Automated services usually have to deal with costs and limitations of cash or credit card payments. This includes all kinds of vending machines, from bus ticket booths to coffee machines. Bitcoin is suited to be used in a new generation of automated services as well as to cut their operating costs. Imagine self-driving taxis, or a store where your basket lets you pay your purchases without waiting at the queue. Many ideas are possible.

Automated solutions

Investors will soon have yet another way to bet on — or against Bitcoin.

Namely, cryptocurrency traders will now be able to place option bets on digital money via The Solomon Group. That came after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission granted The Solomon Group approval to clear derivatives, making it the first federally regulated platform of its kind.

The approval will also give buyers of Ethereum and Bitcoin several regulated ways to lower the risk on their existing cryptocurrency bets — which may be welcome or may increase their risk in the hopes of potentially outsized returns. That's possible because derivatives are a varied group that includes options and future contracts.

Some things you need to know

If you are about to explore Bitcoin, there are a few things you should know. Bitcoin lets you exchange money in a different way than with usual banks. As such, you should take time to inform yourself before using Bitcoin for any serious transaction. Bitcoin should be treated with the same care as your regular wallet, or even more in some cases!

 Securing your wallet

Like in real life, your wallet must be secured. Bitcoin makes it possible to transfer value anywhere in a very easy way and it allows you to be in control of your money. Such great features also come with great security concerns. At the same time, Bitcoin can provide very high levels of security if used correctly. Always remember that it is your responsibility to adopt good practices in order to protect your money. 

 Bitcoin price is volatile

The price of a bitcoin can unpredictably increase or decrease over a short period of time due to its young economy, novel nature, and sometimes illiquid markets. Consequently, keeping your savings with Bitcoin is not recommended at this point. Bitcoin should be seen like a high risk asset, and you should never store money that you cannot afford to lose with Bitcoin. If you receive payments with Bitcoin, many service providers can convert them to your local currency.

 Bitcoin payments are irreversible

Any transaction issued with Bitcoin cannot be reversed, they can only be refunded by the person receiving the funds. That means you should take care to do business with people and organizations you know and trust, or who have an established reputation. For their part, businesses need to keep control of the payment requests they are displaying to their customers. Bitcoin can detect typos and usually won't let you send money to an invalid address by mistake. Additional services might exist in the future to provide more choice and protection for the consumer.

 Bitcoin is not anonymous

Some effort is required to protect your privacy with Bitcoin. All Bitcoin transactions are stored publicly and permanently on the network, which means anyone can see the balance and transactions of any Bitcoin address. However, the identity of the user behind an address remains unknown until information is revealed during a purchase or in other circumstances. This is one reason why Bitcoin addresses should only be used once. Always remember that it is your responsibility to adopt good practices in order to protect your privacy. 

 Unconfirmed transactions aren't secure

Transactions don't start out as irreversible. Instead, they get a confirmation score that indicates how hard it is to reverse them (see table). Each confirmation takes between a few seconds and 90 minutes, with 10 minutes being the average. If the transaction pays too low a fee or is otherwise atypical, getting the first confirmation can take much longer.

Confirmations Lightweight wallets Bitcoin Core
0 Only safe if you trust the person paying you
1 Somewhat reliable Mostly reliable
3 Mostly reliable Highly reliable
6 Minimum recommendation for high-value bitcoin transfers
30 Recommendation during emergencies to allow human intervention

 Bitcoin is still experimental

Bitcoin is an experimental new currency that is in active development. Each improvement makes Bitcoin more appealing but also reveals new challenges as Bitcoin adoption grows. During these growing pains you might encounter increased fees, slower confirmations, or even more severe issues. Be prepared for problems and consult a technical expert before making any major investments, but keep in mind that nobody can predict Bitcoin's future.

 Government taxes and regulations

Bitcoin is not an official currency. That said, most jurisdictions still require you to pay income, sales, payroll, and capital gains taxes on anything that has value, including bitcoins. It is your responsibility to ensure that you adhere to tax and other legal or regulatory mandates issued by your government and/or local municipalities.

