful of online poker rooms offer Bitcoin as a payment processing option.
Bitcoin can be bought and sold nearly anonymously, which lowers fees and allows for privacy. However, that anonymity is attractive to those who move money illicitly via drug-dealing or money laundering.