Australia’s First bitcoin ATM, Now Live in Sydney
Australia’s first bitcoin ATM has gone live in Sydney, allowing passersby to buy and sell the digital currency and exchange it for cash. The machine, which resembles a regular banking ATM, was unveiled on Tuesday morning inside Westfield on Pitt St. in Sydney’s CBD.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system which the system isn’t controlled by a single entity, like a central bank, which has led the US Treasury to call it a decentralized currency although Bitcoin does not meet the generally recognized definition of a currency. Conventionally, the capitalized word “Bitcoin” refers to the technology and network, whereas lowercase “bitcoin” refers to the digital currency.
The machine – the first of several to be rolled out across the country – will make it easier for “regular people” to deal in bitcoin, said co-owner Chris Gruzowski, chief executive of ABA Technologies.
Since the digital currency’s mysterious creation in 2008, buying and selling has been handled largely by online exchanges, which Gruzowski says are too complicated for everyday users.
Users can register an account on the ATM in about five minutes. The machine scans their government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s licence, and uses facial recognition technology to verify that their face matches the photo.
Users also scan their palm on the machine, which is used along with a PIN and their phone number to verify their identity in future transactions.
Once an account is set up, users can buy or sell bitcoin at the market price. They can add bitcoin to their virtual wallet by feeding in cash or cards, and can sell bitcoin to extract cash.
ABA Technologies makes money in a similar way to a foreign exchange, by buying and selling at different amounts and claiming the difference.
All transactions are secured by SSL cryptography and are immune to the recent Heartbleed bug that is wrecking havoc on the internet.
The launch comes as National Australia Bank said last week it would close the accounts of vendors involved in bitcoin trade by early May. In letters to clients effected by the move, NAB said it viewed digital currencies as too risky to its business and reputation, but Gruzowski said that he was unfazed by NAB’s decision
The experts are less convinced, as Professor David Glance, the head of software practice at the University of Western Australia, said the NAB move was a big blow, as it makes clear that the major institutions have no desire to make digital currencies work.
The addition of biometric steps such as face and palm scanning also risked turning people off by stripping away much-coveted anonymity and making the machines “harder to use than normal ATMs”.
Nevertheless, Gruzowski said bitcoin has massive potential, particularly for online shopping and cheap, quick cross-border money transfers.