The Bitcoin protocol is not just about sending money from A to B. It has many features and opens many possibilities that the community is still exploring. Here are some of the technologies currently being researched and in some cases, turned into real products and services. The most interesting uses of Bitcoin are probably still to be discovered.

 Control against fraud

An unprecedented level of security is possible with Bitcoin. The network provides users with protection against most prevalent frauds like chargebacks or unwanted charges, and bitcoins are impossible to counterfeit. Users can backup or encrypt their wallet and hardware wallets could make it very difficult to steal or lose money in the future. Bitcoin is designed to allow its users to have complete control over their money.

 Global accessibility

All payments in the world can be fully interoperable. Bitcoin allows any bank, business or individual to securely send and receive payments anywhere at any time, with or without a bank account. Bitcoin is available in a large number of countries that still remain out of reach for most payment systems due to their own limitations. Bitcoin increases global access to commerce and it can help international trades to flourish.

 Cost efficiency

With the use of cryptography, secure payments are possible without slow and costly middlemen. A Bitcoin transaction can be much cheaper than its alternatives and be completed in a short time. This means Bitcoin holds some potential to become a common way to transfer any currency in the future. Bitcoin could also play a role in reducing poverty in many countries by cutting high transaction fees on workers' salary.

Tips and donations

Bitcoin has been a particularly efficient solution for tips and donations in several cases. Sending a payment only requires one click and receiving donations can be as simple as displaying a QR code. Donations can be visible for the public, giving increased transparency for non-profit organizations. In cases of emergencies such as natural disasters, Bitcoin donations could contribute to a faster international response.


Bitcoin can be used to run Kickstarter-like crowdfunding campaigns, in which individuals pledge money to a project that is taken from them only if enough pledges are received to meet the target. Such assurance contracts are processed by the Bitcoin protocol, which prevents a transaction from taking place until all conditions have been met. Learn more about the technology behind crowdfunding and try Lighthouse.

 Micro payments

Imagine listening to Internet radio paid by the second, viewing web pages with a small tip for each ad not shown, or buying bandwidth from a WiFi hotspot by the kilobyte. Bitcoin is efficient enough to make all of these ideas possible. Learn more about the technology behind Bitcoin micro payments or about future upgradescurrently being designed and implemented to make micro payments more accessible.

 Dispute mediation

Bitcoin can be used to develop innovative dispute mediation services using multiple signatures. Such services could make it possible for a third party to approve or reject a transaction in case of disagreement between the other parties without having control on their money. Since these services would be compatible with any user and merchant using Bitcoin, this would likely lead to free competition and higher quality standards.

 Multi-signature accounts

Multiple signatures allow a transaction to be accepted by the network only if a certain number of a defined group of persons agree to sign the transaction. This could be used by a board of directors to prevent any member to spend parts of their treasury without other members' consent. This can also be used by banks to prevent theft by blocking payments above a threshold if the user does not provide additional credentials.

 Trust and integrity

Bitcoin offers solutions to many of the trust problems that plague banks. With selective accounting transparency, digital contracts, and irreversible transactions, Bitcoin can be used as a ground to restore trust and agreement. Crooked banks cannot cheat the system to make a profit at the expense of other banks or the public. A future in which major banks would support Bitcoin could help to reinstate integrity and trust in financial institutions.

 Resilience and decentralization

By its high decentralization, Bitcoin created a different form of payment network with an increased level of resilience and redundancy. Bitcoin can handle millions of dollars in trades without requiring military protection. With no central point of failure such as a data center, attacking the network is a more difficult project. Bitcoin could represent an interesting step forward in securing local and global financial systems.

 Flexible transparency

All Bitcoin transactions are public and transparent and the identity of the people behind the payments is private by default. This allows individuals and organizations to work with flexible transparency rules. For instance, a business can choose to reveal certain transactions and balances only to certain employees just like a non-profit organization is free to allow the public to see how much they receive in daily and monthly donations.

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