Chinese cryptocurrency mining giant Bitmain has developed a new chip which is said will bring artificial intelligence capabilities to the sector.
Until now, cryptocurrency miners have mostly used raw computing power to mine for blocks, which are collections of files where cryptocurrency transaction records are kept – like a page in a ledger.
Cryptocurrency mining has been likened to accountancy, or bookkeeping, except the practice requires massive computing resources, mostly hardware, and components such as graphics processing units.
For the time being, the most sought-after GPUs are the ones made by Nvidia and AMD, as well as the more well-known chipmakers.
But if Bitmain were to commercially release its new chips, it could become a leading company in the cryptocurrency components market.
Bitmain previously developed an application specific integrated circuit, or ASIC, dubbed “Antminer”, which was said to be the world’s first bitcoin mining chip based on the 16 nanometre process.
Now, in comments to Quartz.com, the company has revealed a brand new chip which it calls “Sophon”.
The Sophon is due for release later this year, and it includes “Bitmain’s first piece of bespoke silicon for a revolutionary AI technology”, according to Quartz.
The main designer behind the Sophon chip, Micree Zhan, says he was inspired by a science-fiction novel called The Three-Body Problem, which featured a tiny AI supercomputer.
The Sophon chip will be distributed around the world, at least to the Bitmain company’s various facilities.
The company is said to control almost 30 per cent of all the processing power on the global bitcoin network – partly because of Antminer, and another of its popular offerings, BTC.com.
The company currently has a range of hardware products which even includes “a bitcoin miner for your home”, apparently.
The global bitcoin economy is said to be worth $70 billion, and a share of more than $7 million a day is available for cryptocurrency currency miners to earn.
One of the additional benefits of investing in so much hardware for cryptocurrency mining is that companies like Bitmain can provide data processing services to outside companies, which is what the company already does.