Small, square and unassuming, at first glance the UK's first Bitcoin ATM seems more at home on the deck of the Discovery One than on the wall of a trendy East End Café. Still, it was perhaps inevitable that of all the places a Bitcoin ATM could land in London, it would find its home in Shoreditch.
The machine was installed in the Old Shoreditch Station café and bar just off of Old Street Tube station on 4 March. Its arrival didn't go unnoticed; In just a day it served over fifty customers, including one who had travelled all the way from Manchester just to use it.
Shoreditch has become synonymous with quirky ventures and startup success stories, so it makes sense that cryptocurrency would be welcomed in Tech City's stomping ground. The actual machine itself, however, is hardly an enigma.
Costing $5,000 (£2,900), the UK's first Bitcoin ATM is constructed from just a Google Nexus 7 tablet running a special app that is attached to a safe with a cash counter and a QR scanner. Withdrawing money is a simple process too as the machine sells bitcoins in return for sterling notes. All a customer need do is present the QR code of their Bitcoin wallet, insert some money and in a couple of screen taps the funds are transferred and ready to be spent.
Obviously as interest in the cryptocurrency mounts, measures have been taken to prevent money laundering. There is a £1,000 limit on deposits made by users, though no ID is required to make payments unlike some ATMs in other countries.
Still, because the Shoreditch ATM has not yet been connected to a Bitcoin exchange, the shop's owner, 26-year-old Joel Raziel, has to load bitcoins into the machine's digital wallet manually. Upon its instillation he loaded it up with five bitcoins (an amount that works out as around £2,000), but due to how young the software running on the tablet is, there's no way of knowing that he needs to top up the machine until it runs out completely.
There is also a hitch in the fact that adding more bitcoins levies Raziel with a hefty eight per cent commission charge from the Bitcoin Local website he buys them from, which of course feeds through into a commission charge for those wishing to use the machine itself.
Still, interest in the cryptocurrency is growing, and a new wave of similar ATMs have been planned for distribution throughout the rest of the capital in the coming months.
The installation comes on the heels of news that the US Federal Reserve has announced that it cannot see the virtual currency being regulated any time soon, while at the same that angry MtGox customers have begun to file lawsuits against the bankrupt bitcoin exchange.
Image courtesy of coindesk