Almost six years since the first of Bitcoin ATM (BTM) was installed at a coffee shop in Vancouver, reports now have BTMs numbering a few thousand across the globe. BitcoinNews.com explores the inconspicuous growth in both the adoption of Bitcoin and its related accessories and pursues an angle in the opportunities as well as risks in the emerging BTM industry.
With over 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs (BTM) now installed in about 90 countries across the globe, the subject of Bitcoin adoption can now be viewed from a different light. BTMs are now available even in convenient stores in the countries where they are installed, giving residents access to both awareness, and the spending of Bitcoin.
In terms of everyday use, one might be tempted to think Bitcoin lags in its ultimate purpose as a peer-to-peer digital payment system, considering how 10 years on and not every store in the world may have a boldly printed ‘Bitcoin accepted here’ over their counter. Farcical or not, certain segments of the media continue to describe Bitcoin as purely speculative and having no currency value. Meanwhile, the daily exchange of Bitcoin for services and goods continue to take place, and no, not only on the dark web. The major scare here is the volatility of the Bitcoin market on crypto exchanges which seem to stall merchant adoption, not helped at all my developments of various regulatory frameworks.
Notwithstanding, the companies that make these BTM machines, along with service providers, continue to explore new opportunities where these machines can be installed. The inevitable logical conclusion here seems rather obvious – Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere, not anytime soon at least, not when massive capital investment is involved.
They Come in all Shapes and Sizes
— Nano Bank (@NanoBank) September 2, 2019
BTMs are physical and as far as awareness goes, they can hardly go unnoticed and can easily pass as a regular ATM, but upon approach, the features do seem a little bit different. And now, the startled new user becomes curious if they aren’t familiar with such technology or if they had only just read about them on the internet – they can now physically interact with this disruptive money system. See where this is heading?
So far, BTMs as an important component of the Bitcoin ecosystem is the most expressive and relatable aspect – arguably second to mining; as well as a better understanding of the function of Bitcoin and how to use it. To the dabbler, everything else about Bitcoin and cryptographic consensus may appear as gibberish!
Opportunities in the BTM Industry
Is investing in a BTM worth it? Good question. The fuss about digital currencies and the antagonistic nature of stalling regulations should make a person wonder why anyone would consider an investment in BTM. In late June, leading international convenience chain store Circle K, had 20 BTMs installed in its US stores thanks to its partnership with DigitalMint. Are BTMs the new rave? Or are Bitcoins gaining unprecedented attention and no one sees it?
BitcoinNews.com had earlier reported the number of BTMs worldwide reached 5,000 for the first time, noting a total of 150 installations at an average rate of 6 per day for the month. And now, in just over two months, about 489 new installations have brought the current sum to about 5,495 Bitcoin ATMs worldwide.
Taking the least cost to purchase a General Byte two one-way Bitcoin ATM which goes for around USD 2,800 (do note that costs could go as high as USD 11,000); a rough estimate puts the global valuation of existing BTMs at about USD 15.3 million. Well, yes, this may be a far cry from the Bitcoin valuation which is around USD 176.8 billion, but the point is in the growth potential in the BTM industry.
According to ATM Radar, the top 10 BTM operators currently run 2,162 machines across the globe which account for 39.3% of the population, while the remaining 60.7% equivalent to 3,333 BTMs are controlled by 541 operators – not well decentralized, eh? But the picture is rather clear here: the BTM industry is on the fast lane and as interest in operation grows continuously, perhaps down the line of world-scale adoption, there might be one at every street in major cities. And that would be a dream come true for Chris Yim, CEO of LibertyX who described their more than 1,000 operational BTMs as a natural evolution. In pursuing the future ambition of creating street-level access to Bitcoin through user’s debit cards, he said:
“Our goal is to make Bitcoin available on every block in America.”
How do Bitcoin ATMs work?
Bitcoin is designed to be a private cryptocurrency, and helps with privacy issues. Users without a bank account can buy Bitcoins on some of the BTMs with the 2-way designs. As far as operating these machines go, they are quite easy to use and with just a few steps, anyone can begin to transact using Bitcoin. BTMs, unlike the conventional ATM, allow users to purchase Bitcoins in exchange for fiat/paper currency.
The general steps involved in a BTM transaction include identity verification. It is not applicable to all BTMs, however, due to regulatory concerns, it’s becoming a prevalent option for most providers. The next step is to provide a BTC address where the Bitcoins will be sent to once purchased. This is easily done by scanning a barcode from a mobile wallet or a printed paper wallet. Alternatively, some providers provide wallet addresses for users and all they do is allow the user to print a paper wallet from the BTM similar to how ATMs issue receipts when transactions are completed.
Security and Risks in the Bitcoin ATM Revolution
The threat against Bitcoin ATMs and their users are quite real and, as mentioned earlier, Bitcoin is designed to be private, hence, to the financial regulator, this spells red flags all over it. So the first concern is how the government treats Bitcoin, and that has spilled over to its accessories – both in the mining industry and BTM industry as well – with recent developments in Nevada seeing a request for BTM licensing.
Although some operators such as Coinsource already have a New York Bitlicense which allows them to legally offer cryptocurrency exchange and custody services, however, this license is hard to obtain and still limited per jurisdiction. And in jurisdictions such as India were extreme measures have been taken against cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin ATMs, and operators were not spared.
More so, there are issues, from simple gimmicks to complex ATM frauds, and at times, glitches in the encryption framework can make BTMs extremely generous, that question the security measures adopted by BTM manufacturers. Though nothing peculiar, as worse scenarios have been observed with regular ATMs, however, these situations tend to compound the problem for BTM operators and users.
If we must speculate on the future industry of BTMs, it has to be done by looking through the current facts; the rise in Bitcoin ATMs, the installation at convenience stores, and the legal frameworks to provide for more anti-money laundering watch. Clarity seems to set in as people demand more secure and faster means of transacting. Be it at the coffee shop, the grocery store, or while refiling a tank at the gas station, merchant adoption of Bitcoins and BTMs are real. Though slow, it’s an eventual process set to transform the use case model of cryptocurrencies.
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