Coin ATM Radar is the premier online destination for information on the nascent Bitcoin ATM industry. This industry, which has experienced serious growth since its earliest incipience, offers some of the most luxury-oriented products in the Bitcoin ATM industry, and stands out on its own as one of the few hardware oriented Bitcoin related products alongside miners.
The administrator for Coin ATM Radar, who prefers to go only by Vlad, has spent much of the last couple years designing and building the features for Coin ATM Radar. It is the go-to place for the Bitcoin ATM industry. Vlad became interested in Bitcoin in a familiar manner.
“As many others I first saw it in the news in 2010-2011, but didn’t pay much attention as I did not understand what it was about. I was reading that you needed to install some mining software, which will consume your PC computing power, and I didn’t bother to do it,” says Vlad. “Later, I read news about how a Bitcoin exchange was hacked and the price dropped significantly as stolen bitcoins were sold on the market in excess.”
“In 2013, when the price was increasing, and Bitcoin was once more in the headlines, it came to my attention again," Vlad told CCN. "This is basically the time when I made my choice between ‘red and blue pills.’”
“The more I read about it, the more I understood that traditional finance as we know it could be changed significantly,” Vlad said. “Since then I’m a true believer in this new technology and that it will endure and grow in popularity.”
There is a lot of buzz about Bitcoin innovation as a block chain technology, but not as a currency or money. My vision, however, is that these two things are inseparable
He started Coin ATM Radar at the beginning of 2014, after the first installations of Bitcoin ATMs, such as the first two-way Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver at the end of October 2013.
“At that time there were not that many resources to find the location on the web,” Vlad realized. “Having some web dev background I decided to create a simple one-page map site to track the locations myself.” He wanted to make it easier for people to buy bitcoins.
So the idea was to contribute to society in that way, helping people easily find locations in one place on the web. The site has grown over time with some more features introduced, such as integration with many manufacturers and operators to provide their Bitcoin ATM prices online. This way people could check what is the current rate at a particular bitcoin machine, without actually visiting it.
Vlad offers his unique perspective on the Bitcoin ATM industry on various pages on Coin ATM Radar, including charts that appear nowhere else on the web. He also provides charts of average Bitcoin ATM fees, the increase of installations over time organized by manufacturer, country, and continent.
“Many people complain that Bitcoin ATMs are not ‘ATMs’ actually, but, rather, ‘vending machines.’ You can see on the site that more than 40% are two-way, meaning you can sell bitcoins there as well, which many people find surprising.
The top five Bitcoin ATMs in terms of machines in the wild are: Lamassu, BitAccess, Genesis Coin, Skyhook and General Bytes.
All are nice solutions, but you need to choose depending on the niche and regulatory environment you plan to operate the machine.
Lamassu Bitcoin ATM
Lamassu was there from the very beginning of Bitcoin ATM history. Zach Harvey had developed his machine by the middle of 2013, showing it at meet-ups and conferences, such as Porcfest in June 2013 where he spoke with Vitalik Buterin. In the linked video, you can see the original Lamassu Bitcoin ATM. Currently, Lamassu enjoys the largest market share at 30%.
“I think this is due to several factors: 3-step buy bitcoin process, which is very simple and lasts 15 seconds, as well as a competitive price. At the beginning, there were not that many manufacturers as today, and compared to the $15-20K Robocoin or two-way Genesis Coin machines, Lamassu cost about one-third of their prices,” Vlad told CCN. “Also the machine had and has a very cool design.” However, with new competitors appearing, the Lamassu market share is decreasing. Vlad believes the problem could be two-fold.
Two-way operations and legal compliance. Initially a one-way Bitcoin machine - allowing only buy Bitcoin operations - Lamassu has introduced a separate Santo Tirso stand. This model allowed cash dispensing, making it possible for operators to convert to two-way machine
“However, the price is not competitive if you look, for example, at BitAccess' two-way bitcoin ATM pricing. Maybe this is the reason why out of 136 Lamassu Bitcoin ATMs worldwide, there are only six two-way Santo Tirso stands,” the Coin ATM Radar administrator notes. “Another factor is anti-money laundering and know your customer requirements (AML/KYC), which many operators face today and need to follow.”
In order to stay ahead on this front, Lamassu introduced a partnership with IdentityMind in October 2014. As Vlad notes, “Since then it is not clear what the state of this is.” Lamassu is using open-source software, which is a huge advantage as operators could develop their software on top of this."
For an example of this, Qwikbit operator of Isle of Man machine developed their software update. They made it possible for customers to register first at their site, where they implemented anti-money laundering and know your customer procedures. Normally, operators wouldn't develop anything, and are looking for an all-in-one solution.
