The software upgrade can potentially be introduced to approximately 170,000 machines across America.
You can now convert coins to bitcoin at more than 2,000 Coinstar kiosks in 19 different states.
Schiphol – the international airport serving the Netherlands’ capital city, Amsterdam – is launching an ATM that will allow travelers to exchange their euros for bitcoin or ethereum.
The airport explained in an announcement on Wednesday that the machine is being located in the departures terminal, since it will offer travelers an option to convert their remaining euros to the two popular cryptocurrencies when they leave the country.
The new ATM service – facilitated through a partnership with Dutch software firm ByeleX – is currently at the beginning of a six-month trial period to determine if there is sufficient demand from travelers, the release indicates.
Tanja Dik, director of Consumer Products & Services at Schiphol, commented:
“With the bitcoin ATM, we hope to provide a useful service to passengers by allowing them to easily exchange ‘local’ euros for the ‘global’ cryptocurrencies bitcoin and ethereum. That can be beneficial if, for instance, it’s not possible to spend euros in their home country.”
The effort comes as other international airports are starting to embrace the idea of cryptocurrency as a potentially beneficial added service for their customers.
Earlier this year, Australia’s Brisbane airport also announced a plan to roll out a crypto payment option for consumers shopping at retail outlets across the terminal.
Schiphol airport image via Shutterstock
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The recent approval of Genesis Global Trading’s BitLicense application has shone fresh light on New York State’s relationship with the cryptocurrency industry.
Although New York is historically a business-friendly center and international financial hub, many industry players have criticized the regulatory requirements enforced by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) through the BitLicense since its release date in 2015.
Most of these criticisms were confirmed in a round table held earlier this year by New York State senators Jesse Hamilton and David Carlucci, who invited cryptocurrency companies to raise their concerns about the BitLicense.
Stakeholders reiterated that the regulatory requirements set by the DFS are too burdensome for small companies to bear, that it’s a one-size-fits-all regulation and ultimately that it stifles innovation
Even before the initial release of BitLicense back in 2015, the Editor of MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative, Brian Forde, alluded to the fact that this is what will happen, with only the largest companies possessing ample resources able to comply with the strict regulations.
“If changes to the proposed BitLicense are not made, only a handful of the most well-funded companies will survive — not because they are providing the best product or service, but because they have access to the most money.”
The BitLicense is issued by the DFS to those able to meet regulatory requirements and engaging in one of the following activities:
- Virtual currency transmission
- Storing, holding, or maintaining custody or control of virtual currency on behalf of others
- Buying and selling virtual currency as a customer business
- Performing exchange services as a customer business
- Controlling, administering, or issuing a virtual currency.
The DFS has also indicated that cryptocurrency mining will not form part of the regulation.
Some of the regulatory requirements include:
- Background checks performed on all employees and fingerprints submitted to the FBI.
- Companies must invest in New York bonds.
- Records of transactions must be kept for 10 years.
- Quarterly financial statements must be submitted within 45 days of the close of a quarter.
- Company earnings can only be invested in US dollar markets, including US money market funds, and federal and state bonds.
The BitLicense became effective in New York on June 24, 2015 but in the three years since then, only five crypto-related companies have been approved for a BitLicense in the state.
This is perhaps a testament to strict regulatory burden it imposes on companies, but also to the demanding 31-page application form that has to be completed as a very first step.
Out of the very few companies who have been granted a BitLicense, is XRP II LLC, an affiliate of Ripple, with none other than Ben Lawsky, former DFS Superintendent and chief architect of the BitLicense, on the board of directors.
Not everyone thinks the BitLicense is bad for business though. The current DFS Superintendent, Maria Vullo has stated in her Spring Meeting Remarks that “The regulatory structure that we created for virtual currency has helped our licensed companies attract greater interest from customers, investors, and potential financial services partners seeking to pursue further innovation, while protecting market integrity by stringent standards applicable to all law-abiding business enterprises.”
Since its release, the strenuous requirements of the BitLicense have forced many crypto startups to leave New York, in a movement that’s been dubbed the Bit-exodus.
Jesse Powell, founder and CEO of Kraken, a Bitcoin exchange, explained why his company decided to leave New York.
“There were some things about it that were just untenable … having to disclose all the information about your global client base to the state of New York – we just couldn’t live with.”
