John Cannon, Founder and CEO of Symply Health Inc., will present an educational forum on the subject of cryptocurrencies. Titled “Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies: Myths vs. Reality,” the forum will take place from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Training Center of ETSU’s Innovation Lab.

John Cannon
(Photograph contributed / ETSU)

“The forum will be aimed at both experienced cryptocurrency users and people who are interested in getting started,” Cannon said. “It won’t be investment advice. I’ll explain the basics of cryptocurrencies and open up a dialogue with people who are knowledgeable about the topic.

“To put it simply, Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, is a more or less free-to-use digital currency beyond the bounds of government or bank control.”

Bitcoins are obtained through a process called mining. Miners use computers to perform mathematic calculations in return for fractions of Bitcoins. Mining is an intensive process requiring powerful hardware and ample electricity. Some people buy multiple machines solely for the sake of obtaining Bitcoins. Though mining is appealing as a means to make money relatively passively, breaking through the barrier of entry can prove costly, and electric fees cut deeply into profit margins.

“If you don’t want to mine, you can use online Bitcoin exchanges to buy Bitcoins with USD,” Cannon said.

Scarcity is a major factor in the value of all commodities, and digital currencies are no exception. The aforementioned difficulty of mining gives Bitcoin much of its scarcity. The mine, however, will one day run dry; the number of Bitcoins is expected to cap out at approximately 21 million. Bitcoins become progressively more difficult to obtain over time, meaning their scarcity will only increase.

“Bitcoins can be instantly transferred to anyone or anywhere throughout the world,” Cannon said. “All you need is internet access. If I wanted to, say, send a dollar to an impoverished area, credit card companies would charge me a sizeable fee. It just isn’t efficient. With Bitcoin, I can send both small and large amounts of money without a hassle.

“Bitcoins are also pseudo-anonymous,” Cannon continued. “Every transaction is published on a ledger called the Blockchain, but only in the form of Bitcoin addresses. You can be tracked if people know your address, but if not, prying eyes are out of luck.”

Bitcoin is now accepted by many popular online retailers including Microsoft, Newegg, Steam and many others. In total, over 100,000 vendors throughout the world now accept Bitcoin. Though most large retailers like Wal-Mart do not currently take Bitcoin, digital currencies are becoming increasingly accepted in certain physical stores and restaurants.

“Cryptocurrencies are an important topic,” Cannon said. “They represent many new applications and opportunities.”