Powering Down ATMs
To help halt further spread of COVID-19, the largest Bitcoin ATM operator in the world, Bitcoin Depot, has begun powering down some of its ATMs. Most of the machines reside in high traffic areas, so Bitcoin Depot felt it was important to use this as a chance to keep people away from populated areas and curb the spread of COVID-19 further.
Bitcoin Depot’s director of product, Alona Lubovnaya said that the number of ATMs taken offline is likely to increase as the company monitors the pandemic and the quarantine situation. She approximates that at least 10% of the machines will be down through April, with the resumption date yet to be determined.
Bitcoin Depot has over 600 Bitcoin ATMs (called BTMs) that can be found across 25 U.S. states.
Crypto ATMs Are On The Rise
The number of crypto ATMs across the world has flourished in recent years. These BTMs allow customers to trade fiat currency for cryptocurrency at a physical location. Presently there is just south of 7,400 such machines located worldwide.
Brandon Mintz, Bitcoin Depot’s CEO, stated that the company’s goal is to contribute to the health and safety of its customers by keeping strict protocols when it comes to the cleanliness of their machines, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, it means powering down a number of these machines to curb the pandemic’s spread. He hopes that other BTM operators consider doing the same to protect their customers.
Digital Assets Already Naturally Encourage Social Distancing
The aspect of social distancing is organically inherent to digital assets already. Users do not need to ever meet the party they are sending or receiving cryptocurrency from in order to make the transaction. It is sent directly from one entity to another.
But BTMs do serve a purpose in that they can allow users to cash out or buy into Blockchain assets. This helps expand access to digital payments to those underbanked, a good number of whom cannot conduct transactions online. Additionally, it enables payments to be made at establishments that do not accept virtual currency at this time.
Bitcoin ATMs however, especially those in social venues like malls or busy city streets, put users in a place where they may have close proximity to others, going against the principles of social distancing. Additionally, touchpads and screens on the BTMs may not be properly cleaned, and facilitate the spread of viral illnesses.
Bitcoin Depot currently has designated teams of field technicians who are working hard on disinfecting and cleaning those BTMs affected. As the US emergency shutdown of non-essential services extends through the end of April, the shutdown BTMs are likely to remain that way.
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