BTC News from Austria & USA

Crypto payments arrive in terminals in Austria

AustriaFor many Bitcoiner, it’s an old dream: to pay with Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin or another currency at a POS terminal when shopping in a supermarket or retail store, and not just at selected niche retailers – but everywhere. If you only have shitcoins, that are not accepted there, it is time to trade them for BTC.

In Austria, a collaboration between Salamantex and Concardis is currently making this dream a reality.

Retailers are neither software developers nor experts in payment methods. Their expertise lies in selecting goods, making purchases and offering them in a well-appointed store. They expect only one thing from a means of payment: that it works as soon as they have connected a terminal. And works means that it lands in the bank account in a predictable form – such as euros – and doesn’t entail a rat’s tail of tax obligations.

In that sense, it doesn’t really bother you that you can hardly pay with Bitcoins in any store. In the more niche stores or pubs where you can, the user experience is often rather lukewarm and readily overwhelms the staff, who also have little practice with crypto payments due to the infrequency of payments.

And that’s exactly what Austrian startup Salamantex is aiming for: To make crypto payments exactly as easy as payments with debit or credit cards. Thanks to a cooperation with Concardis, the startup recently announced a big step towards this vision.

“Concardis, as part of the Nets Group one of the leading payment service providers in Europe, and Salamantex, Austrian specialist for the development of software solutions for crypto payments, are rolling out the acceptance of digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Ether or Ripple nationwide in Austria,” writes the press release. Effective immediately, merchants and restaurateurs can accept cryptocurrencies “in addition to other classic payment methods on common payment terminals.”

Merchants who purchase a new terminal from Concardis can simply activate the “crypto payment” option on it. This involves a contract with Concardis and Salamantex, through which payments are confirmed by a blockchain check, converted into euros and credited to the merchants. Whether customers pay at the terminal with a debit card, via ApplePay or with a bitcoin wallet via QR code, it makes absolutely no difference to the merchant anymore.

Such a solution has the potential to actually bring crypto payments to retailers in the Alpine Republic across the board. In principle, there is also not much to be said against Hofer (which is the name of Aldi in Austria) and other supermarket chains also using the terminals – even if it would lead to scalability problems, especially with Bitcoin, Ether and some other Altcoins, which is why Salamantex will not be able to avoid thinking about L2 solutions such as Lightning or Optimistic Rollups in the medium term if it is successful.

Concordis is a payment provider that primarily processes payments for retailers and supermarkets via terminals. The company, which is actually German, focuses on the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) and already processed around 85 million transactions in 2016. Following its acquisition by Advent International and Bain Capital, Concordis merged with several other payment service providers to form Concordis Payment Group, which also entered the Northern European market through its merger with Nets.

Concordis CEO Robert Hoffmann comments on the cooperation with Salamantex: “The introduction of digital currencies by central and national banks is only a matter of time. The e-euro, e-franc or e-krona will come, the underlying technology is the same as for cryptocurrencies. And they will fundamentally change the payment market. As a pioneer in the acceptance of digital currencies, we are thus continuing to gain practical experience today that will be elementary for payment services in Europe in the near future.”

  1. The fact that the company, headquartered in Eschborn near Frankfurt am Main, has to gain such elementary experience in Austria is significant.
  2. While Concardis and Salamantex plan to offer the crypto option in other European markets, this “currently still depends on the respective national regulation.”
  3. Since German regulation has in the past made the market more difficult than easier for payment service providers, it might be obvious to try other markets first, such as Switzerland.

Miami mayor: US should mine more Bitcoins

MiamiThe mayor of Miami, the current crypto hotspot in the U.S., thinks the U.S. should mine more Bitcoins. His reasons are interesting and apply equally to Europe. Besides that, he plans for Miami to accept Bitcoins for taxes and invest in the cryptocurrency.

Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami in Florida, USA, became more and more important for the Bitcoin scene lately. This is because the city on the southern east coast of the US is increasingly becoming the crypto hotspot of the US. In the podcast with Laura Shin, he pretends to be a Bitcoin fan and explains how and why he wants to make Miami the global crypto capital.

Laura Shin also asks how he justifies his enthusiasm for Bitcoin in the face of accusations that the cryptocurrency is harmful to the environment because it consumes so much electricity. To this, Suarez gives an intriguing answer:

“The big problem with Bitcoin mining is that 90 percent is not in the United States. 90 percent of miners are in countries with dirty energy, and that’s why mining is considered a dirty activity.”

The mayor would welcome making Miami a mining hub. “We have nuclear energy, which is clean energy, and we can run mining centers on clean energy.” Alongside that, he says it’s a matter of national security that more mining takes place in the U.S. “We don’t think 90 percent of the miners should be outside the U.S.”

With that, Suarez brings up a double argument for mining in the U.S. that applies at least as much to Europe: if a state or group of states doesn’t have its own miners, it can become a national security issue. Or at least a weakness and a loss of influence. Furthermore, countries can only influence the type of energy used for mining if they have miners themselves.

The fact that the majority of the EU – for example Germany – disqualifies itself as a mining location because of much too high electricity prices means accordingly that the EU and Germany rob themselves of the possibilities to positively influence the eco-balance of mining. As long as one is not willing and able to ban mining globally, it should be an ecological imperative to create the location conditions that miners need. In Germany, the main obstacle to this is the high taxes on electricity.

However, the interview also clearly shows how far Europe – Germany, for example – is from American conditions. A mayor who so aggressively wants to make his city the crypto capital is not really conceivable here. “Miami is trying to become the global crypto capital. To do that, we looked at something like which U.S. state had the most crypto-friendly laws. That was Wycoming. So we copied the laws and improved them. Now they’re going through the Senate and to the governor, and if they pass, they’ll make Floria the most crypto-friendly state in the U.S.”

Suarez can operate more independently in Miami. Here, he is laying the groundwork to collect city taxes and fees in bitcoin and pay city employees in bitcoin. He is also exploring the possibility of the city’s treasurer investing in Bitcoin, but that is complicated by a number of laws.

  1. The mayor can well imagine cryptocurrencies replacing fiat money in the future. “I can absolutely see that happening. Fiat currencies are a relatively new thing historically.
  2. I wouldn’t be surprised if the democratization of technology allows people to create a common understanding of what values are to them, and I think that’s what’s happening with bitcoin and cryptocurrencies – they’re a digital mechanism that people ascribe value to.”
  3. Suarez hopes a crypto revolution will “eliminate deficit financing. Governments should borrow money instead of creating it, and stop manipulating markets.” That, too, is an astonishing statement in an interview with a mayor rich in astonishing statements.