Bitcoin is a free floating currency system that is controlled by thousands of anonymous user PC’s around the globe. You can use it to pay for a cab in San Francisco or buy a coffee here in Vancouver. The system has a growing list of enthusiastic users. Unlike conventional ATM’s this one does not accept debit or credit cards, it’s strictly cash only. Now a Las Vegas based company, Robocoin has opened the world’s first Bitcoin ATM at a busy Vancouver coffee shop with what they hope will be the first of thousands more Robocoin, Bitcoin ATM’s around the world. Indeed while preparing this story the President of Robocoin, Jason Kelley, was fielding serial ATM inquiries from around the world with at least one person having flown in from France to see it operate in person.
I spoke to Jason briefly about the idea behind the Bitcoin ATM several days after the official launch.
Why open in the relatively small Canadian market of Vancouver? There were some unique outstanding technical abilities available in Vancouver. We wanted to work out any technical glitches in a smaller market first.
How has business been? On the first day we successfully completed 81 transactions worth about $10,000. The following day we did about $30,000 and that is all I am willing to disclose at this time.
Why a Waves coffee shop? They have great coffee : > ) and they are very central with an establish clientele. The Waves franchise owner is a high school teacher named Judy Fujiko> She was open to the idea of trying this out with a group of younger kids starting out. She had never even heard of Bitcoin until a few months ago. Her business has increased since accepting Bitcoin transactions. This first machine is not part of the parent Waves Coffee Company.
How much does a Robocoin ATM cost? Currently $18,500.
Have you had any contact with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency)? No they have not contacted us yet. I think they’re taking a wait and see approach. We are in full compliance with the major concern of money laundering laws. For example the maximum amount of currency conversion per day is $3,000 per person. We can guarantee this because as part of the registration process we have a hand print required to activate the account and establish true identity. If it were up to us we’d let you transact millions per day. We have no interest in supporting any illegal financial activity.
Do you think the IRS in the United States will be quite as easy to deal with as the CRA? No
What makes the Bitcoin system unique? Why an ATM? The ATM version allows the user to instantly create an anonymous, credited Bitcoin account within minutes that they can then use to securely pay for goods or services. Unlike online access to Bitcoin, our system is instantly Bi Directional. This means you can also withdraw local cash according to the current Bitcoin exchange rate, which has been growing steadily since we installed this machine. With an online sign up you must link a bank or other 3rd party service which can take over a week and of course you’ve now exposed your personable banking details to an independent 3rd party. We think that that Robocoin ATM is a great way to pay for your coffee and maybe a bit more if your looking to play with the exchange rate.
What sort of clients are you seeing use the service. In terms of age I saw an 80 plus client a few days ago.
Do you see world of conventional ATM’s being replaced with Bitcoin versions? No. We believe that the Robocoin ATM is a compliment to the existing ATM infrastructure/ Certainly privacy is a major advantage.
Have you had any “glitches” so far? Very few and because our technical team is around the corner we have been able to keep everything running pretty well around the clock.
With regards to Government compliance Robocoin had this to say in a prepared Press Release:
About Robocoin Compliance–Hardware
With industry leading hardware integration–Biometric hand scanner, Government-issued-ID scanner and Webcam–Robocoin was built FinCEN law, anti money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance in mind. These are fully integrated operator options.
About Robocoin Compliance–Software
Proprietary software creates profiles of every customer and verifies them against the most current SDN (Specially Designated Nationals) list compiled by OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control). Unusual and fraudulent activity is flagged and operators are alerted via SMS and Email.
During my two hour visit I counted 11 transactions, all of which seemed to be as much about using the system as it was about novelty and picture taking during the curious process. I’m not convinced the Bitcoin system can keep the hands of the US Government off your money. Judging by the somewhat cautious approach towards Bitcoin by the big government tax authorities one can assume that they’ll be bearing down hard if a certain critical mass of use starts to interfere with tax revenues by way of money laundering at which point Bitcoin users could be faced with a leaked list of users. We’ve already seen how some of America’s tightest secrets were let go by one man bearing a grudge. A similar situation occurred with the disgruntled Swiss Bank employee that released the name of thousands of secret bank accounts to tax authorities around the world. Most recently though Bitcoin was the subject of a lot of attention when it was found to be the financial backbone of the Silk Road, sort of a Craigslist for drugs and other illegal operations. Robocoin assures it’s users that security is it’s top priority and that it is not in the business of supporting a money laundering operation. The Bitcoin is “neither funds, nor the currency of a country,” says Peter Lamey, a spokesman with Canada’s regulatory agency, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC). The agency does have requirements for money services businesses, but unless the bitcoin company is involved in converting Canadian dollars to cash in some other jurisdiction, they are not subject to this regulation, Lamey says. “Just operating a private-label ATM isn’t subject to the requirements.”
I am now the owner of $20 worth of Bitcoin (about 1/10th of a Bitcoin at the current exchange rate). Lets see if I can retire early in a few years!
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Percy von Lipinski