Walk into a Prague metro station and you'll probably see an ATM. But you do not need a debit card or a bank account to use this machine. This is a cryptocurrency ATM. It is the physical manifestation of a series of virtual currencies that jumped from the shadow of the subsoil to the mainstream of global finance. And it is on these ATMs that the last run in the cryptosphere is taking place.
From Detroit to Delhi, and from Santiago to Split, cryptocurrency ATMs are popping up all over the world, satisfying an interest that has been mitigated by an incident in Bitcoin ratings this year. The first ATM of this kind was opened in 2013 at the Waves coffee shop in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now, just five years later, over 3,000 cryptocurrency ATMs populate railway stations, factories, delis, hookahs, tattoo shops, pubs and even pet clinics. These ATMs allow users to withdraw cash or cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum. And the crypto kingpins are now fighting to control that explosive market.
Crypto's ATMs are now the only way to have a functioning economy.
Yoshi Livo, entrepreneur and developer of encryption
Czech General Bytes, who installed the machines in Prague, claims to have sold more than 1,700 cryptocurrency counters in 53 countries since 2014. EasyBit, a pioneer in sector, started in 2013 and developed four models of machines, selling more than 60 ATMs on four continents. An early-mover advantage has helped both companies expand geographically. But while the ladder is their biggest ally, others are trying to make their mark with more sophisticated technology. Vault Logic, which is currently in the beta launch phase, is implementing so-called intelligent ATMs that allow users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies for global cash and use an operating system to accept third-party apps. This allows him to sell cryptocurrencies in cash and offer additional services such as paying bills or topping up prepaid cell phones. Vault Logic has placed 10 ATM prototypes in high-profile "embassies" in Bitcoin – spaces built to introduce more people into cryptographic technology – and more traditional locations such as downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, and the headquarters of the online retailer Overstock.com in Salt Lake City.
For those wishing to avoid formal banks, this rapidly expanding network of ATM cryptocurrencies is a godsend – allowing them to ride the economy of virtual currencies with the reality of a world still employee on fiat money.
"Crypto's ATMs are now the only way to have a functioning economy," says Yoshi Livo, an entrepreneur and cryptographic promoter.
The growing diffusion of these ATMs is rooted in the growing recognition of both the possibilities – and the challenges – that these cryptocurrencies represent. Invented in 2008, Bitcoin began as an Internet-based currency to subvert traditional monetary structures. Early adopters saw cryptocurrencies as a way to operate outside the global banking system, as the transfers of funds could be rendered anonymous in an end-to-end manner.
Then came the strong rise and fall equally marked. According to the CoinDesk cryptocurrency site, the price for Bitcoin has risen from $ 997.69 on January 1, 2017 to $ 13.860.14 by December 31 of the same year. Then the price has plummeted and is currently $ 6,363. Its rise and its still high value meant that many investors would warm up to the idea of cryptocurrencies. But a few investors like the idea of buying cryptocurrency and not being able to exchange it for money. This need has paved the way for the Bitcoin ATM, experts say.
Mike Dupree, CEO of EasyBit, claims to turn to a clientele that is already part of the cryptographic ecosystem. It grants that building customers outside the crypto community is a challenge. There is no inadequate understanding of how everything works, and some struggle with the idea of interfacing with a decentralized and non-reversible currency like Bitcoin, he says. But the biggest barrier to rapid expansion in the United States is a banking environment that is at most uncertain for Internet-based currencies.
The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning against cryptocurrencies. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission allowed the public trade of encrypted derivatives, but these rules could always change. In addition, the Financial Stability Supervisory Board expressed concern that cryptocurrencies could be used for money laundering.
The cryptocurrency markets that have taken their place in the last year have not helped. Investors in cryptocurrency ATMs will have to successfully placate these fears to expand the cryptographic ecosystem, Dupree suggests.
But these risks do not prevent challengers from attempting innovative ways to hire the largest ATM manufacturers. The CEO of Vault Logic, Doug Scribner, says that the current use of ATMs in carefully selected locations is designed to create excitement and recognition for its emerging brand.
Dupree also says that he does not care too much about cryptographic skeptics. "The beauty of cryptocurrencies is that you do not have to trust a financial institution to support your wealth," he says. "Decentralization is the future and regulation will eventually come to align itself."
Ultimately, Livo and others like him – who prefer to stay off the grid of formal financial institutions – only want this: a world in which they do not need to interact with traditional currencies. But until the rest of the world does not believe it, they will need to exchange cryptocurrencies for cold, hard and legal cash. And for this, they will need ATMs.