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New 'BTM' is a portal for trading in digital currency

In this What's Up Wednesday, a new machine in Collingwood will allow residents and visitors to buy and sell bitcoins on site
Mike Walker, CEO of Crypto-Kiosk, installed this Bitcoin ATM in Collingwood a couple weeks ago. Contributed image

Residents and visitors to Collingwood can now purchase bitcoin – the currency of the internet – in person at a new ATM (or BTM) in town.

Mike Walker, CEO of Crypto-Kiosk, installed the machine in Collingwood a couple of weeks ago. He and his partner Andrea Ciceri have installed Bitcoin ATMs in Barrie, Orillia, Peterborough, North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins.

Bitcoin has been around for about 10 years. This Bitcoin ATM provides “pedestrian-level” access to buy or sell bitcoins on the spot for Canadian cash.

For those unfamiliar with bitcoin, it is a decentralized digital currency.

The “decentralized” part of the definition refers to the public nature of bitcoins, it’s person to person without a “middle man” such as a bank or other institution.

Bitcoins are “mined” from the internet and then made available for public trading.

“The most important characteristic,” said Walker, “is there will only ever be 21 million whole bitcoins in circulation.”

The coins can be divided by up to eight decimal places.

“It’s like a foreign currency, and it’s native to the country of the internet,” said Walker.

Increasingly, there are more ways to spend bitcoin in exchange for goods and services.

The first ever transaction occurred in 2010, when one person in a conversation online promised to send bitcoins to another person if they would have pizza delivered to their house.

The pizza arrived and the bitcoins were transferred.

Bitcoins have grown in popularity, the town of Innisfil is offering residents the option of paying their municipal tax bills with bitcoin.

“In 2013, I heard about how Bitcoin was the biggest computer science breakthrough in decades,” said Walker. “I became fascinated by the implications beyond computer science. Finance, economics, politics, philosophy all became entangled in this new digital asset class.”

Both Walker and Ciceri come from psychology backgrounds. Walker worked in IT, and Ciceri currently works in finance.

For Ciceri, the appeal of bitcoin is financial freedom, but with great freedom comes great responsibility.

“Bitcoin is permanent, you can’t get it back if you send it to someone, it’s irreversible,” she said. “There’s no higher authority … people are taking control over their own financials … it’s being your own bank. That’s the whole great revolution of it, is the power you have.”

Walker doesn’t see bitcoin replacing physical cash anytime soon, but he said there’s room for more than one currency.

“Different monies work best in different situations,” said Walker. “Intrinsic value is often just a matter of usefulness … if you were stuck in jail, the currency would be cigarettes.”

The world’s first bitcoin ATM was installed in Waves coffee house in Vancouver in 2014, and shortly after Walker and Ciceri installed their first machine in North Bay - where they both live. There are about 5,000 of these machines installed across the globe.

Walker said he visits Collingwood often, and his dad lives here, so he wanted to put a machine here as well. The Bitcoin ATM was installed at Smuggler’s Cantina hobby shop and gaming lounge at 207 Hurontario Street.

According to Walker, the machine is easy to use. As you walk up to the machine, it will display the bitcoin price at that moment. You will need a cell phone with you to authenticate your purchase and to store the bitcoins in a digital wallet. You simply place your order and put the cash in the machine one bill at a time. The machine will load the bitcoins onto your digital wallet, or give you a paper wallet with a QR code allowing you to access your bitcoins. The paper, however, will fade over time, and it’s the only way to use the bitcoins later.

Currently, one bitcoin is worth about $10,000 Canadian dollars - the highest they’ve ever been is $25,000 Canadian dollars per coin. However, you can buy partial coins. The machine will allow you to buy or sell bitcoins, and there’s a maximum transaction amount of $3,000 per person per day to purchase bitcoin and $1,000 per person per day to sell them.

If you’d like to learn more about bitcoin, Walker suggests starting here.