The popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin has landed in Canada, and it may soon be making an appearance in your city. The open-source, digital currency has proven popular since its inception in 2009, with proponents often pointing to the fact that it is decentralized, and therefore not controlled by banks as conventional currencies are. Bitcoin is generated in a process called “Bitcoin mining,” which involves connecting a computer to a peer-to-peer network where it completes mathematic equations in order to create and claim the currency. While a complete explanation of Bitcoin won’t fit into a BoB Short, more in-depth illustrations can be found on Reddit, How Stuff Works, or Bitcoin.org.
The world’s first Bitcoin ATM opened in Vancouver last October, receiving $1 million of transactions within its first month of operation. Since then, ATMs have popped up in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Edmonton, and as of May 3, Saskatoon. The machines allow users to exchange their Bitcoin for Canadian dollars, and vice-versa, as few Canadian businesses accept the cryptocurrency. (BoB does not guarantee sharing this article with your landlord will persuade her to either.)
The ATMs are operated mostly by local companies, such as Vancouver’s Robocoin, Ottawa’s BitAccess, or Edmonton’s Bitcoin Solutions. With Bitcoin ATMs showing promise, virtual currency exchange CaVirtex is considering opening its own cross-country network of machines. While development is still in its early stages, CaVirtex business development manager Reed Holmes confirmed to CoinDesk that the company has been communicating with several ATM manufacturers.
Despite a seeming growth in popularity, the Bank of Canada says that economic luddites need not worry — at least not yet. Governor Stephen Poloz testified to the Senate banking committee that “These are early days . . . and so far digital currencies have not made it to what we call money. We’ve got a ways to go before we need to be thinking about policy implications.”
– Drew McLachlan