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Recent crypto restrictions in China have made local ASIC chip manufacturer Bitmain consider artificial intelligence as an alternative source of income, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

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  1. In China, the crypto sector is being heavily regulated by the government, who banned ICOs in autumn last year and “exchange-like services” this January. The trend continued with the ban on foreign crypto exchanges in February. Rumours and signals about the potential restriction of mining are also present.

Bitmain manufactures processor chips and mining equipment for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (Bitcoin), Ethereum (ETH/USD) and altcoin Monero (XMR/USD). 80% of all mined Bitcoins have been mined with Bitmain equipment as of today.

Last October, the company launched the production of Sophon - AI chips designed for faster machine learning. Jihan Wu, Bitmain’s co-chief executive, told Bloomberg that they are “just trying to do something that they [competitors Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices] cannot take care of well enough”, as their product is better equipped for deep learning, and comes at a lower price tag. Google is Bitmain’s main competitor in the AI field - the company’s cloud services are banned in China, however, giving a strong hand to Bitmain. Bitmain’s focus on AI is a strategic move, given the state of the local market. “Artificial intelligence requires lots of computations,” it is the natural alternative option for the ASIC manufacturer: “As a China company, we have to be prepared.”

While the government is clearly set on shutting down cryptocurrencies, its stance on AI is more than enthusiastic, as it aims to become the world’s leading AI player by 2030. If those intentions materialize into support for local businesses, Bitmain is poised to be at the forefront of Chinese AI development.

By Nadya Astam

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