CEO and Founder of ShapeShift, another cryptocurrency exchange that left New York, also cited restrictive innovation as their reason for leaving the area.
“I went from loving the city and seeing it as a symbol of progress … to seeing it as an enemy of innovation. The regulators here want to treat every financial entity like a bank … we aren’t banks, we don’t want to be banks … everything we build is to do something in opposition to what banks have done,”
Other crypto companies that followed suit in the wake of the BitLicense storm include LocalBitCoins, Rebit, Genesis Mining, BitFinex, to name a few, with others, like Eobot, having to shut down operations entirely.
How is it affecting New York’s cryptocurrency opportunities?
The Consensus 2018 panel agreed that New York is the financial capital of the world but the blockchain community is international, and ultimately that the enforcement of the BitLicense is more harmful to the state than it is for the international cryptocurrency community.
The BitLicense is in stark contrast to New York’s welcoming attitude towards cryptocurrency opportunities and blockchain as a whole in the state.
Earlier in May, the President and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), stated that there’s no city in the world that’s better positioned to lead the way in blockchain innovation, as he announced a number of blockchain-related initiatives for the city, including an NYC blockchain Resource Center and a public competition for blockchain-based apps.
New York has also embraced cryptocurrency innovation in the past by being one of the first cities where property could be bought using Bitcoin, to install Bitcoin ATM’s and where diamond retailers accepted payment in Bitcoin. Support for crypto even showed up in the NY fashion week and at one point New York was named as the second most Bitcoin-friendly city in America.
In the absence of any real federal regulation dictating cryptocurrency-based operations in the US, state regulators have a real opportunity to entice these organizations to move their business into their jurisdiction.
Even the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) hasn’t introduced any specific crypto related governance, other than whether or not tokens launched through an initial coin offering (ICO) should be considered as a utility or a security, and as such, might be subject to regulation.
An unlikely state like Wyoming has taken advantage of this and shown that even though regulations are necessary to protect consumers, it can be done in such a way to promote cryptocurrency and blockchain operations, rather than chasing innovation away. In the space of several weeks, the state passed five separate bills for the advancement of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
Given New York’s reputation as a global financial hub that has attracted businesses from all over the world and supported innovation across many industries – including in the blockchain and crypto space – it is curious, to say the least, why regulators have chosen to go fundamentally against the grain with overbearing regulations. Especially if we consider that, at the moment, any cryptocurrency regulation in the US is more state driven rather than federal.
Although Genesis’s BitLicense application approval is a step in the right direction, the consensus is that the BitLicence process has all but destroyed the New York-crypto relationship and has been bad for innovation and business as a whole.
There might, however, be relief on the horizon for cryptocurrency startups in New York, including for those looking to move back into the state lines. Earlier this year, New York State Assembly legislator, Ron Kim, proposed a bill to effectively replace the BitLicense process, relaxing regulatory requirements and entice crypto investors back into the Empire State.
The current bill status is “In Committee” and still a few steps away from being passed but, if enough support is garnered, could signal the end for the BitLicense and perhaps a fresh start for cryptocurrency investors and businesses in New York.
Mining equipment is available to buy from consumer to professional level, and each of these technologies brings a significant energy cost. In Iceland, the volume of energy used for Bitcoin mining will soon likely exceed the volume used to power its houses, Cointelegraph recently reported. Cointed, the world’s largest provider of Bitcoin ATMs, aims to lead the way in more sustainable coin generating methods.
Bridging the gap between crypto and the real world
By harnessing hydro and wind power, Cointed has pioneered ‘green mining’ with their machines in Austria and Sweden. These mining machines are custom-made and specifically designed for optimum cooling, in order to minimize maintenance (the fans typically found in GPUs have been replaced with heat sinks). The customer then fully owns the hardware. According to the company, by proving it is possible to run these machines solely on renewable energy without losing performance, Cointed have set a precedent for the rest of the crypto world that will hopefully see others follow suit.
This company does not solely provide ATMs (70 machines across four European countries) and mining equipment, however. Cointed claim to be ‘bridging the gap between crypto and the real world,’ making it much easier for traders to exchange their crypto for flat cash. Users can utilize the Cointed site to buy and exchange multiple crypto, at significantly lower prices and with significantly higher levels of security than other providers. The Cointed white paper also states that they provide payment solutions that can be ‘integrated into online shops’ are creating specialized crypto bank cards that will soon be accepted as readily as typical Visa debit cards, and that Cointed is ‘in the final stages of acquiring a banking license.’
