Bitcoin — that real but seems not real — rather puzzling form of digital money now has its own Toronto ATM machine.
The digital cryptocurrency, not regulated by any form of government or bank, is a new phenomenon. Although legal, some events tied to the new type of currency, like October’s FBI shutdown of the Silk Road shutdown — a marketplace for illegal drugs and other illicit goods — harmed the reputation of Bitcoin.
But the money made of data blocks is still alive and well and is being accepted right here in Toronto at some locations.
A Bitcoin ATM already opened in Vancouver in October and now the new ATM also has a home in Toronto, located at King Street West and Spadina Avenue at Bitcoin Decentral.
The machine accepts cash in exchange for a number of Bitcoins.
In the fall, Calgary-based Bitcoin company VirtEx announced a debit card for the currency that works on any ATM. VirtEx, which has offices in Toronto, is Canada's largest Bitcoin exchange.
It worked by accessing accounts on VirtEx, where Bitcoin is converted to Canadian currency on the exchange first and then available through ATMs.
"We are going to get these cards out there fast, in the hands of a lot of people," said Joseph David, the CEO of VirtEx.
The company was marketing its debit cards to its 22,000 customers in Canada. He says the goal is giving people a choice when it comes to paying.
David wants more merchants to accept Bitcoin, and has spoken to several small businesses in Toronto to push the idea.
"Almost 80 per cent of the people I talked to didn't know what it was," he said. "I just tell them my customers use Bitcoin and they want to know where they can spend it."
One of the first local merchants to accept the crytpocurrency is the restaurant Smoke Bourbon BBQ House on Harbord Street.
The restaurant has allowed its customers to pay via the digital currency for a month now using a terminal from CoinKite. The terminal resembles a portable debit machine used in most restaurants.
About eight customers have paid with Bitcoin since the restaurant got the terminal.
Other Toronto businesses have also started dealing in Bitcoin.
Ark Army Surplus, a sports gun vendor, Coworking Space Toronto, an office rental firm, The Morpheus Clinic, a hypnosis clinic and Vapetropolis, a vapourizer seller, all currently accept Bitcoin.
At All Things Digital's D11 conference in May, Motorola's Regina Dugan introduced several possible password alternatives -- one wearable. Dugan displayed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/03/passwords-tattoos-pills-motorola_n_3378767.html" target="_blank">a temporary tattoo</a> containing "antennas and sensors" that would transmit a unique signal that could then be picked up as part of a passcode on a digital device. Like any temporary tattoo, it could be peeled off at any time and would last only up to a week.
Dugan also introduced "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/03/passwords-tattoos-pills-motorola_n_3378767.html" target="_blank">password pills</a>," small vitamin-like pills that users could eat at breakfast. The pills' contents -- activated by stomach acid -- would send out an "18-bit, ECG-like signal," similar to the kind used in an echocardiogram. The signal would work as secure authentication on digital devices, and <a href="http://www.policymic.com/articles/45905/motorola-introduces-password-pill-that-is-terrifyingly-orwellian" target="_blank">last about 24 hours </a> -- until the pill was passed out of the body.
Technologist Amal Graafstra has been <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/08/13/want-an-rfid-chip-implanted-into-your-hand-heres-what-the-diy-surgery-looks-like-video/" target="_blank">injecting radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into people's bodies</a> since summer of last year. When hit by a radio signal, the chip emits a signal of its own: Forbes describes it as "a unique identifier number that functions like a long, unguessable password." Hackers like Graafstra have programmed smartphones, computers and even car locks to recognize the signal given off by their implanted chips.
The technology now used in <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/09/microsofts-picture-password-a-breath-of-fresh-air-on-the-lockscreen-of-all-places/" target="_blank">Microsoft</a> and <a href="http://www.snaphow.com/6126/best-android-lockscreen-with-gesture-password-on-pictures" target="_blank">Android's</a> picture passwords may be our best hope for replacing alphanumeric codes: after all, unlike tattoos, chips and pills, they're already on the market. But experts question the security of such gesture-based authentication; though taps and swipes may be <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/gesture-password-2012-1" target="_blank">harder to guess</a> than strings of numbers and letters, telltale <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5474130/swipe-gesture-passwords-maybe-arent-such-a-good-idea" target="_blank">smudges</a> and even <a href="http://www.geekwire.com/2011/picture-password-windows-8-security-toy/" target="_blank">covert video recordings</a> could allow hackers to break in.
Companies including Diebold and Finnish startup Uniqul have started experimenting with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/19/facial-recognition-credit-card_n_3624752.html" target="_blank">facial recognition as authentication</a>. The good news? You're unlikely to forget your face. The bad news? <a href="http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/can-biometrics-secure-our-digital-lives/" target="_blank">Currently</a> many facial recognition systems can be fooled by photographs.
Every person's heartbeat is unique -- so unique that no pattern of beats ever repeats twice. <a href="http://www.dvice.com/archives/2012/02/soon-your-heart.php" target="_blank">This may make heartbeats perfect passwords</a>; Taiwanese scientists have recently devised a heartbeat-utilizing encryption scheme based on the mathematics of chaos theory. <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328516.500-your-heartbeat-could-keep-your-data-safe.html" target="_blank">Currently the Taiwanese system is still a prototype</a>, but researcher Chun-Liang Lin hopes to eventually "build the system into external hard drives and other devices that can be decrypted and encrypted simply by touching them."
Like heartbeats, eye movements are unique, hard to forge, and possibly excellent passwords. <a href="http://www.livescience.com/23940-eye-movements-could-be-next-pc-password.html" target="_blank">Researchers at Texas State University - San Marco</a> are currently studying ways to turn eye movement into authentication.