Bitmain Artificial Intelligence Brand Sophon ‘Yuanfeng’ Causes Investor Worry in IPO


Bitmain: The Bitcoin’s Most Important Player is taking on AI Giants

According to the Bitmain product marketer Allen Tang, AI will be everywhere in the future. This is why Bitmain, the biggest producer of Bitcoin miners has decided to take on the AI challenge.

Allen Tang believes that AI will be in cameras, cars, and on the back end of servers. According to him, AI is like the horse being replaced by modern vehicles. That is why Bitmain has decided they need to pursue it.

Bitmain and Crypto

Bitmain, which was founded by Micree Zhan and Jihan Wu, dominates the crypto mining sector. The company started selling its Antminer rigs in 2013. In just four years, the company was making annual profits of $3 billion to $4 billion.

The company has not been lacking in controversy. For instance, it has been accused of monopolizing the bitcoin mining world, thereby undermining the independence of Bitcoin. Now the company wants to change its image from one of a shovel seller during the gold rush to a forward-thinking innovator. In fact, some tech analysts believe that if Bitmain wants to become a tech giant, they need to get into big data, AI and much more.

When Bitmain Began to Pursue AI

Tang claims that the company began to look into AI into 2015. This was long before regulators in China began to view crypto suspiciously. Sophon, their AI division wants to solve all the puzzles of the universe. In short, they want to help accelerate AI apps using chips called ASICs.

Unlike a GPU or CPU, which can be used for general purpose, ASIC chips are made for just one task. Their most popular use is in crypto mining. However, they can also be useful for machine learning.

When companies such as Nvidia and Intel build a chip, they are creating a complete ecosystem that can run about 200 applications. An ASIC chip can dedicate all of its activities to one application with about ten times more efficiency.

The Bitmain ASIC Challenge

In October 2017, Bitmain released a customized AI ASIC for the tensor computing acceleration. This ASIC called the Sophon BM1680, is useful for deep learning training and the inference of neural networks.

The chip is similar to a custom ASIC created by Google for its Tensor Processing Unit. It is tailored to be used in the Google open-source machine-learning framework called TensorFlow. The company released a beta version of their TPU on Google Cloud in February 2018.

Bitmain is taking on the Giants

The question is whether Bitmain can take on the big players in the AI field. Intel and Nvidia are already working to improve their GPUs. However, they are also looking into ASICs for AI. The main issue with AISCs is that they are quite hard to design. Besides that, there is not enough neuroscience to go around for the tech industry.

Bitmain Is Not Alone

In China, Bitmain is not the only crypto mining company that is looking into AI. Canaan Creative and Ebang are two other crypto mining companies that have set their eyes on AI ASICs.

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