Intel Launches New Blockchain Chip to Harness the Crypto Boom

Intel on Friday launched a new chip for blockchain applications such as Bitcoin mining and NFT minting to take advantage of the growing use of cryptocurrencies. The chip will ship later this year and early customers include Block, the Jack Dorsey-led company that recently changed its name from Square to highlight its growing interest in 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 sparked a buzz around words like “Web3” and “NFT” that tout the decentralization of technologies.

Intel said its chip is an energy-efficient “accelerator” designed to speed up blockchain tasks that require large amounts of computing power and thus consume a lot of energy.

Chip designer Nvidia, whose graphics cards are widely used for mining, also has a separate chip for Ethereum mining.

As part of strengthening its footprint in the space, Intel has also formed a new segment called the Custom Computer Group within its Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics business unit.

As noted in an earlier report by Tom’s Hardware, Intel has been working on entering the Bitcoin market for some time. In 2018, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted the chip giant a patent to efficiently mine cryptocurrencies using 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 multitude of use cases, ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) is a type of chip designed for a specific type of task. They only do one job, but they’re supposed to be particularly good at it.

That said, Intel will face fierce competition from Bitmain and MicroBT, the world’s largest manufacturers of Bitcoin mining hardware.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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