From my personal research into this subject, operators - the people who buy the machines - sometimes demand that a Bitcoin ATM provider upgrade their machine with whatever features or widgets they dream up for free.
Genesis Coin provided Genesis1 two-way machines initially. It was a traditional heavy bank style ATM, however, “with bitcoin brains inside,” As Vlad tells CCN.
“Although the price is quite high - $14.5K at the moment - the machine is worth it,” he says. “It allows for full-customization, which many customers use, as well as additional verification procedures, like identification docu-scan and a fingerprint scanner, if operators decide to use it.” Genesis Coin then introduced the one-way Bitcoin machine Satoshi1. Vlad notes this one is quite popular according to recent installations numbers.
“Basically it allowed Genesis to overtake BitAccess in number of installations and thus reach the #2 position. Also, I would like to mention that owner of the company, Evan Rose, with whom I’m usually in contact with in the case of any questions, is very responsive and willing to help. So, I assume the support for these machines is at high level,” Vlad imparts.
BitAccess is the most affordable two-way solution on the market, with a current price of about $7,000 for basic configuration. “This is one of the best offers on the market,” Vlad tells CCN. “The ATM allows phone verification and identification docu-scans and works smoothly. At least there are no complaints from operators that I’ve heard. BitAccess now has 63 installations in eleven countries.”
"Our software is built with a modular structure," the BitAccess team told CCN "We've been continually adding to and growing our platform to accommodate the increasing volume. BitAccess has a very agile development cycle and we can adapt faster than anyone else in the industry." The company even presented to the Canadian senate regarding Bitcoin and the Bitcoin ATM industry.
"Our goal was to help policy makers and regulators understand the bitcoin ecosystem and allow an open discussion where these policy makers could better understand Bitcoin from a reputable and knowledgeable source," BitAccess said. "Before any regulations are drafted, policy makers should be educated on the technology behind Bitcoin." BitAccess plans on growing their company.
Our plans are to keep expanding and perfecting our product. We have a great team and we are well on our way to having the world’s largest Bitcoin ATM network.
Project Skyhook offered cheap units at only $999 before going out of business. “That was the reason for its popularity,” Vlad says. “It was lightweight and easy to take to meetups and many people used it as a way to introduce cryptocurrency to other meeting attendants.”
Project Skyhook ultimately went the way of the buffalo due to lack of support from the Project Skyhook team for months. The software is open-source, so the current owners could use them in the same manner as they were before, Vlad believes. "There are several other projects started who want to cover this cheap market niche,” he says.
This Czech company started by providing a one-way bitcoin machine to the market, BATMOne. Later came BATMTwo. At the beginning of 2015, the company introduced a two-way Bitcoin ATM, the BATMThree.
“I was in contact with Karel Kyovsky, who is the owner of the company, and responses were always almost immediate and he was very supportive on all matters,” Vlad tells me. “So I assume for those who are looking for good support, General Bytes machines could be the way to go."
When Robocoin introduced their 2.0 wallet software, a disaster for operators, it was General Bytes who came up with a replacement kit for Robocoin machines.
“BitAccess later suggested their software to the Robocoin operators, but most Robocoin machines has switched to GB,” Vlad tells CCN. "What I like about GB machines is that the one-way supports POS terminal functionality, which allows operators to accept bitcoins for a local business without going into a separate agreement with BitPay."
Through the General Bytes POS, operators receive their funds quicker. All of the machines are remotely operated, “which means you can manage and upgrade software without attending the machine physically.” General Bytes supports AML/KYC requirements and offers competitive pricing.
“We plan to build slowly based on our reputation by delivering cost-effective and functional solutions. This year we will also present more products and devices,” General Bytes founder, Karel Kyovsky, told CCN.
Vlad bore witness to the disintegration of Robocoin as the premier Bitcoin ATM company.
“It was a pity to see this happening, as Robocoin was one of the prominent players on the bitcoin ATM market,” Vlad told CCN. “The operators took the real hit, losing their business in hours after being forced to switch to new software.”
Operators reported that the new software had numerous flaws rendering the hardware worthless. Robocoin’s new wallet and AML/KYC approach, in which all users of the ATMs became Robocoin’s customers automatically, was seen as taking advantage of the operators, who had already invested the $15-30k for the Robocoin machine.
The problem with Robocoin is that they have never developed a product that works. The different times they abandoned their previous platform for something new, leaving a trail of upset customers in their wake. "The Great Robocoin Ripoff," unfortunately, is a keyword that turns up many disgruntled people who used Robocoin.
