Local company wants to set up "first" ATMs for bitcoins
The Swiss IT specialist publication "inside-it.ch" announced in its January edition that the Baar company Bitcoin Suisse AG had invented its own automatic telling machine (ATM) to enable people to buy the virtual currency bitcoin. However, experts have expressed their reservation about the company's plans.
The magazine also published an illustration, but not a photograph, showing that the machine looked like a conventional ATM. This is made in Switzerland from parts made in Germany and Austria but run on Swiss software. Its launch, "the first ever" in Switzerland, is planned for the beginning of April in Zug.
The matter has been hotly discussed on IT fora over the past few days, with some bloggers thinking it could be a fake as there is no photograph available. However, Bitcoins Suisse retorted, "There is nothing fake about the ATM. We will be publishing further details in the next four to six weeks."
When journalists of the Neue Zuger Zeitung turned up at the company's offices on the 5th floor of the Victoria office block in Baar, the CEO, Niklas Nikolajsen, confirmed they had indeed made a prototype and were in the throes of testing it out. However, he refused to show the machine to the reporters. The Danish-born software expert explained how he had bought his first bitcoins three years ago for $0.77. "Three years later they were valued at $1200; now they are worth just over $700."
Not unsurprisingly, he feels there is a great future in the currency, hence four full-time and seven part-time staff work at the start-up company, whose aim is to push through the currency in Switzerland as well as provide financial advice and other services relating to bitcoin.
The first bitcoin ATMs were actually made by the Lamassu company in the USA. These make it possible to buy bitcoins with cash. In fact one was set up in Zurich as a 6-day pilot project by the World Bitcoin Association (WBA) in January. "This trail went much better than expected," said WBA president Dorian Credé. "Fifteen bitcoins were sold for CHF 12,000 and 90 transactions were made." It now hopes to set one up permanently in April, but Bitcoin Suisse wants to pip it to the post by setting one up in Zug first, and indeed with a Lamassu machine. "Our own machine will be coming out a short time later," said Nikolajsen.
And what about the legal aspects of such a currency and associated ATMs? One important aspect is that Swiss money-laundering regulations are not violated. Finma, the Swiss Financial Monetary Supervisory Authority, said that all regulations had to be fully complied with, though Bitcoin Suisse AG declined to comment on this.
Security experts also expressed their doubts about such ATMs. "If customers are going to put cash in these machines, then they will have to be strong enough to stand up to vandalism and theft. Normal ATMs today, complete with cameras, cost CHF 9000 each." Bitcoin Suisse said their machines would conform to current standards and that they would be releasing further information in March.