Intel has been awarded a patent, by the United States, which on a system that has been designed to facilitate more efficient energy consumption for mining bitcoins, the main crux of which as per the patent filed is:
[…] certain portions of the input message, state data, and input values to multi-stage SHA-256 engines 110, 112, 114 may be fixed to constant data values during SHA-256 hashes or during certain rounds of computation in the SHA-256 hash. Rather than providing these constants using registers, embodiments of the present disclosure hardwire these constant data values to the circuits performing SHA-256 hash, thus reducing the energy consumption compared to providing these constants using registers that may be enabled by clock signals.
That no optimization can be made at “stage 0” of SHA-256 calculations is something the developers are quite sure about, though they clarify that in the other two stages there are ample opportunities to be optimized.
Since stage-0 SHA-256 hash involves only part of the header information but not the nonce itself, the calculation of stage-0 SHA-256 does not present an opportunity for Bitcoin specific optimization. By comparison, both stage-1 and stage-2 SHA-256 hash calculations receive input messages relating to the nonce 212 and hence present opportunities for Bitcoin mining optimizations.
The basic idea is that certain constants in the whole mining process will be embedded into the hardware, which in order to get the same information repeatedly, will render the use of software or computing useless. This as per the company will lessen the energy requirements of mining bitcoin blocks. This design is not restricted to systems that only use Intel chips, and can be “implemented in many different system types.”
Though whether the objective is to protect future developments of this system or to go after companies producing similar designs is unknown, this project hints at a possibility of Intel going into the bitcoin mining hardware business. The 29 page patent, with explanatory diagrams, also mention that the type of processor being used is irrelevant when it comes to the patent’s embodiments and that they are specifically targeting for ASIC development.