Intel patent for bitcoin mining hardware aims to reduced electricity usage
A patent made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office March 29, 2018, reveals that Intel, the technology giant, may be interested in getting its feet wet with cryptocurrency mining. The application for the patent was first submitted September 2016 and describes a “bitcoin mining hardware accelerator”.
The abstract of the document goes on to state that “A Bitcoin mining hardware accelerator may include a processor core and a hardware accelerator coupled to the processor core, the hardware accelerator to mine digital currency.” If Intel’s claims from the patent are to be taken at face value, the invention may optimize the mining process to reduce energy consumption by as much as 35 percent.
The patent also include several technical details on how Intel plans to achieve the reduced power requirements, stating that the new System on Chip (SoC) will work by “optimizing the critical paths in the computation-intensive message digest and scheduler data paths,” effectively allowing for “extra time that can be used to reduce switching capacitance or scale the supply voltage.”
Bitcoin has historically always consumed more energy for the number of transactions it can process. In fact, one of the key criticisms against it and other cryptocurrencies has always been that Visa can process tens of thousands of transactions per second while bitcoin manages a meager hundred or so, even with the greater energy overhead. Regardless, there are other advantages to using a digital currency and many believe that the electricity consumption is an acceptable tradeoff to make.
According to Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, mining the cryptocurrency consumes a total of almost 60 TWh of electricity per year, more than the entire country of Colombia. In fact, if it were treated to be as a country, it would be the 43rd most electricity-hungry nation, accounting for 0.27 percent of all consumption worldwide. In even more simpler terms, the amount of electricity consumed per bitcoin transaction could power 32 US households for an entire day.
Furthermore, it is important to note that these numbers do not account for the energy used to mine digital currencies other than bitcoin. Given that the proof of work consensus mechanism is more popular than proof of stake or any other alternative, the total cumulative consumption due to all cryptocurrencies could be several times that of bitcoin.
With the public release of this patent, however, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Intel is looking to enter the cryptocurrency mining segment and challenge other hardware manufacturers in the aspects of efficiency and profitability. If true, Bitmain, the de facto maker of ASIC hardware, and GPU vendors, including Nvidia and AMD, will now have to make room for some competition.