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Chip Designers Bank on AI, Bitcoin


Alan Patterson, EETimes
4/11/2018 00:01 AM EDT

TAIPEI — Global Unichip (GUC) and a host of other Taiwan chip designers are seeing demand for ASICs take off, driven by systems houses that want to differentiate their products for cryptocurrency mining and AI to deliver greater efficiency.

While AI shows long-term potential, GUC’s main ASIC demand so far is for Bitcoin-mining equipment, according to the company. The players in this business are trying to develop ICs rather than using off-the-shelf GPUs, according to the company. Customers are finding that the efficiency of GPUs is not good enough, GUC says.

The Bitcoin-mining business has quickly popped up for foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and other companies in the TSMC ecosystem. GUC customer Bitmain, a privately held Chinese firm that makes Bitcoin-mining hardware and runs its own mining operations, made $3 billion to $4 billion in profits in 2017, according to estimates by Bernstein Research.

New mining equipment vendors have rushed in to capitalize on the boom. The focus now is on developing more customized machines that offer greater efficiency.

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Chip Designers Bank on AI, Bitcoin

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