By Liz Segrist
Published April 17, 2014
“Charleston is quickly becoming the Southeast’s major hub for high tech and innovation,” Morrison said at Dig South last week. “It makes perfect sense for Charleston to be among the first cities in the country to have a Bitcoin ATM.”
Southeast Bitcoin has partnered with Robocoin, whose technology allows customers to buy and sell bitcoins from a freestanding kiosk.
The Robocoin could revolutionize how people exchange money, Morrison said. Unlike other ATMs, the Robocoin only accepts cash. It does not accept debit cards or credit cards, and bank accounts are not needed.
Bitcoins are a digital currency in which users buy cryptographically protected numbers that can be transferred between individuals on the Internet. The new technology enables transactions between two people located anywhere in the world without an intermediary, such as a bank or a Western Union.
“Bitcoins are money that moves like email,” Morrison said.
When using Robocoin, users log in, insert their money and receive numbers on a piece of paper or sent to their phones that link to bitcoins. Security features require users to enter a personal ID number, scan their hand and scan a government-issued photo ID. The machine also takes a photo of the user.
For those that already own bitcoins, the user can scan a QR, or quick response, code on a piece of paper or on a mobile phone, and the machine will dispense cash.
More than 21,000 merchants accept Bitcoin from customers including Overstock.com and some Subway sandwich shops.
Morrison and partner Coley Hudgins — entrepreneurs based in Boone, N.C. — launched Southeast Bitcoin with the intention of placing Bitcoin ATMs throughout the region, starting with Charleston. Austin, Texas; Boston; Seattle; and a handful of other cities are among the first to have a Robocoin machine.
During the recent Dig South festival in downtown Charleston, people stopped by to see how Robocoin worked and to ask questions. Some made money transfers. Morrison asked passersby for suggestions on good locations for the machine.
The local location needs to be a place with long hours and where people feel safe to make money exchanges, such as a coffee shop, restaurant or a hotel.
“The breakthrough of Bitcoin is the fact that you do not need to trust the other individual,” according to Southeast Bitcoin. “The cryptography makes sure that the person sending you the value cannot cheat. They cannot double spend, or take back the value they sent you. In this way, it is a lot like cash.”
In addition to cash, Morrison said other types of digital property, such as deeds, contracts, or stocks and bonds, could be transferred in the future.
Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.