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There are a surprising number of bitcoin ATMs currently on the market for entrepreneurs willing to make an investment.

Companies like Robocoin and Lamassu are building and selling ATMs that can exchange government-backed currencies for bitcoin all over the world.

While hardware and software are readily available, the potential roadblock for many of these ATMs is compliance. In many countries the regulation of virtual money transmitters is still something of a grey area.

Additionally, some governments do not appear to be interested in hosting virtual currency ATMs at all. CoinDesk recently reported that Robocoin was shipping its machines over to Hong Kong and Taiwan at the very beginning of this year, however Taiwan decided to block the ATMs soon after.

Building an ATM

Jon Hannis, founder of Skyhook, told CoinDesk that it would only take one large operator to establish itself in the market for the bitcoin ATM floodgates to open.

His effort, the Skyhook ATM, is currently in development and expected to be available soon. The idea behind the machine was to build a low-cost ATM using open-source hardware and software.

Hannis' Skyhook project can be seen in the video below:

 

The goal for Skyhook, according to Hannis, is not to make money from the sales of the ATM units. The concept is more community driven, the idea being that if bitcoin ATMs are widely available for people to use, bitcoin adoption will proliferate.

"I was looking at the technology, and was considering getting one of the Lamassu ATMs. I looked into the hardware required for that, and the more I looked into it the more I realized it was very difficult."

"I kind of gave up for a little while there, but I eventually came across Python drivers that would work on Linux for a specific type of bill acceptor. And so I ordered a few of those to test with. And then I figured, wow, I can get the parts and everything, even a steel case powdercoated, for below $1,000," he said.

Open Source

The ATM's retail price will be $999, and Skyhook will be accepting bitcoin as payment. The idea is to open-source the ATMs once they are ready, which is what Hannis and a small group of developers are working to complete.

"Right now we have a few developers helping us. We shipped out a few units to them. They are basically part of the team now, and they are able to use the device and get all the updates. But that’s what I want to make, an open-source project."

Everything, including the hardware, can be modified, according to Hannis. "Even as far as opening up the hardware and all the other requirements so people can make their own mistakes, if they want to do that," Hannis said.

"The reason I haven’t opened it yet is because I want to get production to a point where I’m able to keep up with whatever demand will be there once we decide to start advertising. We have a long list of people [interested]. But just those interested in helping development are getting access to the units right now."

Keeping prices low

While a Lamassu unit will set you back $5,000, and a Robocoin model nearer the $20,000 mark, the Skyhook ATM team have used low-cost hardware to keep the unit's price down.

"The brains of it is actually Raspberry Pi. So it’s a lightweight ARM distribution of Linux. It’s a Nexus 7 tethered to a Raspberry Pi," explained Hannis.

Although price was a key factor for Harris, security was something his team also kept in mind. The unit itself is made of steel and will have mounting capabilities to prevent a smash-and-grab theft. The development team have also put in place software security measures:

"It’s making API calls through a protected SSL connection. There's the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks, so it would probably be better to have a hardwired Ethernet in, which we’ll have on the unit."

"If the power gets cut, it has a RAM disk with the session data. And you have to enter the password when you first power on the unit."

Hannis' site for the project, btcpdx.com, is still under construction. But he hopes to go live when the ATM units are available for pre-order. Skyhook itself is currently in a limited beta, open only to developers. However, interested parties are encouraged to email: skyhook@btcpdx.com

"We haven't taken any pre-order money for these devices. Once we're at a point that we can ship out within 5 business days, we'll be officially accepting orders," Hannis said.

Dollar Image via Shutterstock

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ATMsLamassuRobocoinSkyhook

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