On your next visit to the Mighty Mart in Gravenhurst you can pick up the usual – milk, a bag of chips, a scratch and win – and if you’re feeling so inclined you can also dabble in the world of cryptocurrency.
The Muskoka Road South convenience store recently installed a cryptocurrency ATM, where one can simply step up to the kiosk and choose from a range of cryptocurrencies, including the most popular – bitcoin.
It’s estimated that 100 million people worldwide were using cryptocurrency at the beginning of 2021. That number has been steadily increasing and the value of cryptocurrencies and bitcoin, in particular, have risen correspondingly.
Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries.
“Gravenhurst is certainly the smallest town I know of that has one (a crypto-currency ATM),” says Graham Porter, who owns Fulcrum CC, a software development company. Porter, who’s originally from Gravenhurst but now lives in North Bay, has been studying and working with cryptocurrency for the past five years.
“As an entrepreneur in the tech field you need to stay on top of what’s coming up next,” he says. “I’ve personally invested and I’ve also been involved in crypto-mining for several years.”
Mining is the process by which new bitcoins are entered into circulation. It’s essentially a record-keeping service done through the use of computer processing power. Miners keep the blockchain consistent, complete, and unalterable by repeatedly grouping newly broadcast transactions into a block, which is then broadcast to the network and verified.
The notion that crypto will one day replace existing currency is what tends to grab the headlines, says Porter, but for his purposes, much of the real value lies in the potential of blockchains.
A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. Each block in the chain contains a number of transactions, and every time a new transaction occurs on the blockchain, a record of that transaction is added to every participant’s ledger.
“The blockchain essentially allows transactions between people who don’t know and don’t trust each other,” says Porter. “It could be currency or any kind of asset, from information to medical records. It’s essentially impossible to cheat so the level of trust is very high.”
Although you can now access crypto-currency at the corner store, Porter says it isn’t quite as simple as it might appear.
“It’s a bit like buying stocks without a stockbroker,” he says. “There’s a learning process and most people aren’t interested in learning.”
Cryptocurrency also mirrors the stock market in other ways, says Porter, as the value of any given cryptocurrency can fluctuate, sometimes quite significantly.
“My advice to anyone just starting out is to look at it like investing in the stock market – buy and hold, and buy and diversify. Day trading is for suckers.”
Companies that accept cryptocurrency are still few and far between, and some, like Tesla and some airlines, did take cryptocurrency but have since stopped accepting it as payment.
Porter acknowledges there is some public trepidation about cryptocurrency but he says really it’s not that different from traditional currency.
“It’s based on an agreement that we’re all on the same page when it comes to value,” he says. “There’s an argument that it’s all just tulip bulbs and that it has no real value…but there are many currencies that aren’t backed. Look at Venezuela, 20 years ago that was a solid investment now it looks like the stupidest investment you could have made.”
While the idea of cryptocurrency may still sound like science fiction to some, Porter sees it more as a question of “when” than “if”.
“I haven’t carried cash in my pocket for five years now. We’re essentially a cashless society and there’s no looking back.”
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