Intel on Friday launched a new chip for blockchain applications such as Bitcoin mining and minting NFTs to cash in on the rising usage of cryptocurrencies. The chip will ship later this year and the first customers include Block, the Jack Dorsey-led firm that recently changed its name from Square to highlight its growing focus on the blockchain.
Blockchains serve as public ledgers that keep records of transactions on a network of computers and have grown in prominence in recent years. Their rise has also triggered a buzz around words like "Web3" and "NFTs" that tout the decentralization of technologies.
Intel said its chip is an energy-efficient "accelerator" designed to speed up blockchain tasks that require vast amounts of computing power and thereby consume a lot of energy.
Chip designer Nvidia, whose graphics cards are used widely for mining activities, also has a separate chip meant for Ethereum mining.
As a part of furthering its footprint in the space, Intel has also formed a new segment called Custom Computer Group within its Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics business unit.
As pointed out in an earlier report by Tom's Hardware, Intel has been working on its entry into the Bitcoin market for quite a while. In 2018, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded the chip giant a patent for efficiently mining cryptocurrencies that use the SHA-256 algorithm. Intel also disclosed a small stake in leading cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in August 2021.
Unlike CPUs or GPUs which are geared towards a host of use-cases, ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) is a type of chip designed for a specific type of task. They do only one job, but they're supposed to be specifically good at it.
That said, Intel will face stiff competition from Bitmain and MicroBT, the world's largest manufacturers of Bitcoin mining hardware.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
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