Intel Awarded Patent For Optimized SHA-256 Bitcoin Mining Chip
Intel, famous for its computer processors, has been awarded a patent that stipulates a tech system that could make bitcoin mining energy-efficient.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded the patent to Intel earlier this week, with the global tech giant having outlined the development of a processor it claims could not only be “energy-efficient,” but guarantee high performance for bitcoin miners.
In the filing document, Intel specifically refers to SHA-256, the proof-of-work algorithm used in the mining of bitcoin, still the leading cryptocurrency despite a recent price decline that saw it lose billions in market capitalization.
Bitcoin mining has one big challenge to miners- its energy-intensive, meaning that it requires enormous proportions of power to complete transaction processes.
As Intel explains in its patent document:
“Dedicated Bitcoin mining ASICs are used to implement multiple SHA-256 engines that may deliver a performance of thousands of hashes per second while consuming power of greater than 200 [watts].”
That is the gist of this patent- to create a processor that reduces that power-intensiveness. To achieve that, the Intel team looks to develop a mining chip that performs well without the need for hardware accelerators like an Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs).
Using hardware accelerators require large amounts of energy, often due to redundancies resulting from the processing of 32-bit nonces. The mining process requires that these strings of bits, which are transaction specific data, be processed only once.
However, ASICs do so in stages, which results in more energy requirements and more importantly less efficiency.
It appears that Intel researchers have concluded that they cannot optimize the first stage of the mining process, which corresponds to “stage 0” of SHA-256 computations.
However, the next two stages can be optimized by embedding certain constants into the mining hardware, thereby reducing the amount of energy consumed to mine a block of transactions.
Intel plans to “employ micro-architectural optimizations,” which would include hardwiring parameters like “certain portions of the input message, state data, and input values” into the processor to reduce the number of computations and, thus reduce the amount of power required.
The architectural design of the patent isn’t limited to use in a specified system that utilizes Intel chips. Instead, as the firm puts it, it could be used in any given system type.
Also noteworthy is Intel’s assertion in that it doesn’t matter at the moment which type of processor will be used, terming it irrelevant to the embodiments in the patent.
Apart from huge energy consumptions, the other factor that impacts cryptocurrency miners, especially currently, is the cost of mining.
According to a report from CoinShares Research, the average miner is currently operating at a loss, or cannot pay their capital expenditure.
Earlier last month, Japanese-based internet giant GMO, revealed that it incurred a loss of nearly $5.5 million from its mining business in the third quarter of 2018.
Success for Intel would, therefore, present a significant step in the right direction for bitcoin miners, especially if the new chip proves better than those on offer from mining giant Bitmain.
Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile assets and are very risky investments. Do your research and consult an investment professional before investing. Never invest more than you can afford to lose. Never borrow money to invest in cryptocurrencies.