If there was any doubt that bitcoin — a distributed peer-to-peer digital currency — is seriously on the way in, this new ATM at a Vancouver cafe should put those reservations to rest.
The new machine, which converts bitcoins to Canadian dollars and vice versa, is the first of four ATMs to be opened across Canada. It officially went into service at 9:00 AM on October 29th at Waves Coffee House in downtown Vancouver. The ATM will be operated by Vancouver-based Bitcoiniacs and Nevada-based Robocoin.
To use the machine, customers need to have their palms scanned, and they can exchange up to $3,000 worth of bitcoins each day. Canadian currency can be deposited or withdrawn from the machine and exchanged for bitcoins on Canada's VirtEx exchange. The bitcoins are then transferred to and from the customer's online bitcoin wallet.
The attraction to bitcoin is that it isn't controlled by any authority like a central bank (which became a major consideration after the recent financial crisis in Cyprus). For vendors, it's cheaper than accepting any of the major credit cards, and it's the best performing currency in the world, growing over a 1,000% a year over the past four years. It's also being used as an investment currency. At the same time, however, it's also mired in controversy. Bitcoins are used to buy illicit goods like drugs from websites such as Silk Road, which was recently shut down by U.S. authorities.