As I mentioned yesterday, OKCoin and BTC China both announced "The First Bitcoin ATM in China" yesterday. BTC China Bobby Lee wanted to show the world that 4/15/14 is just another day for Bitcoiners. There isn't a magical guillotine from the PBOC that will be dropped today, as rumors of a private PBOC notice circulated only to banks and 3rd party payment processors requiring stricter adherence to the 12/5/13 notice finally peter out. Bobby Lee took to CNBC for an exclusive interview to highlight to somewhat ignorant mainstream media that Bitcoin "defies talk of China crackdown." At this moment, after 4/15/14 is coming to an end in China, there are still methods to deposit Chinese RMB into various Chinese exchanges, methods pioneered by BTC China. In conjunction with BTC China's show of strength today, BTC China released two beneficial items that they are calling ATMs: A physical Lamassu, and a new 'soft Bitcoin ATM' interface utilizing their browser-based Bitcoin wallet titled Picasso.
As promised in their weibo, BTC China revealed a Bitcoin "ATM" in Shanghai today. The machine was none other than a Lamassu Bitcoin "ATM" which functions as a vending machine and does not have bi-directional capabilities. While the general populace is increasingly loose in using the word "ATM" the fact remains that two way functionality is the actual hallmark of success in the emulation of a fiat ATM. However, compared with the Picasso Web Wallet, which has been called a Web ATM... At least the Lamassu is certifiably automated.
As Of Now, Picasso Is Not An Automated Teller Machine
TechCrunch posted this headline earlier today: BTC China Launches ATM Web App, in reference to BTC China's new Picasso feature: 币加锁. Your Picasso Web Wallet allows you to do one of two things: Send and Receive Bitcoin. Transactions to Bitcoin addresses outside of BTC China's control require transaction confirmations. However, BTC China will allow Picasso users to send their funds to their BTC China exchange account in-house and instantaneously. BTC China explicitly states in their FAQ that:
It is best to store Bitcoins on your Exchange account when you are actively trading. When you do not plan on trading for a period of time, it is recommended that you store your Bitcoins in your Picasso wallet.
You'll want to keep your Bitcoins in Picasso because there they are in BTC China's cold storage system, which they originally announced back in Decemeber as well. There's also a 10 BTC daily limit on the amount of BTC that you can send from Picasso to external (non BTC China) accounts. This Picasso Web Wallet functions as a Teller Machine if and only if an interested party can locate a fellow Picasso user and convince him or her to trade their Bitcoins in exchange for fiat currency. As BTC China is quick to note, that transaction could occur in any fiat currency, it is no longer just limited to Chinese Yuan. BTC China also believes that small businesses such as coffee shops could use this app on their phone to become buy/sell hubs of BTC. However, the process I just described is incredibly far from automated. Calling the Picasso an ATM requires a disgusting stretch to the definition of 'ATMs', it also implies that Coinbase's and Blockchain's webwallets are also ATMs. They've never made such a ridiculous claim and BTC China shouldn't either.
One undeniable great thing about BTC China's Picasso Web Wallet is this: Browser functionality. BTC China has offered a cold storage solution for an added level of security to its users. This solution can be accessed by Android and iOS all the same, because it is located within the website. However, I still need to point out that BTC China has not passed any public audits yet that prove their solvency or even the completeness of their cold storage system. Furthermore, the cold stored funds of Picasso users are still not guaranteed by the FDIC or the PBOC or whomever... More paranoid users may choose to avoid BTC China altogether and simply use their own cold storage.
More ATM like functionality, including the ability to set fees and the makings of a POS system, are yet to be rolled out by BTC China.