Could this be the stepping stone to the exchange of completely electronic currency?
VIA NBC NEWS
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A silver and blue ATM, perched up next to the espresso bar in a trendy Vancouver coffee shop, could launch a new era for
the digital currency bitcoin, offering an almost instant way to exchange the world’s leading virtual money for cash.
The value of a bitcoin soared from $13 in January to a high of $266 in April as more businesses and consumers used them to buy and sell online. Some investors are also treating bitcoins like gold, using them to hedge against currency fluctuations and speculating on their rise.
The kiosk, which looks like the average ATM but with hand and barcode scanners, opened for business on Tuesday and by mid-morning people were lined up to swap their bitcoins for cash, or to deposit cash to buy more bitcoins.
“It’s as easy as walking up to a machine, scanning your hand, entering some cash and buying bitcoin,” said Jordan Kelley, chief executive of Las Vegas-based Robocoin, the company that builds the ATMs. “With this, it’s a 2-minute process. For any online exchange, it’s at least two days.”
Bitcoins, currently worth about $210 each, can be transferred without going through banks or clearing houses, thereby cutting fees. Users can buy products and services online or in a handful of stores, including the Waves coffee shop where the ATM is.
With the bitcoin ATM, users scan their hand to confirm identity, then funds move to or from a virtual wallet on their smartphone. The system limits transfers to $1,000 a day, in an effort to curb money laundering and other fraud.
Bitcoiniacs, the local dealer that operates the ATM, will roll out four other kiosks across Canada in December. Robocoin said Canada was the ideal place to launch the kiosk due to a critical mass of users and less stringent oversight than in the United States, where the bitcoin trade is monitored by anti-money laundering regulators.
“We think the Vancouver market is enormous and we’re excited to be here,” said Kelley. “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.”
Bitcoin is not a recognized currency in Canada, so Ottawa’s anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, does not monitor its trade.
Still Bitcoiniacs’ founders say they are working with the agency to be ready for when Canada does start regulating them.
“We’re already being proactive in our business,” said Bitcoiniacs co-founder Mitchell Demeter. “We abide by any guidelines they would impose – which includes the ‘know you customer’ laws and anti-money laundering laws.”