Before the year 2018 ends, cryptocurrency mining operations in Iceland will have consumed more energy than the household energy consumption of the country. Cryptocurrency mining is very energy-intensive. This may change. Tech giant Intel has patented a hardware accelerator technology to make Bitcoin mining less energy-intensive.
Bitcoin mining is the transaction-making process on the Bitcoin blockchain. A miner, using powerful mining rig, i.e. a combination of special-purpose software and specially designed hardware, tries to get transactions through the network, for a fee. The process requires the miner to provide the data for the transaction in question, but not only that. To maintain the correct order of transactions, the proof of work (POW) algorithm of Bitcoin blockchain requires that the miner provides the reference to the last recorded block also. That’s hard to do, and requires trying out one number after another, amounting to a massive number crunching operation at high-speed.
This is a competitive environment, because the other miners are trying to accomplish the same task as well. The miner who is able to complete this task faster than the others gets to record the transaction in blockchain, and this requires a lot of computing power. Miners often use Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) with their central processing units (CPUs) to achieve this. However, GPUs weren’t designed for crypto mining! While they get the job done, they aren’t efficient, and require immense amount of energy.
Intel‘s patent is all about designing hardware for the explicit purpose of cryptocurrency mining. The patent application was submitted on September 2016, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published it recently. The title of the patent is “Bitcoin Mining Hardware Accelerator With Optimized Message Digest and Message Scheduler Datapath”.
The solution outlined in the patent application is as following:
- A configurable ‘System On a Chip’ (SoC) will integrate low-power general purpose processing cores with hardware accelerators designed exclusively with cryptocurrency mining in mind.
- The technology will optimize the critical paths in the computation-intensive message digest and scheduler data paths.
- This will result into extra time which will allow scaling the supply voltage.
Intel has claimed that this solution will result into 35% reduction in electricity consumption of the mining rig.
Intel, headquartered in Santa Clara, California, USA, isn’t new to matters concerning blockchain technology. They have earlier collaborated with PokitDok, a healthcare transaction service provider and software development company to use blockchain in the healthcare industry. As earlier reported, they have also worked on another patent, to use computation-intensive blockchain technology in genetic sequencing.