Intel Wants to Patent a Bitcoin Mining Hardware 'Accelerator'

Tech giant Intel is seeking to patent a hardware "accelerator" for bitcoin mining chips, a newly-published filing reveals.

The application for a "Bitcoin Mining Hardware Accelerator With Optimized Message Digest and Message Scheduler Datapath" was published on Thursday, though it was originally submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in September 2016. In the filing, Intel outlines a method by which it could augment the existing bitcoin mining process, consuming less electricity - thereby spending less money - in the process.

As Intel writes in the filing:

"Because the software and hardware utilized in Bitcoin mining uses brute force to repeatedly and endlessly perform SHA-256 functions, the process of Bitcoin mining can be very power-intensive and utilize large amounts of hardware space. The embodiments described herein optimize Bitcoin mining operations by reducing the space utilized and power consumed by Bitcoin mining hardware."

Intel's application goes on to note that its "accelerator" approach could reduce power use by as much as 35 percent, compared to general-purpose processors.

It's a notable filing from a firm once connected to the mining operation of Silicon Valley startup 21 Inc., which soon offered its eponymous bitcoin computer and later pivoted to a social network offering called Earn.com. As CoinDesk reported in 2015, Intel built chips for 21 at its foundry, though a hinted plan to integrate the chips into other Intel products never materialized.

Notably, Intel suggested that the concept isn't limited to application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), but "processors, [systems on chip], and [field-programmable gate array] platforms" as well. Put more simply, the "accelerator" could be applied to an array of mining set-ups.

Though not explicitly focused on cryptocurrency mining, a previous patent application from Intel published in December suggested that the tech giant sees a role for the energy-intensive process in genetic sequencing.

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