Although the Chinese government set off a sweeping set of bans that effectively ended cryptocurrency trading in the country near the end of last year, the blockchain industry within the country is still steadily growing – even thriving, by some accounts.
A Chinese company that has benefitted massively from the world’s crypto craze is Bitmain Technologies Ltd., a Beijing-based company that has raked in record profits for selling chips used in crypto mining. The company reported $3.5 billion in revenue in 2017, going toe-to-toe with Nvidia, its much larger rival company.
“We feel lucky,” said co-chief executive Jihan Wu in an interview with Bloomberg.
Xilinx Zynq #SoCs act as the master control system for @BITMAINtech‘s #Bitcoin mining machines, offering high performance at a low BOM cost.
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— Xilinx (@XilinxInc) May 15, 2018
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”As a China Company, we Have to Be Prepared”
However, Wu is very aware of the possibility that the Chinese government could take further regulatory shots at the blockchain industry, particularly cryptocurrency mining–a possibility that could cripple Bitmain.
It’s for this reason that Bitmain has set its sights toward a new game: Artificial Intelligence.
“As a China company, we have to be prepared,” said Wu.
Wu and his team believe that the two industries are similar enough that the switch isn’t so far-fetched–Wu said that “Artificial intelligence requires lots of computations,” similar to cryptocurrency mining. Both AI and crypto mining use Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) chips.
Bitmain’s efforts to expand into the AI industry began in October of 2017 when the company began the sale of the ‘Sophon BM1680’, an ASIC chip designed to speed up the process of machine learning. Bloomberg reported that while the Sophon chip is not as effective for certain processes as chips made by Nvidia and AMD, the chip is more effective for certain kinds of deep learning, and much less expensive.
If Bitmain’s successful history within the crypto mining industry is any indication of its future in AI, the company has much to gain.