“We’re changing the world with technology.” Bill Gates
In November 2013, the Museum of the Coastal Bend in Victoria, Texas, became the first public museum to accept bitcoin. Five years later, many people are still asking when the rest of the world will catch on — but is it already getting there?
When the Museum of the Coastal Bend made its move into bitcoin, it was essentially a novelty. Several years before bitcoin hit its peak, cryptocurrency wasn’t big news yet. The museum’s director had heard about this new way of paying and staff were excited to give it a try, so they set up a wallet and a sign to let people know about it. As a small, local museum, it was relatively easy for Coastal Bend’s staff to engage in something new, and in the online discussions that followed, staff from other museums discussed how it would be more challenging for them.
It’s a refrain we’ve heard from a lot of businesses since. Adopting cryptocurrency is too difficult, it’s too risky, it’s not profitable enough to be worth doing.
Others are showing that this just isn’t true.
North America is seeing growing use of cryptocurrency for everyday activities. Following Coastal Bend’s example, two other museums have started accepting bitcoin payments. The most recent is the Great Lakes Science Centre, a major museum whose embrace of cryptocurrency proves that you don’t have to be small to have the flexibility to try crypto.
Brooklyn has become something of a hub for cryptocurrency use. Landlords there have started accepting rental payments in the form of cryptocurrency, thanks to ManageGo, an online rental platform. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Microgrid, which lets people with solar panels sell their excess energy to others, allows payments in cryptocurrency. The use of crypto in paying bills is making it part of ordinary life.
The real test of crypto’s place in American is its use for small, day-to-day payments. Here, there have been promising signs for a while. At least one Subway franchise accepts bitcoin payments, as does Toronto’s Snakes and Lattes, a local board games café with a global reputation. And if you’re interested in paying with something other than bitcoin, Pizzaforcoins will arrange a pizza delivery and take payment in a wide range of currencies.
The success stories aren’t limited to North America. Europe is also seeing the growing use of crypto for a range of different purposes. Universities in Cyprus, Germany, and Switzerland have all announced that they will accept tuition fee payments in cryptocurrency. In Germany, hundreds of electric car charging stations accept payment in Ethereum.
Any technological innovation is likely to find a home in Japan, and crypto is no exception. Cryptocurrency has become popular enough in the country for bitcoin ATMs to be installed in the cities of Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima. Several companies are working on making such machines a feature of high streets around the world, and Japan is leading the way.
While it’s interesting to see how cryptocurrency is being treated in different countries, one of its great selling points is that it can be easily used across borders. This is reflected in the international services that let customers make use of their crypto. Propy is used to buy and sell real estate around the world with cryptocurrency. Bitpremier plays a similar role for luxury goods such as art. And if you want to travel from one country to another, then CheapAir will let you pay for it using bitcoin.
These are just a few examples among many. The more ways are available to spend cryptocurrency, the more people will adopt it, as its usefulness becomes apparent. At the current rate of progress, mass adoption is a real possibility in the near future.
But while it’s great to see crypto used in place of conventional payment, what gives it real value is that it can be used where other currencies aren’t.
One of the big examples is in helping people in developing countries access electronic finance. For many, smartphones are the first access they’ve had to the internet. They’re opening up a world of previously unimaginable possibilities, in getting hold of information and services. But there’s still limited access to banking — for some people, none at all. Cryptocurrency can provide them with the equivalent of a money account without having to deal with a bank or the travel and bureaucracy that entails. It can give people the chance to reach new customers and deal more efficiently with the ones they have, thanks to electronic payments.
There are other benefits to the growth of crypto. It’s now easier for people working abroad to send money home to their families. For consumers to buy specialist goods from other countries. For high risk industries to get the services banks are wary of giving them. For everyone to make payments directly to each other, without intermediaries or outside control.
In some parts of the world, cryptocurrency is already seeping into the mainstream. It’s gone from novelty use to paying bills, buying coffee, and being withdrawn at ATMs. It’s growing in popularity and that success will breed success. But it’s when it’s widely adopted, when it becomes a part of everyday life all over the globe, that it will really make a difference.