There were two stories in the press this week that should make us think more deeply about bitcoin, the digital currency. Firstly, a guy in Oslo who invested the equivalent of GBP 15 into bitcoins four years ago found that he had enough money to buy and furnish a flat in Norway’s capital Oslo. The value of a bitcoin surged from $13 in January to $266 in April; they are currently worth $210. These rates of return are sufficient to buy a flat in Oslo, one of the world’s most expensive cities.
The second story that caught my attention was the installation of a bitcoin vending machine in a trendy coffee bar in Vancouver, Canada. People can use the machine to swap bitcoins for cash, or to deposit cash to buy more bitcoins. Four other ATMs are set to be rolled out across Canada over the next two months and by the end of 2014 Bitcoiniacs, the company who owns the ATMs, said they should be all over the world, including the US.
These stories have once again piqued my interest in the bitcoin and are acting as a partial anecdote to some recent bad press for the virtual currency, including the shut-down of Silk Road, allegedly an online market place for drugs and criminal activity.
These stories are important because they show:
- Bitcoins can be one hell of a good investment.
- They can be used in a practical way, including the ability to fund major purchases like homes.
- Infrastructure is growing to make it easier to use bitcoins to make every-day transactions.
So could the bitcoin go mainstream?
In countries where there has been a history of financial and currency problems, the bitcoin has already seen its popularity grow dramatically, for example in Argentina. Added to this, interest in bitcoins surged in some European countries during the European sovereign debt crisis, such as Spain and Cyprus.
If bitcoin ATMs can make it into the US then no doubt mainstream status for the digital currency will only be round the corner.