Robocoin would install the first automated teller machines (ATMs) in the US that let users buy and sell bitcoins later this month, the start-up company said yesterday, marking the digital currency’s latest step into the mainstream.

The kiosks, to be installed in Seattle and Austin, are similar to bank ATMs but have scanners to read government-issued identification such as a driver’s licence or a passport to confirm a user’s identity. The ATMs will allow people to swap bitcoins for cash, or deposit cash to buy bitcoins by transferring funds to a virtual wallet on their smartphones.

Bitcoin was launched in 2008 and is traded within a global network of computers. It is not backed by a single company or government and has no assets behind it, but its release is tightly controlled, mimicking a central banking system’s control over the minting of money.

Robocoin, based in Las Vegas, installed its first Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver in September last year and will also start operating one in Calgary later this month. Robocoin also is planning to install ATMs in Asia and Europe.

A bitcoin is worth about $636 (R6 896), but its value has fluctuated widely as the currency’s visibility has increased. In September last year, a bitcoin was worth around $150. By late December the value was near the $1 000 mark.

Users of the currency can buy products and services online on sites including or in a handful of stores. – Reuters