As ATMs go, it’s an unusual one.
A kiosk has been set up in a Vancouver coffee shop that lets customers make transactions without needing a bank account or a plastic card. The blue-black box resembles a standard bank cash machine, but is in fact the first real-world portal to the virtual world of bitcoins.
Installed this week at the Waves coffee shop in a trendy district of the Canadian city, the machine lets you buy and sell the virtual currency known as bitcoins using old-world cash. A limit on transfers of $1,000 a day stops money laundering.
The machine first checks your identity by scanning your palm. To buy bitcoins you select how much money you want to spend, and insert cash; alternatively you select how much cash you want to redeem. You then scan a QR code on your mobile phone to transfer the bitcoins to or from your virtual wallet.
Using the ATM is a “two-minute process”, Jordan Kelley, boss of Robocoin, its Las Vegas-based manufacturer, told Reuters. “For an online exchange, it’s at least two days.”
The ATMs could be a first step in taking bitcoins mainstream. Bitcoins are not issued by an official authority. Instead, their supply and transactions depend on the Bitcoin network, which works like a peer-to-peer file sharing network.