A surprisingly well-funded start-up company has announced its intention to embed a Bitcoin mining chip into smartphones and tablets, claiming that future uses of the blockchain will prove its worth.
First floated by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto back in 2008, Bitcoin is a virtual currency which uses a 'blockchain' of sashes to validate its transactions. Each Bitcoin is given out based on proof-of-work to systems which find hashes for the blockchain, providing the peer-to-peer technology with the processing power it needs. The value of individual Bitcoins has risen from fractions of a pence to hundreds of pounds, but the rise is matched by an increase in the difficulty of mining said Bitcoins. These days, mining a Bitcoin is only profitable on an industrial scale using low-cost - or stolen - electricity supplies and custom application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) dedicated to the cause.
Bitcoin mining hardware is typically extremely power hungry, but startup 21 Inc. has announced plans to bring the technology to smartphones. According to the Wall Street Journal
, the company has already raised $116 million in private funding before announcing its plans in a blog post
this week. 'After much hard work, we’ve created an embeddable mining chip which we call the BitShare that comes in a variety of form factors,
' explained 21's Balaji Srinivasan. 'The 21 BitShare can be embedded into an internet-connected device as a standalone chip or integrated into an existing chipset as a block of IP to generate a continuous stream of digital currency for use in a wide variety of applications.
Pre-empting the argument that the purpose of a Bitcoin mining device is simply to get rich, something a low-power embedded version will never offer thanks to its low performance, Srinivasan had prepared some example use-cases: micropayments using Bitcoin; massively-distributed mining through adding the BitShare chip to existing devices such as set-top boxes or VoIP handsets; device authentication via the blockchain; and even Bitcoin-subsidised devices for the developing world.
'Conceptually, we believe that embedded mining will ultimately establish Bitcoin as a fundamental system resource on par with CPU, bandwidth, hard drive space, and RAM,
' claimed Srinivasan. 'That is, one can imagine the ultimate thin client in which a system designer consciously chooses a relatively slow CPU but a relatively strong 21 mining chip, using the Bitcoin generated therein to purchase computation in the cloud.
The company is actively seeking developers via its web site
, and claims to be releasing a development kit shortly.