Intel, the semiconductor manufacturing giant, could be making a bigger push into the world of cryptocurrency at the upcoming International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) next month where the company plans to present a new “Bonanza Mine chip” which is likely an energy-efficient Bitcoin ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) geared towards mining. There’s little information to go on thus far, but Intel has a slot scheduled under the Highlighted Chip Releases category for February 23, as per a docket with presentations scheduled to take place from offices in Hillsborough, Santa Clara and San Diego, California.
It is not clear whether Intel will present a viable product or simply unveil a prototype chip. As pointed out in a report by Tom’s Hardware, Intel has been working on its entry into the Bitcoin market for quite a while. In 2018, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded the chip giant a patent for efficiently mining cryptocurrencies that use 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 host of use-cases, ASIC is a type of chip designed for a specific type of task — in this case, Bitcoin mining. They do only one job, but they’re supposed to be specifically good at it.
Often, graphics cards or GPUs are the chips associated with mining cryptocurrency. In fact, many attribute the ongoing GPU shortage, in part, to Ethereum mining, as the cards sell out before any regular users can get their hands on them. However, for now, Intel’s specialised mining chip labelled Bonanza Mine wouldn’t offer a solution to that problem as the ASIC is only geared towards Bitcoin mining.
Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) Group at Intel, said in an interview last month that being able to do much more efficient blockchain validation at a much lower cost with much less power is a solvable problem. “And that’s not a GPU thing, so don’t try to confuse that as a GPU thing. GPUs will do graphics, gaming, and all those wonderful things,” Koduri stated. “We are working on that, and at some point, in time, hopefully not too far into the future, we will kind of share some interesting hardware for that,” he added.
That said, Intel will face stiff competition from Bitmain and MicroBT, the world’s largest manufacturers of Bitcoin mining hardware.