Image | Bitchain
Like every important holiday period, the summer brings with it a series of tasks not undertaken at other times of the year: lines to renew one’s passport, buying skin protection products, and, in many cases, changing currencies. Whether dollars, pounds, yen, francs or any other international currency, these banking operations carry additional costs for the citizen, who is obligated to pay taxes on the exchange.
For some time now, however, a new anonymous currency has been available worldwide, advanced as safe and transparent: the bitcoin. This is a cryptocurrency, digital money transmitted between users without the need for a bank or a centralised system. Since Satoshi Nakamoto invented it in 2009, the popularity of the bitcoin has steadily grown. Proof of this is the surge in investments in startups for payment services using bitcoins, the fact that more and more businesses accept payments with this currency, and that the Catalonian startup Bitchain has signed an exclusive agreement with the ATM manufacturer BTC Point to install at least 180 bitcoin ATMs around the world.
In Spain, unlike other countries in the European Union, payment with bitcoins is still just getting off the ground, particularly with regards to its implementation at physical stores. Nevertheless, according to Bitchain CTO Joaquin Fenoy, payment with bitcoins offers a long list of advantages for the user in comparison with payment using credit cards. “The main advantage is that they do not belong to any state or government and can be used anywhere in the world, regardless of geographic and political barriers. They can be kept on one’s mobile, paper, or on a laptop, and are totally teletransportable. They are essentially digital cash.” Cryptographically they are impossible to counterfeit and, for businesses, payment with bitcoins means lower transaction costs than with credit cards, transfers or PayPal.
Bitchain picked up steam after its presence at Mobile Ready, the initiative backed by Mobile World Capital within its Smart Living programme. From 26 February – 6 March, coinciding with the 2105 GSMA Mobile World Congress, different Barcelona hotels showcased technologically advanced solutions designed to illustrate the future of services focused on the tourism industry.
On these days the company BTC Point offered visitors to the Hotel Alexandra the chance to use one of their bitcoin ATMs. “The response by companies, institutions and visitors was excellent”, commented Fenoy. “People were surprised to see that paying with bitcoins is as easy as using a credit card, or even easier. People who try it out usually use it again.”
Therefore, BTC Point and the recently-inaugurated Bitchain decided to back a strategy to publicise this currency and its potential all over the world. In Spain there are eleven automatic bitcoin ATMs: the people of Madrid, Alicante, Valencia, Bilbao, Málaga and Barcelona can already introduce euros into these ATMs and receive bitcoins, which they can pay with at a good number of associated businesses. And vice-versa: when it comes time to sell, bitcoins are introduced into the ATM in order to receive cash. A person who travels from New York to Barcelona may buy bitcoins with dollars at a Bitchain ATM in New York, and exchange them for euros at an ATM in Barcelona. This reduces commission expenses by as much as 90% with respect to traditional exchange services. “As people gradually adopt the bitcoin it will gain ground against traditional currencies: bitcoin allows you to be the true owner of your money, without any intermediary, and will triumph because, from the technical point of view, it is far superior to the traditional banking system,” explained Joaquin Fenoy.
In the long term plans call for Bitchain to include additional applications, like the sale of name-bearing tickets, which would work with digital fingerprints – and the replenishment of payment bracelet balances through NFC technology. Bitchain plans to have some 40 ATMs up and running, in Spain and across Europe, by the end of the year.