Meet the Bitcoin ATM, a machine that takes your cash bills and turns them into bitcoins without ever having to go through banks -- one that's also hell-bent on global adoption.
The Bitcoin ATM, a product of the startup Lamassu, has been described as a tabletop device built exclusively to automate the exchange of bitcoins for currency notes. The company is now gearing up for the global release of the Bitcoin ATM just months after the machine debuted as a concept prototype last February at the Liberty Forum where it converted over $5,500 worth of bitcoins.
Mashable reports that the whole process takes 15 seconds or less - from when users scan a QR code on their cellphones to tell the ATM which account to send the Bitcoin, to inserting the dollar bills, and then waiting for the transaction confirmation screen.
The Bitcoin ATM can be programmed to accept any world currency, assured Lamassu. Even better, border cities that often transact with multiple currencies can program their Bitcoin ATMs to accept a combination of bills. A machine can be set up to convert US dollars, Canadian dollars or Euros into bitcoins.
Bitcoin users may be able to start using the machine later this year, at least based on the production schedule Lamassu has set out. The company will begin accepting pre-orders in early June. It also sees little problems sending out the portable Bitcoin ATM machines, which are small enough to be shipped via post or courier services worldwide.
What's in it for vendors?
Banks earn from cash ATMs through the fees charged with each transaction. A similar profit principle seems to apply to Bitcoin ATMs, with vendors earning from commissions.
"Vendors will profit both from commissions on the automatic exchange, and by accepting bitcoin at their establishment in return for goods or services," said Lamassu co-founder Zach Harvey in the release. "Additionally, the price point is quite low compared to legacy ATMs, so it's easy for the vendor to make the investment back."
The idea for the Bitcoin ATM dawned on Harvey while running his online guitar retailer, StompRomp.com, which had been accepting bitcoins as a payment option, the co-founder told CNET.
The company is banking on the machine's straightforward function to lead to massive adoption among vendors and usage among Bitcoin owners. Current methods for transferring bitcoins to online wallets are "not as simple as it should be," said Harvey to Mashable, and the Bitcoin ATM is attempting to simplify the process that may be preventing some users from adopting the cryptocurrency.
With the Bitcoin ATM, "I'm just putting in a dollar. Before they really know what's going on, their phone tells them, 'You have Bitcoin,'" Harvey told CNET.