Since 2017, Bitcoin and other leading cryptocurrencies have been in the spotlight for speculative investors, leading to great bubbles and bursts incomparable to anything within the securities markets. It would not be far-fetched to say that most Bitcoin buyers are not even aware, nor do they even care, about its capabilities as an actual currency replacement to the US dollar. After all, the original purpose of Bitcoin was to be a means of storing and transferring wealth.
According to an international survey conducted by ING in June of 2018, 8 percent of the American clients hold some form of cryptocurrency with similar numbers on other developed nations. While this number is a small minority of the country’s population, that is still tens of millions of individuals involved within this informal economy.
Not surprisingly, large businesses of all types are trying to squeeze themselves into the Bitcoin hype to take advantage of this under-utilized currency. KFC Canada tested the waters of a Bitcoin-based society by offering limited-edition chicken tenders that people may purchase only with Bitcoin.
Other multi-national businesses experimented with their own novelty cryptocurrencies, like Burger King’s promotional Whopper Coin in Russia. Kodak’s cryptocurrency, KodakOne, had a more practical use as it’s traded within their image rights management platform.
Fast food is an excellent way of spreading the Bitcoin message, but it does not compare to the serious concentrations of wealth found on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest financial firms in the United States, has embraced Bitcoin since 2018, even commending it as a legitimate currency. The firm also aims to get involved with the newly conceived Bitcoin futures market.
Taking a look at Latin America, where most countries lack regulation or efficient enforcement, Bitcoin is becoming a normal part of society. You will find lot’s of exchangers and ATM’s in just about every major city, even many that will take cash. The demand for the currency in most areas derives more from necessity than speculative investment, as seen in Venezuela.
Here are just a few examples of Bitcoin’s presence in this part of the world:
• Venezuela — With the currently monetary crisis that is being perpetuated by currency exchange controls, Bitcoin is one of the only viable means of moving money between borders. Donations from foreign aid groups have utilized Bitcoin so that families may exchange it directly into Bolivars to buy food. Since taking cash out of the county is very dangerous, Bitcoin is one of the primary means of transporting one’s savings for refugees.
• Panama — Panama City has the highest density of Bitcoin ATMs in comparison with other capitals in Latin America. Balboa Boutiques, a luxurious strip mall, persuaded most of their merchants to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. As many foreigners from neighboring countries do business here, this city is a hub of crypto exchange using multiple foreign currencies.
• Chile — With a joint operation between Crypto MKT and Flow.cl, over 5,000 merchants can accept Bitcoin as a direct payment for their goods and services.
• Peru — According to the Oxford Business Group, Peru has the most unbanked population out of all of Latin America. Because of this, cryptocurrencies are moving in as a convenient means of money transfer for those that lack the means to open a bank account. SurBTC is a Bitcoin exchange that recently moved into the market, making the process cheaper and more accessible for local traders.
• Argentina — The volatility of the Peso with currency exchange restrictions has made Bitcoin even more enticing. Banco Masventas is now offering a Bitcoin-based payment transfer service for low-cost international money transfers.
Of course, the world is always waiting for government approval from the major world economies before considering Bitcoin to be an international currency. If the free market normalizes the usage of Bitcoin, especially with the help of large corporate brands, then it would only be a matter of time before the mass legalization and regulation of the currency. Even without the de facto approval of Bitcoin in the free market, the idea of a decentralized ledger, i.e., the blockchain, continues to have a lasting impression on trendsetting software development.