EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 13, 2014

Bitcoin gets easier for consumers to buy, spend

It’s getting easier for consumers to buy and spend bitcoin, the cybercurrency that has captured much of the tech world.

With each passing month, entrepreneurs are rolling out new technology for consumers to buy and store bitcoin, shop online with the virtual currency and send it to friends. Last week, a bitcoin ATM was unveiled in Mountain View, Calif. — put in a few hundred bucks, out comes a bitcoin. And more retailers — from consumer electronics to coffee roasters and pizza delivery — are accepting bitcoin, making it easier for consumers to choose the Internet currency over dollars.

“It’s all about to change over the next 12 to 24 months,” said Marshall Hayner, a San Francisco entrepreneur who this month will launch bitcoin app QuickCoin. “We are going to see all kinds of people adopt it. It’s going to power transactions on the Internet.”

Bitcoin is a cybercurrency and payments network created in 2009 by a mathematical formula as an alternative to banks and government-controlled currency systems. Bitcoins are added one at a time to the network by computer programmers around the world, and most bitcoins are bought and traded on global Internet exchanges.

The San Francisco Bay Area bitcoin community is filled with entrepreneurs and investors pouring millions of dollars into their projects. But for the rest of us, still buying with cash and plastic, bitcoin is a bit of a mystery.

“You’ve got people out there who are software engineers who don’t understand it,” said Vinny Lingham, co-founder of Gyft, a San Francisco digital gift card app that accepts bitcoin. “It’s far too complicated out there for the average consumer to understand. But that will change.”

Cary Peters is hoping to uncomplicate bitcoin for consumers with the ATM he unveiled at Hacker Dojo, a nonprofit shared tech space in Mountain View. His is the first bitcoin ATM in California, and anyone can use it by setting up an account with a phone number, ID, and face and palm scan, which is used to run a background check to rule out potential fraud.

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