A cash machine that accepts the virtual currency bitcoin is set to be distributed around the globe this summer, according to its maker Lamassu, which expects pre-orders for the technology to be placed soon.
The device boasts the ability to change fiat currencies into the crypto-currency in just 15 seconds and accepts notes from over 200 countries around the world. It received its first ever non-U.S. viewing at a bitcoin event in the heart of London’s financial district last week. Co-founder Zach Harvey told CNBC that inquiries have been received from all over the world.
“I don’t want to speculate at this point, but we have received over 80 inquiries from more than 40 countries. We are optimistic that we will see our machines in all continents by the end of the year,” he told CNBC.
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“We met with our Portuguese design and manufacturing team today and we expect to start accepting pre-orders within two to three weeks.”
Coffee shops, restaurants and retail units are the intended recipients of the device, Harvey said, but interested parties are more likely to be entrepreneurs of different sizes rather than well- known conglomerates, he said.
“Some would like to have a single machine in their retail establishment, others would like to distribute large quantities in several different countries. There are many different business models for our machine, but the basic premise is the same – let anyone purchase bitcoin,” he said.
Lamassu’s Bitcoin Machine is set to be rolled out in late August and distributed to customers across the globe. The target wholesale price for one machine is $4,000.
“No Banks. No Forms. No Wait,” is the official line on the firm’s website. Users who have bitcoin accounts can download software to a smartphone that enables them to scan a matrix code on the machine whilst they deposit money. Dollars or pounds or other currencies are then accepted by the device and your digital bitcoin account is credited in the process.
The device may only be able to accept deposits and is still in its prototype stage, but Harvey told CNBC that bigger and better advancements are on the horizon and an alternative product that allows users to withdraw paper currencies is in the pipeline.
Lamassu’s bitcoin ATM received its first ever television appearance on CNBC in May, but other ATMs have sprung up too, with BitcoinATM being the main rival to Lamassu’s Bitcoin Machine.
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“One of the main differences is that our Bitcoin Machine was built from ground up to be a bitcoin kiosk, and the other projects are traditional ATMs with some software modifications,” Harvey said.
Bitcoin is a virtual, decentralized currency that allows users to exchange online credits for goods and services. Bitcoins can be created online by using a computer to complete difficult tasks, a process known as mining.
The alternative currency – which currently trades at just below $80 according to bitcoincharts.com – has had its fair share of interest, and not just in the U.S. Bars and restaurants that except the currency have sprung up in Berlin, and London saw the opening of its first ever bitcoin pub.
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But with the increased media coverage has also come scrutiny from regulators. Not-for-profit organization the Bitcoin Foundation was sent a “cease and desist” letter from California’s financial regulator in June. Mt. Gox, a major bitcoin exchange has applied for a license from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), after the forced closure of fellow currency exchange Liberty Reserve, which is based in Costa Rica.
Lamassu say that any responsibility for regulation for the Bitcoin Machine is on the shoulders of the buyer rather than the company itself.
–By CNBC.com’s Matt Clinch; Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81