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Bitcoin ATM helps put legitimate status on cryptocurrency

By
February 12, 2015

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Mall ATM.

The opening of a bitcoin ATM in a traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping mall in Vancouver, WA, signifies a shift in thinking as the controversial cryptocurrency gains traction in the marketplace.

Point of Coin, a cryptocurrency-services provider, announced the grand opening of the bitcoin ATM in Westfield Mall. The move speaks to growing merchant interest in making it faster and easier for consumers to obtain bitcoin, which lacks official status despite its growing acceptance by a range of businesses.

“Without an ATM, it could be hours or days before I was able to turn cash into bitcoins, or bitcoins into cash,” said Donn Lasher, co-founder of Point of Coin. “Today, I can walk up to an ATM, and have bitcoins or cash in less than 60 seconds.”

Verifying identification
A customer with government-issued identification and a mobile phone can register for the service at the machine. After starting the enrollment process with a mobile phone number, the applicant receives an SMS message for verification. Then he or she is asked to pick a PIN.

The machine then asks to scan and verify the applicant’s ID.

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Signaling a shift in thinking on cryptocurrency.

Once the ID has been verified, the applicant is asked to log back in, using his or her cell phone number and PIN and again receiving SMS verification messages.

Once logged in, he or she can either buy bitcoins by feeding cash into the machine, sell bitcoins, or transfer bitcoins in and out of a cloud-based bitcoin wallet.

Users of the Robocoin-manufactured ATM, which is open from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, may perform transactions valued at up to $3,000 per day.

The ATM is strategically located at the main mail entrance, directly across from a theater and beneath a food court.

“We picked this location because we wanted somewhere easy to find, high traffic, high visibility, with friendly access hours,” Mr. Lasher said. “Westfield mall met all those criteria, and it helped the management was bitcoin-friendly. We have great access hours, parking and security.

“One of the greatest barriers to entry, in my opinion, was how hard it can be to buy/sell bitcoins,” he said. “Registering with an exchange requires not only a fairly deep level of information disclosure, but delay.”

Bitcoin is riding a wave of media coverage and new users. In October, Coinbase, an online platform that allows users to buy bitcoin, store it in a virtual wallet and pay merchants for goods or services with it, launched an application permitting iPhone users to buy, sell and send bitcoins from their mobile phone.

Coinbase had previously launched an app for Android users.

In July, 1800Flowers.com said it would start accepting bitcoin payments through Coinbase.

Winning acceptance
The public must become more comfortable with bitcoin for it to win wide acceptance in the marketplace, the currency’s advantages notwithstanding.

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Making bitcoin faster and easier to obtain.

“Being able to pay for items online with bitcoin, like at NewEgg.com, is nice, but ultimately bitcoin needs both buyers and sellers to develop into a healthy currency,” Mr. Lasher said. “We’re hoping that other businesses see their example and follow their lead.

“One of our early ATM users has family over in Jordan,” he said. “He can go put cash into the bitcoin ATM, transfer the bitcoins to his family’s bitcoin wallet, and they can go to a bitcoin ATM on their side, and withdraw cash, in local currency, all in less than two hours, and all without crazy high fees.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

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