Also Read: BitNational dumps Robocoin
The General Landscape
“There are other companies worthy of mention,” Vlad says. “Germany based BitXatm, Spanish BTCPoint and U.S. based CoinOutlet. All three companies supply two-way solutions installed over the world.”
“If I’m the operator, and I don’t want to do AML/KYC, and that’s within the purview of law in my jurisdiction, why should I follow the rules from Robocoin and collect personal user’s data?” Vlad says rhetorically. “Anyway, it happened as it happened. Hopefully, the lesson is learned by others.” Which Bitcoin ATM is Vlad’s preference?
“I would not mention one particular solution, as it is dependent on requirements and the needs of the operator,” he said. "I do consult people when they approach me and tell in more details what they need. However, the top providers have nice products and it is just a matter of looking at features and comparing the price. Just to mention those manufacturers again: Genesis Coin, General Bytes, BitAccess, Lamassu, BTCPoint, Coinoutlet, BitXatm."
"This is the list from which I would probably choose for myself if I wanted to become an operator.” What sorts of trends does Vlad foresee?
“The main trend on the market is that providers tend towards universality, giving the operators more-and-more functionality. Genesis Coin, for instance, which initially had just a two-way machine, but then issued a cheaper one-way Bitcoin ATM,” Vlad details.
General Bytes went the same path in the opposite direction, starting with one-way and later introducing two-way. The Bitcoin community doesn’t like AML/KYC rules, but this is a reality, which many operators need to follow, and that is why bitcoin machines need to support these as optional features.
“Just to put things into perspective: while there are 445 bitcoin ATMs working in the world, according to my Bitcoin ATM map, there are more than 70,000 locations where people can change bitcoins for cash and cash for bitcoins,” Vlad told CCN.
“These services are geographically targeted usually and the main idea is to utilize the already existing network, be it convenient store, traditional bank ATMs, or something else,” the Coin ATM Radar administrator explains.
And this is great, as it increases adoption because people won’t need to meet some stranger at a public place anymore from LocalBitcoins. They can now go to official businesses, where you get bitcoins for cash, or sell bitcoins for cash.
“I think the main importance is that those Bitcoin ATMs - the BTCPoint and Genesis machine - showed people that there are alternatives to traditional banks, who basically can limit your right of using your money just by finger snap,” Vlad reasons. “The Bitcoin ATM installed in Athens by Bitchain, a two-way, allowed conversion of bitcoins to cash of up to 1000 Euro, however, banks were limiting withdrawals at 60 Euro only.” These examples in Greece show Bitcoin has usefulness, and cements Vlad’s belief that the currency and monetary benefits of Bitcoin are huge.
“These use-cases show people the real value of Bitcoin compared to their bank accounts. It is still a fact that most of the people don’t have a clue about how Bitcoin can be useful for them and help them in daily life. However, step-by-step we will be there, and I think bitcoin ATMs play a big role in this.”
The two main markets for Bitcoin ATMs, Canada and the United States, account more than half of all installations, according to Coin ATM Radar charts. Many machines are spread throughout the Union. As Vlad points out, these three geographic regions have a distinct advantage over others.
Due to low income in developing countries it is hard to invest in Bitcoin ATMs, which are quite expensive. In some cases, a high-crime rate in the country makes the smaller Bitcoin ATM models a target for theft.
Vlad does not have any plans to become a Bitcoin ATM operator himself, he disregarded this idea. The reason? “You need special permission from the regulatory authority here, which is hard to get and quite expensive.”
Coin ATM Radar has a iOS mobile app, developed by another cryptocurrency enthusiast, Rolf Deppe. Deppe initially ran a Lamassu Bitcoin ATM in South Africa, to this day the only one in the whole of Africa. “He approached me and suggested his services and developed it in his spare time for free. That was very much appreciated,” Vlad says.
There are many developments coming in the future on Coin ATM Radar, in particularly knowing the status of machines in operator. “It is a typical case when the machine is operational in general, but down for a day or two due to some technical issues or simply empty balance,” Vlad said.
“People sometimes make long journeys to the location only to find out that it is not working at the moment, which is very disappointing," he describes. "Hopefully, Coin ATM Radar could help with this soon.” There is a lot of information Vlad collects but has yet to present on the website. His plan is to add it as soon as he gets the chance.
“Sometimes I see Bitcoin ATM statistics used in articles on the Internet, although there is no crediting back, I realize that it comes from my site. Also, I was approached by many people, who are looking for some insight information about Bitcoin ATM industry, and I always help to get those details to them.” At the moment, Vlad is on the lookout for an Android developer, who could develop a Coin ATM Radar application.