Merchants in Canada can now tap into a newly launched tool that allows them to accept payments in bitcoin at the point of sale - a browser app called PocketPOS.
Businesses can use PocketPOS to conduct transactions through a streamlined point-of-sale interface that does not require hardware installation or management.
PocketPOS developer Mitchell Callahan told CoinDesk that the tool is designed to appeal to merchants who aren't tech-savvy, and that it serves as a means for them to not only accept bitcoin, but manage their accounts and interact with an exchange.
Callahan framed PocketPOS as a low-cost point-of-sale solution that would lead to wider bitcoin adoption by Canadian merchants, who he believes want to accept bitcoin but have been discouraged by existing methods.
"I wanted an easy way to sign up merchants [to accept bitcoin], and I found most people were using kind of a mish-mash of software, and it wasn't as simple as it could be."
PocketPOS officially launched on 26th March.
How PocketPOS works
PocketPOS is free, but interested merchants need to first sign up for a merchant account with Calgary-based bitcoin exchange provider VirtEx.
From there, using PocketPOS only requires an Internet connection, according to Callahan:
"We wanted to get away from the traditional model of, you know, having to buy hardware [or] having any high set-up costs. It's all browser-based so you only need an internet-connected device."
He added: "So, if you have an old iPhone kicking around, tablet or an even a desktop computer with a screen - that's all you need."
Once enrolled, merchants receive a special URL that allows them to conduct transactions. Merchants then enter the transaction amount (including tip if applicable) and, once configured, the tool creates a QR code.
PocketPOS can also be used to generate and send receipts to customers.
Unlike its competitors, Callahan says PocketPOS boasts a device-agnostic platform that doesn't require users to be logged into any service, which in turn bolsters security.
Currently, Callahan indicated that most stores in Canada that accept bitcoin, do so using a combination of Blockchain.info and a desktop wallet. Alternatively, merchants can use BitPay or VirtEx's merchant tools.
PocketPOS adds additional top layer functionality to this latter option. The company uses VirtEx as a processor, harnessing the power of the same API it uses to allow online merchants to accept BTC.
The difference, Callahan notes, is that with PocketPOS, merchants can manage security and fiat conversions.
"Currently, without PocketPOS, if you're a VirtEx merchant, all you can do is email invoices. This isn't a great solution for a retail location."
Room for growth
Looking to the future, Callahan said that the PocketPOS team is considering several different funding models as they expand the scope of project. Callahan also indicated he is open to adding support for additional digital currencies.
However, he said that for now the focus will remain on offering merchants the ability to accept bitcoin without having to pay high processing fees.
He pointed to broad support among merchants in Canada, as well as existing demand for software that they can easily integrate.
"Being a business owner, I know that transactions are big, [as are] bookkeeping and reporting, so we might just have an option to pay five bucks a month and [and allow users to] export to Quickbooks or another system."
Bitcoin in Canada
Earlier this year, recently resigned Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that he would move to regulate bitcoin and other digital currencies, an announcement that many believed indicated harsh measures might soon be imposed on the technology.
However, more recently, that narrative seems to have changed.
This week, Canada-based bitcoin exchange Vault of Satoshi announced that it had been granted a full Money Services Business license from the Canadian government, and revealed plans to obtain further licensure in its bid for legal legitimacy.
Additional reporting by Pete Rizzo.