Bitcoin ATMs are coming to the US. Robocoin, which has already installed a Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver Canada, has announced that it will install similar machines in Seattle this month and is looking to expand to Austin later this year, RT reports.
The machines will be able to scan government-issue IDs such as a passport or driver’s license, and they will let users both withdraw cash from their Bitcoin wallets and buy more Bitcoins with cash. Since Bitcoin transactions use public and private keys instead of identification to determine who owns Bitcoins, the scanners aren’t strictly necessary. They’re probably being used to head off accusations that the ATMs will assist money laundering and other criminal activities.
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Bitcoiniacs wants Bitcoin ATMs in Singapore, London
“We’re currently looking for a location. We’ve got a gentleman on the ground in Singapore that we’ve been working with. We’re likely going to do a similar set-up to what we have here in Vancouver,” said Canadian Bitcoin exchange platform Bitcoiniacs founder Mitchell Demeter. “[Singapore] became very attractive to us as soon as [the authorities] made it clear where they stood on bitcoin. It’s an attractive location for business overall.”
Crossing over to real world usage, either through ATMs or mobile payment systems, is an important step if Bitcoin is going to grow beyond its core users, mostly sophisticated early adopters.
High volatility could make Bitcoin ATMs unwieldy
It’s ironic that Robobox is based in Las Vegas, since Bitcoin’s incredible volatility can make investments feel like pure gambling. Prices have fallen from the $900s to about $290 now, with plenty of ups and downs along the way. This creates a serious problem for someone wanting to withdraw cash from a Bitcoin ATM. If you withdraw money from a foreign ATM (euros from a USD denominated account, for instance) and you generally keep an eye on exchange rates, you’ll know the rate within a few percent without checking. Even if you checked the Bitcoin/USD rate in the morning, you have no idea where it stands by noon. No doubt the ATM will tell you the rate before you confirm a transaction, but the prospect of heading to an ATM and then deciding whether you’re willing to withdraw at the going rate is unwieldy.
This also assumes that the Bitcoin ATMs stay up. Bitcoin’s best known exchange Mt. Gox recently froze transactions (since resumed, with some restrictions), so it doesn’t seem impossible that similar problems could effect Bitcoiniacs platform, shutting down the Robobox ATMs.