Last night, Workshop Cafe proudly hosted the grand opening of San Francisco’s first Bitcoin Teller Machine (BTM). This particular machine is made by BitAccess and features the somewhat unique and very much sought-after feature in that it allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin for USD. Each transaction, handled with a very slick user interface, takes less than a minute. The launch of this BTM is a big deal for San Francisco but also for Bitcoin as a whole.
Located in San Francisco’s financial district, Workshop Cafe is a very large coffee shop with plentiful workspaces featuring all of the tech that a modern business lifestyle requires which now includes the ability to trade USD for BTC as quickly and easily as it is to withdraw USD from any other teller machine on the street. The BTM will be stationed near the entrance of the cafe where any everyday passerby may stop to make a transaction or ask someone nearby, “What is this thing?” In either case, the location and functionality of this addition will be a much appreciated benefit to those who live and work in San Francisco, as well as those who come to tour the city.
The launch party was packed into the back room at Workshop Cafe where a couple hundred people socialized while circulating between the two demo BTMs and the open beer and wine bar. There was a genuinely enthusiastic vibe that would be familiar to bitcoiners who have attended social Bitcoin events before, along with an added anticipation to see how the new tools work firsthand.
BitAccess BTM start screen
Upon first approach, the large and beautiful screen displays the current USD/BTC price along with some language options (English and French, at the moment). The very next screen is a disclaimer that the BTM is still a product that is in development which the user must accept before moving on. Following the disclaimer screen is a simple verification process in which the user enters a phone number to receive a code via SMS to be entered into the subsequent verification screen, then the real fun starts and the user is given a choice to buy or sell bitcoin for USD.
Phone number verification with code sent via SMS
Phone number verification serves a couple of purposes here. The first is for user tracking and KYC (know your customer) and the user phone number is also helpful in potential support situations (see previous bit about the disclaimer screen). New users begin with a transaction limit of 1BTC, or the current equivalent amount in USD, and the BTM comes equipped with additional verification options to raise that limit, including facial photography in combination with a photo ID scan. Frequent users will see a decrease in their transaction limit over time, if additional verification is not supplied.
Buying BTC with USD
To purchase bitcoin from the machine, bills are inserted one at a time and counted up for final confirmation before sending the BTC to the wallet of the user’s choosing. The wallet input process is as easy as placing a QR code on the built-in scanner. For the purpose of this demo, a mobile phone wallet worked without any trouble at all.
Cash is dispensed after a quick bitcoin sale transaction
The process of selling bitcoin for USD with this machine is equally as effortless. A QR code is scanned from the BTM display screen, using a mobile phone Bitcoin wallet app, and cash is dispensed. This transaction took less than one minute. I would have timed the transactions, to report exactly how long each one took, but the excitement of this important event was far too distracting.
After much networking and social drinking, the party closed, as they all eventually do, but the BTM will remain open and actively serving the Bitcoin community in San Francisco. Although this is the first crypto vending machine in region, hopes are high that it will inspire many more machines like it to pave the on-ramps and off-ramps of the new digital marketplace.