Intel invests in blockchain technology with new chip designed to mine cryptocurrency (via Reuters† The company is focused on sustainability and plans to “build the most energy-efficient computing technologies on a large scale”.
Intel’s first crypto-focused chip, which it calls a “blockchain accelerator,” will ship later this year. Two companies have already reserved the technology, including Bitcoin mining company GRIID Infrastructures and Block, the fintech company owned by Jack Dorsey, formerly known as Square.
“We expect our circuit innovations to deliver a blockchain accelerator that has more than 1000x better performance per watt than regular GPUs for SHA-256-based mining,” explained Raja Koduri, senior vice president of Intel, in the announcement, citing to the SHA-256 hashing algorithm used to generate Bitcoin and a number of other cryptocurrencies.
Intel says more information about the chip will be made available at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, which begins Feb. 20. if PCMag points out that the company will hold a presentation (PDF) at the ISCC on Feb. 23, titled “Bonanza Mine: An Ultra-Low-Voltage Energy-Efficient Bitcoin Mining ASIC.” ASIC, or application-specific integrated circuits, is a chip designed for one specific task, such as cryptocurrency mining.
The environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining has become a major concern, and Intel’s new chip may be an attempt to address that. Energy-hungry mining installations often get their energy from coal and natural gas plants which can be harmful to the environment and also contribute to high electricity costs and blackouts. US lawmakers have even raised the issue in Congress, debated how to tackle the rising energy consumption associated with crypto mining, and even asked Bitcoin companies to disclose how much energy they consume.