Three cities in Canada are set to have bitcoin ATMs installed in the coming weeks, making the country the top ATM location in the world. New ATMs will be installed in the Canadian capital city Ottawa as well as Montreal and financial hub Toronto.
The ATM operators are announcing their plans to install machines across the country even as Canada's central bank issued a statement yesterday declaring bitcoin is not recognised as legal tender there.
Fadi Azouz, who operates the Montreal machine, said his ATM would be installed by 24th January at the Bitcoin Embassy in Montreal. It will take live rates from either BitStamp or the Canadian exchange Virtex and will charge a 5% fee for transactions. The 'embassy' is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting bitcoin. Azouz said the central bank's announcement would have no impact on his plans:
"The [statement] does not affect us at all. As long as the millions of people using bitcoin around the world continue to believe in it and trust it to be an honest method of payment, it shall continue to [be] just that."
Azouz added that his company, Vx5 Technologies, will be installing and operating bitcoin ATMs in eight countries this year. They include Lebanon, the Philippines, Hungary and Venezuela, among others.
Azouz will not be operating a Lamassu or Robocoin machine, which are the two most well known manufacturers of bitcoin ATMs at present. Instead, he has opted for a machine built by an Ottawa company called Bitaccess. The firm calls its machines 'BTMs'.
Bitaccess makes a machine that converts fiat currency to bitcoin and another model that does two-way conversions. Current players Lamassu and Robocoin offer machines that convert fiat to bitcoin or two-way conversions respectively.
The Ottawa ATM maker has also included a wallet-generation feature on its machines. This means the ATM can create a wallet for a user who does not have an existing way of storing bitcoins. According to Bitaccess, a high-entropy, one-time, paper wallet is generated, which is then scanned manually by the user. The company says it doesn't store any information about the printed wallets.
Ottawa will also get a Bitaccess machine, according to a report from the Ottawa Citizen. The machine will be operated by a company called BIT-Capital, which also claims to run several cryptocurrency investment funds. The Ottawa ATM was installed in the Clocktower Brew Pub yesterday, according to the Citizen's report. The micro-brewery boasts four home-brewed beers and an "upscale pub menu".
— Clocktower Brew Pub (@The_Clocktower) January 16, 2014
Tom Drummond, a bitcoin user in Ottawa, said he welcomed the arrival of an ATM in the city. He said his current method of buying bitcoin on Canadian exchange Virtex takes between two hours and three days, depending on how he transfers his money to the exchange.
Virtex charges a 1.5% fee for a 120-day trading volume of less than 400 BTC and 0.5% for a trading volume greater than 2,000 BTC. It also allows customers to deposit or withdraw cash using a prepaid debit card that costs CA$10 for the card and CA$2 for each cash withdrawal from an ATM. The process can be complicated and daunting for a new user, which is one reason Drummond welcomes bitcoin ATMs in Canada.
"I feel ATMs will be good exposure to the public for BTC," Drummond said.
In Toronto, Canada's commercial capital, an ATM has been installed at Bitcoin Decentral, a co-working space dedicated to bitcoin businesses in the city's downtown. The space is 5,500 sq ft spread over four floors. The ATM is run by the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada, according to a report from the Toronto Star. It's unclear what type of machine has been installed, but it appears that it is not a Lamassu, as the Star reports that it can perform two-way conversions between bitcoin and fiat currency.
Vancouver was the world's first city to have a bitcoin ATM permanently installed last October. That Robocoin unit made waves after it reportedly accepted more than CA$1m in deposits in its first 29 days of operation. Its operator, Bitcoiniacs, said in December that it would install Robocoin machines in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary in December, but the Bitcoiniacs website only lists the Vancouver machine.
Manufacturers of bitcoin ATMs, Lamassu and Robocoin, have been engaged in a race to sell their machines around the world. Lamassu announced it had sold its 100th unit. New players have been entering the scene, ranging from the open-source Skyhook ATM to Canada's homegrown Bitaccess BTM.