CNN has reported on its financial site that the kiosks which allow people to buy the virtual coins, or exchange them for cash, “will be installed within the next month or so in Seattle and Austin, Texas, according to Robocoin, the Las Vegas-based company that makes the machines.”
They will be the first such ATMs in the United States, according to CNN. The machines have already been installed by Robocoin in Vancouver, and machines in Canada, Hong Kong, Europe and Asia are currently in the works.
The Robocoin company says that the ATM machines are a step toward making Bitcoin, which is a currency not currently backed by a government or bank which also has no physical assets to prop up its value, “a more comfortable buy for mainstream users outside the Webcentric circles where it currently thrives.”?
“We think it’s a huge breakthrough when it comes to bringing accessibility to the consumers,” Robocoin CEO Jordan Kelley said.
Since its 2009 inception, Bitcoin’s value has fluctuated. As CNN explained, a single Bitcoin is worth roughly $636 today, whereas in December the value was upwards of $1000.
As the currency gains traction, some traditional businesses, like the online retailer Overstock.com, a select few Subway sandwich shops as well as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, have begun accepting Bitcoin recently.
The anonymous nature of the currency has created a down side to the crypto currency as well, as it has been what CNN called “ the de facto payment system on underground websites that deal in drugs, weapons and other illegal merchandise.”
This was illustrated last week when the anonymous owners of black-market website Silk Road announced that $2.7 million of Bitcoin had been stolen from the site by hackers. Furthermore, CNN has noted that “several online Bitcoin exchanges have been taken down by hackers who exploited a flaw to create fake transactions.”
Kelley wants his company’s machines to help the currency move away from such controversial associations, “even if that means alienating some supporters who like the mostly anonymous nature of Bitcoin exchanges,” CNN noted.
“We’re trying to move Bitcoin, put it in the mainstream, bring it to the masses,” he said. “To do that, some things have to go by the wayside, and one of them is anonymity.”
As explained by CNN, a user enters their mobile phone number at one of the ATM kiosks in order to create a Robocoin account. The machine then sends a code to that phone and, after the code has been entered by the user, the user will need to scan the palm of their hand.
“Your phone is your user ID and your palm is your password,” Kelly told CNN.
After a few more security procedures, such as inserting a driver’s license or other form of government-issued ID, which also affords Bitcoin the chance to run the user’s name against government watch lists, and the new user’s account is verified, a process Kelley said takes two to five minutes, they are can proceed and buy Bitcoins at the kiosk.
CNN noted that “customers may either transfer them to an account, using a private code the machine dispenses, or use a smartphone app to store them on their phone.”
In other Bitcoin developments, most notable in the ATM line are the kiosks that just went online this week, according to the British publication the Register (theregister.co.uk).
The machines currently only allow cash deposits and Bitcoin withdrawals, not cash withdrawals. They were launched “just hours apart by separate companies in Boston and Albuquerque, are the first of their kind to appear in the States and will allow the public a simple way to convert paper money into Bitcoins,” the Register has reported.
“The kiosks currently function more like vending machines than ATMs, allowing users to deposit cash which is then converted into Bitcoin funds on a wallet, either pre-configured by the user or established through the kiosk,” the Register noted.
Also over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mark Karpeles, chief executive of Mt. Gox, the embattled Toyko-based bitcoin exchange, resigned on Sunday from the board of the Bitcoin Foundation.
According to the WSJ, “The move comes amid a string of longstanding technical issues that began last summer when Mt. Gox halted customer withdrawals in U.S. dollars.”
Earlier this month, according to the WSJ, Mt. Gox, the best-known digital marketplace operator, said a halt on withdrawals would continue indefinitely after it detected “unusual activity.”
Mt. Gox is one of the industry representatives on the board of the Bitcoin Foundation, which advocates for the virtual currency.
Charlie Shrem, Bitcoin founder and subject of previous Jewish Voice articles, resigned at the end of January following his arrest in connection with his Bitcoin currency exchange.