Intel Corporation is looking to obtain a patent for a Bitcoin mining hardware accelerator unit that would significantly cut the amount of energy required to mine the digital currency. While the application was submitted in September 2016, the US Patent and Trademark Office published the document last week.
The new product represents a “System on Chip (SoC) implementing a Bitcoin mining hardware accelerator [which] may include a processor core and a hardware accelerator coupled to the processor core.” Intel stresses that the unit is meant specifically for mining Bitcoin. The accelerator “may include a first computational block, including a message digest datapath,” as well as “a second computational block.”
Currently, retail and institutional Bitcoin miners use GPU devices manufactured by AMD or Nvidia. Some of them use ASIC devices, which are far more powerful than GPUs but come at a much higher price. Unlike GPUs, Intel’s SoC product is specifically designed for Bitcoin mining, so it discards general functionalities to leave room for a single task.
Intel says the new product should considerably reduce electricity consumption by “optimizing the critical paths in the computation-intensive message digest and scheduler data paths,” which leads to “extra time that can be used to reduce switching capacitance or scale the supply voltage.” These optimizations can result in a 15% combinational area and 35% combinational power improvement in the message digest logic, according to the application.
“Once this new Intel technology comes to market, more people will mine again because it's profitable again, driving down the market value of the coins and finding a new market balance that will again put locations with lower electricity costs back at the advantage.”
Currently, Bitcoin mining requires massive amounts of electricity to solve the algorithmic formulas necessary to generate new coins. Last year, PwC blockchain analyst Alex de Vries voiced fears that if Bitcoin mining persisted at the current rate, it would have catastrophic consequences.
“The energy consumption is insane. If we start using this on a global scale, it will kill the planet,” he said.
Intel’s new product is a ray of hope for Bitcoin miners, who would like to see the activity profitable again.
In October 2017, Intel partnered with Ledger, allowing it to use SGX technology to integrate blockchain apps into its operating system.