Bitmain Reflects on Its 2018 Accomplishments

Siamak Masnavi

On Monday (Jan 21st), Beijing-headquartered Chinese crypto mining giant Bitmain Technologies ("Bitmain"), which by most accounts had quite a difficult 2018 due to falling cryptocurrency prices, outlined its achievements in the previous year.

This article looks at some of the highlights from Bitmain's report.

7nm ASIC chip for SHA-256 mining

This ASIC chip (which "integrates over 1 billion transistors per unit") was used in Bitmain's two latest products, the Antminer S15 and the Antminer T15, which were launched on 28 November 2018. The Antminer S15, which costs $1,249 has a "high-performance mode can achieve a hash rate of 28 TH/s with a power efficiency as low as 57 J/TH," while the Antminer T15, which costs $840, has a "high-performance mode sees a hash rate of 23 TH/s and a power efficiency as low as 67 J/TH."

Bitmain says that this chip "provides significant improvements in terms of performance, power consumption and delivering outstanding performance."

AI Division ("Sophon")

According to Allen Tang, Bitmain's AI Product Marketing Director, who was interviewed in March 2018 by TechNode, "Bitmain’s foray into AI started in 2015, long before China’s regulators started viewing cryptocurrencies with suspicion," and its AI chip division Sophon was "named after the alien technology in Liu Cixin’s sci-fi trilogy The Three Body Problem."

Bitmain says that in Q1 2018, it released the "Tensor Computing Processor BM1682", its 2nd generation tensor processing unit (TPU) for deep learning, which has a peak performance of 3 TFLOPS FP32. This was followed by the "Edge TPU BM1880", which is " SoC ASIC chip for Deep Learning inference acceleration focusing on edge applications." 

Bitmain says that it "also launched edge computing boards and USB modules" to support the BM1880," and that Sophon-powered products "can recognize faces, objects, license plates and even fingerprints, whilst providing AI level security."

Expanding Operations in the U.S.

On 6 August 2018, Bitmain announced "the launch of its new blockchain data center in the city of Rockdale, Milam County, Texas". At the time, Bitmain said that it was expecting this new facility to "initiate operations in early 2019 and be fully operational in about 2 years, bringing 400 new jobs."

However, on January 10th, Texas Public Radio reported that Bitmain had "suspended its operations in Rockdale, east of Austin." According to this report, Milam County Judge Steve Young had this to say:

“I’m really disappointed because we had advertised this. We had waited for this. We had wanted this. We had welcomed this. This was huge, we need some positive news here. We need some jobs here. We need tax base here and this was a step in the right direction.”

Bitmain says that it also opened another Bitcoin mining facility in November in the state of Washington. A report by Bitsonline says that this facility has "8,100 Antminers and 12 megawatts of power capacity."

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