Openness and transparency
Detailed information on the workings of Cointed and their roadmap are publicly available in their transparency report. Customers can find all they need to know about Cointed’s business model and team, and how operations are split between multiple countries (Hong Kong, Switzerland, Austria, Turkey, Sweden and more all play a role). The above report is personally introduced by the main team behind Cointed: Wolfgang Thaler, Christopher Rieder, Charlie Aho and Daniil Orlov. Between them, they have decades of IT and crypto expertise, that should ensure smooth running and exciting developments for Cointed going forward.
The Cointed token (CTD) ICO is running for a further two weeks (closes end of February 2017). Aches Wong and Jerry Ng Chien run CTD; another team with extensive crypto experience and knowledge, who can help steer the value of these tokens in the right direction.
Following the ICO, along with the installation of several more ATMs, Cointed plan to successfully apply to become part of the Mastercard and Visa membership.
Cointed already has 15,000 active users of their currency exchange system. It is specifically designed to be user-friendly for even the most inexperienced traders, allowing for a customizable interface depending on the client’s preferences.
Another appealing feature of Cointed is the ability granted to its users to vote on their business decisions. Any CTD token holders (no matter how small the value of their stake) with a verified account will be eligible to vote (on issues such as which cryptocurrency we will next be available on the platform), improving the democracy and transparency of the organization overall.’
Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.
Texas-based Bitcoin automated teller machine (ATM) network Coinsource has installed 20 new Bitcoin ATM machines in the US state of Georgia as of early December 2017. Of the new ATMs, 18 machines were launched in the city of Atlanta, while two were installed in the neighboring college town of Athens.
According to Coinsource Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sheffield Clark, their objective in the project is to provide every citizen in the state to access the leading virtual currency Bitcoin and participate in the skyrocketing new economy.
“This is a major opportunity not only for Coinsource but for the cities of Atlanta and Athens as well. Atlanta is one of the most mature Bitcoin ATM markets in the country, so it’s exciting to provide our services to people already showing accelerated adoption of the technology. Our goal is to give everyone the equal ability to access Bitcoin, particularly in times of record demand, and participate in this soaring new economy. Part of making this marketplace accessible is making sure our fees are less than half that of any other operator, and customers will be given fee-free transactions for first-time use of any new machine.”
Current state of the banking industry in the US, particularly in Georgia
Based on a survey by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), seven percent or nine mln of the total households in the US are unbanked and another 19.9 percent or 24.5 mln of households are underbanked.
The city of Atlanta is among those included in the top 10 most unbanked cities in the country. More than one in 10 households in the city were not involved with conventional banks, while about 30 percent of residents are underbanked.
According to Clark, these unbanked and underbanked residents have to depend on other kinds of services such as pawn shops, check-cashing, and payday loan providers to secure cash and credit.
“Around 30 percent of residents are underbanked, meaning they might have to check accounts, but have to rely on other kinds of services like pawn shops, check-cashing, and payday loan companies to get cash and credit.”
Russian regulators in the state of Tartarstan have issued a strong warning regarding the installation of Bitcoin ATMs, according to the government website. The statement explains that the use of such ATMs may be a crime and businesses should consider this prior to installing them.
The warning comes after two ATMs were installed in local shops in the district of Kazan by a 34 year old businessman. The equipment had been leased and moved into the stores, and was offering Bitcoin for Rubles. The warning also includes details on the Russian government’s stance on cryptocurrencies, even linking the purchase with terrorism. According to the statement:
“Currently, the legal status of crypto-currency in the Russian Federation is not defined. The provision by Russian legal entities of services for exchanging “virtual currencies” for rubles and foreign currency, as well as for goods (work, services) is considered as potential involvement in the implementation of questionable transactions in accordance with the legislation on combating the legalization (laundering) of proceeds from crime, and the financing of terrorism.”
The warning follows a general cooling in Russia regarding cryptocurrencies after Putin and other government officials expressed concern and even threatened bans. Nevertheless, the Russian government has laid out plans to issue their own ‘CryptoRuble’.
South Korea’s Hyosung, one of the worlds largest ATM manufacturers, which implemented #bitcoin support domestically years ago, has finally integrated #bitcoin into its international ATM model for retailers.
