A bitcoin ATM machine has been installed in a hip coffee shop in downtown Vancouver, lending a bit more legitimacy to the new online currency.
The bitcoin is a novel and still controversial form of digital currency that allows users to complete online transactions in total anonymity. The payment system has become the leading form of virtual money, but still faces critics who worry about a lack of backing for the bitcoin and its tendency to cater toward illegal activities.
The bitcoin ATM is Vancouver comes as the value of the currency has risen dramatically. After starting the year valued at $13, the bitcoin soared to $266 in April before leveling off some. Some investors are looking at the bitcoin as a way to hedge against fluctuations in other forms of currency, much like investments in gold and silver.
Despite its growth in popularity, the bitcoin remains controversial. Last month federal authorities shut down the online drug selling site Silk Road. They found that bitcoins were the main form of payment used, seizing millions of dollars worth of the online currency and sending its value plummeting.
The bitcoin again made news this month when the link- and image-sharing site Reddit shut down a bitcoin strip club operating there. Users would post naked and semi-naked pictures in exchange for payment in the form of bitcoins.
In Vancouver, the bitcoin ATM machine allows users to either buy or sell the currency.
“It’s as easy as walking up to a machine, scanning your hand, entering some cash and buying bitcoin,” said Jordan Kelley, chief executive of Las Vegas-based Robocoin, the company that builds the ATMs. “With this, it’s a 2-minute process. For any online exchange, it’s at least two days.”
Coffee lovers in Vancouver won’t have to go far to spend the money they take from the bitcoin ATM machine. The shop accepts bitcoins as a form of payment.