Can a Machine Make Bitcoins Cool?

Register now

Despite Bitcoin's pop culture appeal, most people perceive the virtual currency as so complicated that it must take a rocket scientist to understand. But Moneero has invented a machine that aims to change that perception.

“We’re trying to move Bitcoin out of the geek zone and into everybody’s life,” says Steven Morell, chief product manager at Moneero, which was previously called BTC Global. “Every Bitcoiner has a group of peers that they’ve been talking about bitcoin to for two years and they still don’t have any bitcoins.”

The Moneero BTM has a 17-inch touchscreen, a steel numeric keypad, a high-resolution camera, a receipt printer and a card reader. The machine is one of a growing number of so-called 'Bitcoin ATMs,' which make the process of obtaining bitcoins as straightforward as going to a nearby convenience store's cash machine.

Moneero, which is based in Uruguay, is working with a veteran ATM maker in China to produce the machines, says Morell. The machines will be funded by Moneero, which is launching its own exchange later this year, he says. Moneero has received between 50 and 60 pre-orders for the BTM.

The Moneero machine joins a fast-growing list of rival machines, including Lamassu Bitcoin Ventures, which shipped its first unit in Atlanta; and Las Vegas-based, RoboCoin, whose machine allows both the buying and selling of bitcoins.

RoboCoin started accepting pre-orders in August and has heard from possible clients in 20 different regions around the world, according to a blog post on the company’s website. 

Like the Lamassu Bitcoin machine, the Moneero BTM accepts cash but does not dispense it. The BTM will accept cash to then send the equivalent amount of bitcoins to a user’s Moneero account. The machine will eventually be able to accept multiple currencies, but at launch the BTM accepts only pesos and U.S. dollars.  

While Morell wouldn’t comment on why the machine has a card-reader, some companies have debated the merits of a Bitcoin debit card. Recently Bitcoin Ventures Inc. launched CoinTap, which allows consumers to obtain bitcoins by purchasing a stored-value card in retail stores.

To buy a Moneero BTM, companies or individuals must become a certified agent with Moneero or a money transmitter partner. “That’s the way we can guarantee and implement all compliance, KYC, AML and support,” Morell says.

Moneero has the legal construct to operate the BTMs in Uruguay and the company is currently in the process of getting licenses in other jurisdictions, including the U.S., says Morell.  

The U.S.’s money transmission rules vary for each state, creating a potentially expensive and time-consuming process of getting licensed. Bitcoin businesses in the U.S. are required to register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, based on the agency's March virtual currency guidance. While many states haven’t published formal rules on Bitcoin, usually states follow the federal government's stance.

New virtual-currency companies can become an agent of an existing money transmitter after being properly vetted.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.