Last October, the first bitcoin ATM was installed in the Waves Coffeehouse in Vancouver. It marked the start of a battle among manufacturers to control one of the few tangible interfaces with the bitcoin markets.
Now, just over 13 months later, the number of machines, manufacturers and locations has exploded. Millions of dollars worth of machinery has already been sold, with no shortage of new ATM makers joining the competition.
(Note that we have used figures for the number of 'live' machines for all charts except the first and last, which count all machines installed over time. The difference between the number of 'live' machines and the total number of installations is 20 units.)
We start off with an interactive map of bitcoin ATM installations around the world. This illustrates the proliferation of the cryptocurrency machines in the 13 months or so since they've been introduced.
Use the slider to visualise the world's bitcoin ATM installations over time.
The top two countries for bitcoin ATMs, by a wide margin, are the US and Canada. Third place goes further south, with 16 units in Australia. Europe rounds out the top five, with the UK and the Netherlands taking fourth and fifth places respectively (13 bitcoin ATMs vs 12).
The top Asian country is Singapore, in seventh place with 10 machines. Mainland China and Hong Kong are tied two spots down with seven machines each.
The distribution of bitcoin ATMs by continent shows the growth of the machines in North America. Our mid-year review indicated that the region's countries had 40% of the pie. This has now grown by eight points, even as the total number of ATMs has more than doubled.
Europe also grew its share of machines, but by only one point, taking its slice to 31%. The big loser was Asia, which had 19% of the pie in July, but has now lost six points. Oceania also slid slightly, losing two points at the end of the year, compared to its portion of the global ATM pie in our mid-year review.
Retailers have overtaken eateries as the most popular location to install a bitcoin ATM, globally. Our mid-year review showed that coffee shops and restaurants were ATM operators' top choice when they selected a place to install their machines.
By 2014's end, however, it's clear that retail outlets that don't serve food or drink have become the place for operators to set up shop. Restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes are still in the top three, of course, while a significant number of machines are also installed in hackerspaces worldwide – a testament to the tech community's love for digital currencies.
In the beginning, there were two dominant ATM makers: the lightweight, table-top unit produced by Lamassu and the free-standing, two-way machine introduced by Robocoin. Now, the market has proliferated with ATM producers, and the machines might more accurately be referred to as 'brands', as each producer seeks to differentiate itself in the market.
A CoinDesk feature in September examined the changing competitive dynamics among these producers as well-funded new entrants joined the fray. The latest data shows Lamassu with nearly a third of the market – still a strong dominant position – but it has lost seven points since our mid-year review.
Lamassu's old rival Robocoin has declined, losing three points of market share between July and December.
New players are snatching slices of the pie from incumbents. BitAccess has 14% of the market while Skyhook has an astonishing 18%, an increase of 11 points since our mid-year review. Skyhook's low-cost, open-source models are clearly an attractive proposition to operators seeking to minimise their outlay.
Examining ATM growth over time reveals several trends. While Lamassu has maintained its early lead, this appears to be tapering off slightly. Its chief rival now is Skyhook, which has claimed second place and appears to be poised for further growth.
Robocoin, meanwhile, has suffered from months of stagnant growth; its case has not been helped by angry operators who resent its attempts to force new software on them and customers who publicly complain of delayed or faulty machines.
BitAccess, which graduated from the prestigious Y Combinator programme in Silicon Valley, appears to have developed a steady growth model, as it continues to climb up the charts. This month, the company is poised to overtake Robocoin for third place.
The battle for bitcoin's physical interface, the ATM, appears to be far from over. But what is clear for now is that these machines – call them ATMs, call them digital currency vending machines, call them 'bank branches' or remittance centres – are becoming more commonplace around the world.
That can only be a positive signal for the digital currency world.
Additional research by Jonathan Bull