Cash, Gold, and now… Bitcoins?
First came the consumer blessing that is the humble ATM, a boon to any shopping street. Then in 2010, in a world first, a downtown ATM appeared that spits gold, the “Gold To Go” machine, installed in Boca Raton’s Town Center Mall by German company Ex Oriente Lux. Despite being decorated in gold-leaf detailing, this machine sits comfortably outside a gourmet chocolate store. It looks and operates much like one of the regular ATMs it sits next to. The customer inserts a credit card or cash, and then uses a touchscreen to select their preferred denomination. Except of course the ATM dispenses measures of gold in return rather than paper money.
Source: Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA 2.0, by Cory Doctorow
But times change, and now it would appear they call for a new generation of ATM, and this latest machine comes stocked to vend bitcoin. The Boca Raton bitcoin ATM situated on the intersection of Glades Road and Butts Road is provided through LocalBitcoins.com, a digital currency exchange initiative which enables people around the world to exchange bitcoin for their local currency; in this case of course the US dollar. The Finnish start-up was founded in Helsinki in 2012, and began mass-producing low-cost bitcoin ATMs two years later. In August 2016, LocalBitcoins declared that over 1.35 million people were using the platform, with bitcoins traded across 249 separate countries. The weekly volume of transactions now amounts to more than US $14 million.
Bitcoin is the world’s most widely-recognized virtual currency, also known as a digital currency or “cryptocurrency”. It deploys an advanced technique known as the blockchain to administrate and secure currency exchanges transacted online by ‘mining’ bitcoins, which are kept in a digital wallet.
A recent study conducted by the World Economic Forum suggests that a staggering 10% of global GDP could be stored and traded via blockchain technologies over the course of the next decade. Which makes Bitcoin serious business.
So much so that some companies, with an eye on the future, have begun trading exclusively in bitcoin rather than fiat currencies. One such venture is Vegas Casino, an online casino website that deals exclusively in Bitcoin. They offer slots, roulette and sports betting, and even link to Bitcoin faucets – information for all of which you can get here. The iGaming industry takes internet security very seriously indeed, so this entry is a measure of growing business confidence in what the medium of digital currency has to offer trading in preference to regular paper money.
Part of the initial appeal of Bitcoin was the potential to “mine” your own funds. This is still possible: anyone with enough time and determination can set up programs on their personal computers which will allow them to mine Bitcoin. In fact, such technology has become more and more accessible to the average user in recent years, by adding simpler and more intuitive graphical interfaces. Take, for instance, GUIMiner: it is a Windows-based platform that works well with most modern graphic cards, but the developers’ main aim was to provide a level of user-friendliness combined with customisation and options that appeals to beginners as much as to Bitcoin mining veterans.
With bitcoin available on the high street and at home, there are more reasons than ever to give this fascinating and fast-moving world a closer inspection. If the sight of an ATM vending bitcoins strikes the eye as unusual, then the beholder had best grow accustomed to the idea. In the near future, bitcoin-trading ATMs look set to become as familiar – and as prevalent – as the regular kind.