Ottawa's first permanent bitcoin ATM was unveiled in a Byward Market pub on Thursday.

The digital currency isn't in actual coins, but can be bought or traded on the internet and converted into real dollars.

As of Tuesday, one bitcoin was valued at about US$860.

The first bitcoin kiosk in Ottawa was being installed Wednesday at the Clocktower Brew Pub on Clarence Avenue. The ATM was made by Ottawa-based BitAccess, with help from Bit-Capital.

"We're pretty excited about it," said Ryan Wallace, BitAccess's CEO. "It's taken off explosively in the past couple of years. I think 2014 is going to be the year it goes mainstream and becomes a public name."

Turns cash into bitcoins, bitcoins into cash

Using a mobile phone app, people can put cash into the kiosk. The machine then sends the bitcoin equivalent to the user's mobile bitcoin wallet.

The kiosk can also turn bitcoins into cash.

People can purchase up to $10,000 worth of bitcoin daily.

Wallace expects merchants, including the Clocktower Pub, will start allowing bitcoin transactions.

"It's very simple. We have another app that they, the merchant, can use. They can accept bitcoin and it'll pay back to their account in Canadian dollars," Wallace said.

Bitcoin users like it because it's not regulated and there are no bank fees. Others call the bitcoin an imaginary currency and a passing trend. Some are worried about the volatility of the value of the coin.

David Descoteaux is a researcher with the Montreal Economic Institute. He said he appreciates the bitcoin's innovation but that it will eventually demand regulation.

"Maybe if bitcoins were subjected to consumer protection law, maybe that would strengthen the confidence of a lot of people who want to try it but right now are kind of wary of what could happen if there's a problem," Descoteaux said.

"If there could be some clear guidance or some regulatory framework, I think it would be more certain for everyone. ... There is a certain part of people who are very enthusiastic about bitcoin, who are kind of libertarians who want to change the financial system. So it may be ironic, for some, but I personally believe that bitcoin will profit from some kind of government acceptance."

BitAccess's Wallace, meanwhile, said another of the company's ATMs will be installed in Toronto soon, and that it has orders for more in Alberta and elsewhere.