Over the past six months, virtual currency has been virtually unstoppable. At the forefront of this movement has been bitcoin, a math-based currency that now has its own annual conference, network of angel investors and competitors looking to take the concept to the next level.
However, there are a few key differences remaining between bitcoins and traditional currency: most notably that there isn’t yet an easy way for users to redeem or access bitcoins from a physical location. That’s where Mark and John Russell, the brother duo behind new payments player RoboCoin, come in.
Billing their product as the first bitcoin ATM or vending machine, the brothers’ company manufactures kiosks that allow consumers to access the currency for transactions. From humble origins as Las Vegas-based, call-for-hire bitcoin dealers, the duo has now formed a company that offers working bitcoin kiosks, models they unveiled at the Bitcoin 2013 conference.
Still, despite the successful test and merchants who no doubt want to get ahead of the curb by offering this trendy product, the company isn’t sure if their kiosks, and their host of accessible features, will see the market.
Bitcoin Kiosk For Consumers
RoboCoin looks to enable consumers to purchase bitcoin, sell the currency and access related services from the devices, and it is seeking to make these processes as simple as inserting a debit card and withdrawing cash at a traditional bank or merchant ATM.
For example, to buy bitcoin from a RoboCoin kiosk, users just need to type or scan their address and insert cash to receive the currency, which it says is valued at the current market price. If you want to turn bitcoin into cash, Robocoin handles this as well. Those who want to access the device need only send a transaction to the network, scan a receipt and withdraw cash. That being said, there are some kinks to work out, as the process currently about 10 minutes, the company’s website says.
Bitcoin Kiosk For Owners
According to RoboCoin, merchants and business owners can benefit from offering this service in a number of ways. The kiosks fully integrate with popular bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox so that the machines can hold as much inventory as owners want.
RoboCoin also offers a dashboard that allows owners to administer the machines and view report logs, while email and text alerts give them up to date information on the inventory and security of the machine.
RoboCoin’s Uncertain Future
Despite their services’ intriguing features, a recent Wired article suggests a potentially murky future for RoboCoin. According to the news source, federal authorities are now classifying bitcoin as a currency or a commodity, meaning “people who operate Bitcoin ATMs will need to jump through a lot of regulatory hoops to comply with state requirements, as well as federal anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism laws.”
Further, the report suggests that unclear regulations have left some in the emerging industry, even co-owner Mark Russell, in doubt over whether it’s legal to operate a bitcoin ATM in the United States: a fact that has tied up other companies that have looked to colonize this space.
As such, while the company says it is looking to add bitcoin services from the machine, Wired suggests the brother team behind the device may be just as eager to sell to a player “willing to shoulder the regulatory burden.”
But, whether or when those players might service, like much of the space around bitcoin, is currently uncertain.