The World’s First Bitcoin ATM Is Now Operating in Vancouver

The virtual currency is now available to buy and sell at the convenience of your fingertips


Imogen Whittaker-Cumming, Staff Writer

On Monday night, Jason Lamarche stopped by Waves Coffee House in Vancouver and was the first person to use the world’s very first Bitcoin ATM.

Lamarche followed the simple steps of the automated machine and fed it a $20 bill, which he scanned into his smart phone and then used to buy a drink from that very coffee shop, which accepts Bitcoins.

Bitcoins are a digital currency that doesn’t use a regulated authority like a central bank. The Bitcoin is, “neither funds, nor the currency of a country,” says Peter Lamey, a spokesman with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre.

Since its launch in 2009, Bitcoins have indeed become the currency of the internet. A global peer-to-peer network of computers execute commands to generate the coins. This is called Bitcoin “mining” and it is hard-wired to ensure that no more than about 21 million Bitcoins will ever be generated.

Up until now exchanging Bitcoins for cash was an arduous process that involved jumping through a series of hoops, such as linking your personal bank account to the exchange and sending in paperwork to confirm your identity. The new kiosk, manufactured by Robocoin in Las Vegas, will make the process of acquiring and selling Bitcoins faster and more convenient.

The machine begins by taking a scan of your palm, a technology put in place to cap consumer’s purchase at $3,000 per day in order to prevent money laundering. You may then insert your desired amount of cash (the machines do not accept credit or debit cards), and the machine will calculate the value of the Bitcoin you’ve purchased. Then you can transfer the cryptocurrency onto your smartphone via an online Bitcoin wallet. Alternately, if you already own Bitcoins you can scan the QR code from your smartphone and receive cash from the machine.

Currently there are a host of websites that accept Bitcoins including Reddit, WordPress, and online companies selling services or products such as local farmed goods, holiday decorations, web hosting and attorneys.

However, the pathway for the virtual currency has not been entirely smooth. Earlier this month Bitcoin received bad press after transactions using the coins were allegedly discovered on the website Silk Road, which has been shut down by the U.S. government.

Also the currency’s value has swung wildly in the past. Starting at $13 in January of this year and hitting a high of $266 in April, making it unreliable.

Time will tell if consumer demands for the new Bitcoin ATMs can move the use of the digital currency from a niche preoccupation for computer geeks into the mainstream.

Imogen is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker living in Toronto. Her work explores cross-cultural stories of immigration and gender. She writes copy for a creative design studio and the short film she wrote The Haircut, debuted at ReelWorld Film Festival this past spring.

Show more