Real adoption. pic.twitter.com/Mmglv3NEhI
— Joseph Young (@iamjosephyoung) November 17, 2017
Importance of Hyosung’s Bitcoin integration
Since 2014 Hyosung has collaborated with leading Bitcoin service providers within the South Korean cryptocurrency industry such as the Tim Draper-backed Coinplug. For over three years Hyosung has enabled South Korean ATM users to buy and sell Bitcoin through tens of thousands of Hyosung ATMs, located at nearly every convenience store and subway station.
Through the Coinplug mobile app, Hyosung has allowed South Korean users to easily withdraw and deposit cash to sell or obtain Bitcoin, increasing the liquidity of Bitcoin for general consumers in the region.
As seen in the photograph below, the efforts of Coinplug and Hyosung to transform many of the existing bank ATMs in South Korea to Bitcoin-supporting ATMs have led to an increase in mainstream adoption of Bitcoin.
In the upcoming weeks Hyosung intends to roll out its full integration of Bitcoin into its international ATM models that will be shipped to supporting countries, such as the US and most European countries.
Benefits of Bitcoin supporting ATMs
Since 2016, most leading Bitcoin markets and their authorities have pressured Bitcoin exchanges and trading platforms to enforce strict Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) policies to crackdown on illicit use cases of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Litecoin.
Consequently, the process of account verification and updating daily or monthly limits of Bitcoin trading accounts has become significantly challenging. On most exchanges users are required to spend at least a few weeks to submit necessary documents including personal verification (IDs or passports), bank documents, and even conduct a face-to-face interview for maximum monthly limit upgrades.
For large-scale traders and investors it is worthwhile to go through such a rigorous verification process to create trading accounts. For beginner users and casual investors however, Bitcoin ATMs are significantly simpler to use to buy and sell small amounts of Bitcoin.
Currently, major Bitcoin brokerages and exchanges such as Coinbase and Gemini are focusing on providing support for institutional and retail investors. Cointelegraph recently reported that Coinbase launched Coinbase Custody, a Bitcoin custodian platform for institutional investors planning to invest a minimum amount of $10 bln in Bitcoin.
A handful of companies including Coins.ph of the Philippines, the largest Bitcoin brokerage in Asia with nearly 3 million active users, are working to provide services for general consumers and small-scale Bitcoin investors.
In the long-term, the integration of Bitcoin into hundreds of thousands of bank ATMs globally would further increase the mainstream adoption of Bitcoin.
The Missouri-based mobile company, which offers mobile-based solutions for customers to obtain cash from ATMs, will now allow any Hyosung ATM client to access Bitcoin.
While official statements are yet to appear regarding motivation for the move, the ATM compatibility upgrade is already available.
Hyosung describes the option “as a great way to introduce customers to the world of cryptocurrencies” as Bitcoin enjoys increasing popularity and reputation among non-technical consumers worldwide.
Bitcoin purchases will produce a paper receipt with a public and private key, with funds accessible via scanning a QR code.
In future, Just Cash will add Bitcoin selling, as well as support for other cryptocurrencies, with Ethereum first in line.
Bitcoin ATMs have developed thick and fast this year, with a spotlight on the US where several operators are vying for supremacy in what is still a market at the start of its journey.
At the same time, often outlandish growth predictions by ATM businesses jar with the still low patronage by Bitcoin users.
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It would appear that 2017 could be fairly called the Year of Bitcoin. The most popular and thus valuable cryptocurrency has been breaking record after record this year. On 8 November, 1 BTC was trading somewhere around $7,700; at the beginning of the year it was worth about $960). Crazy.
However, due to the fork that did not happen (and the Bitcoin community was rather looking forward to it, as the intended development should have increased the speed of transactions), the market reacted harshly. Bitcoin quickly lost quite a chunk of its value. At one point in time, it was as low as $5,600, but at press time had rebounded to $7,200. Hence, it is growing. Again.
Despite seeing all of this, I am still quite surprised that many people tend to think that Bitcoin is a currency, though at this point in time it is not a threat to our regular fiat currencies. On the other hand, a number of people seem to realize that transaction times, energy inefficiencies in Bitcoin mining and the like are some of the key challenges that prevent Bitcoin from becoming a true alternative to USD, GBP or EUR.
