Intel launched a crypto chip. Here’s everything we know about it

Intel’s first crypto-focused chip, known as ‘blockchain accelerator’, will be shipped later this year.
14 February 2022

Intel launched a crypto chip. Here’s everything we know about it. Source: Intel

  • The crypto chip is said to be an energy-efficient “accelerator” designed to speed up blockchain tasks that require huge amounts of computing power.
  • Block Inc, the Jack Dorsey-led firm formerly known as Square Inc, is among the first customers.
  • To expand Intel’s footprint in the blockchain space, the company formed a new segment called Custom Compute Group within its Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics business unit.

By the end of this year, tech giant Intel Corp, as part of the company’s push into blockchain technologies, will begin selling an energy-efficient chip made to mine bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Known as the ‘blockchain accelerator’, the company’s first crypto chip has even garnered interest among companies like Block Inc, Argo Blockchain and Griid Infrastructure.

Intel’s foray into a crypto chip also marks the start of its focus towards sustainability, with plans on “developing the most energy-efficient computing technologies at scale.” In a recent statement, Intel’s senior vice president of accelerated computing systems and graphics group Raja M. Koduri shared that Intel is declaring its intent to contribute to the development of blockchain technologies, with a roadmap of energy-efficient accelerators. 

“Intel will engage and promote an open and secure blockchain ecosystem and will help advance this technology in a responsible and sustainable way,” he said. According to Intel, the Jack Dorsey-owned fintech company Block, formerly known as Square along with other two bitcoin mining companies have already preordered the crypto chip.

“Our blockchain accelerator will ship later this year. We are engaged directly with customers that share our sustainability goals. This architecture is implemented on a tiny piece of silicon so that it has minimal impact on the supply of current products,” Raja said.

A crypto chip to ride the blockchain wave

As Intel puts it, blockchain is a technology that has the potential to enable everyone to own much of the digital content and services they create. “Some even call it an inflection point in computing, fundamentally disrupting the way we store, process and transact our digital assets as we usher in the era of metaverse and Web 3.0,” Raja noted.

The silicon giant highlighted that some blockchains require an enormous amount of computing power, which translates to an immense amount of energy. “Our customers are asking for scalable and sustainable solutions, which is why we are focusing our efforts on realizing the full potential of blockchain by developing the most energy-efficient computing technologies at scale,” he added.

In fact, Intel Labs has dedicated decades of research into reliable cryptography, hashing techniques and ultra-low voltage circuits. The company expects that its circuit innovations will deliver a blockchain accelerator that has over 1000x better performance per watt than mainstream GPUs for SHA-256 based mining.  

That said, to support this and other emerging technologies, the company has formed a new Custom Compute Group within Intel’s Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics business unit. The objective of this team, according to Raja, is to build custom silicon platforms optimized for customers’ workloads, including blockchain and other custom accelerated supercomputing opportunities at the edge.