No matter which position you hold, I must disappoint you (but stay me with nevertheless!) – Bitcoin is no longer a currency, and it will never be one. Here’s why.
Money, or essentially any fiat currency (such as USD, GBP or EUR) should satisfy three key criteria:
It should function as a medium of exchange,
It should be a unit of account, and
A store of value.
Although Bitcoin has some of the attributes listed above, it most definitely fails to meet them all. Let us take a look at them one by one.
Medium of exchange
We most probably have to agree with this one as more and more merchants are starting to accept Bitcoin as a payment option (Google has launched its payments API with Bitcoin, Amazon is rumored to soon start accepting payments in Bitcoin, etc). Moreover, the network of Bitcoin ATMs and the number of Bitcoin Payment Cards is growing constantly, which makes this crypto similar to our beloved fiat.
However, this is only one side of the coin. In fact, the most popular cryptocurrency performs quite poorly as a medium of exchange. This is fundamentally due to high volatility, which makes it inconvenient and impractical to denominate goods or services in Bitcoin. For example, at the beginning of the day you might price your MacBook at 1 BTC, but due to daily fluctuations (that can range up to 30 to 40 percent), at the end of the day it should cost 1.5 BTC. To put this into perspective, the daily exchange rate between USD and EUR is on average 1 to 3%.
Unit of account
In economics, a unit of account denotes a nominal monetary unit of measure or currency used to represent the real value of any economic item such as goods, services, assets or liabilities, income, expenses. Again, referring only to volatility, we can understand that Bitcoin does not satisfy this criterion.
Another important point to consider is that no lenders use Bitcoins as the unit of account for such things as consumer credit, loans or mortgages, nor are credit or debit cards denominated in Bitcoin, per se (you can spend your Bitcoin, but the real transactions happen in fiat since the digital currency is sold on the back-end).
Store of value
The last trait that should be found in any currency is probably the only one that fits Bitcoin the best.
It is quite clear, and I have argued this numerous times, that Bitcoin has emerged as a digital peer-to-peer cash, and thus is challenging current monetary systems. Yet, over the years it has outgrown its initial purpose, and now it is more similar to a store of value, or an alternative investment.
The latter two are essentially driven by speculation and hype around the cryptocurrency space in general, and Bitcoin in particular. We can look no further than Google search trends for Bitcoin, and compare those with the price of BTC. Put those together, and you will see nearly 1-to-1 correlation.
Moreover, many people are buying (or storing their wealth in) Bitcoins simply because they expect the price to rise, at least for a while. This is reminiscent of the Greater Fool Theory which states that people buy something simply because they expect that there will be a greater fool that will buy their asset later at a greater price.
But there are others who are storing their wealth in Bitcoins simply because the alternative (fiat) is non-functional. Look no further than Zimbabwe or Venezuela. In the former, BTC is priced somewhere around $13,000! Due to high inflation, the demand for Bitcoin has skyrocketed lately in this Southern African country, as not only people, but also businesses demand Bitcoin for day-to-day purchases.
Nevertheless, though the store of value resembles Bitcoin pretty well, it is still rather different to what conventional money should have. Probably one of the key features of currency as a store of value is that it should be stable. And this is especially important for countries that are striving to attract investment. Simply put, those who invest are expecting some stream of future earnings, and unstable currency compromises investors’ ability to accurately predict future earnings, which makes investments less valuable, and hence less attractive.
Bringing it all together
After taking a look at the key attributes of a currency, we can easily see that Bitcoin is not one. Taking into account slow transactions, relatively high costs and energy inefficiencies for running the network, as well as some fundamental disagreements (in terms of future developments) within the Bitcoin community, it is more than obvious that this cryptocurrency will never seriously challenge USD, GBP or EUR.
However, this does not mean that Bitcoin has no future. Quite the opposite. I can imagine it being quite a popular and strong (alternative) asset class. With the help of network effects, rising interest from institutional investors, as well as more crypto-friendly regulatory framework, Bitcoin can become quite a something.
Disclaimer: The views and interpretations in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Cointelegraph.
Bio: Linas Beliunas is a business developer, sales professional, FinTech strategist, as well as cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast. He is highly passionate about Financial Technology and Digital Innovation, and strongly believes that it will change the world for the better. Apart from his daily job at one of the leading alternative banking providers in EEA, Linas also advises couple of blockchain start-ups doing an ICO.