China's Bitcoin mining machine makers ramp up R&D on AI chips as supervision toughens
Published: Jul 11, 2021 10:41 PM
Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency Illustration: VCG

Illustration: VCG

Some manufacturers of Bitcoin mining machines in China are now ramping up efforts to manufacture AI chips amid an intensified nationwide crackdown against cryptocurrency mining-related businesses.

Canaan, a major Chinese maker of Bitcoin mining machines, announced this weekend at the 2021 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai the release of the Kendryte K510, an independently designed and developed RISC-V based AI chip .

"The Kendryte K510 chip is the result of two years of work by our R&D team to further innovative and optimize our core chip architecture. With upgraded machine vision and improved programming flexibility, the Kendryte K510 can better address the demands of mid to high-end application scenarios," Zhang Nangeng, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canaan, said during the launch according to media reports.

"Looking ahead, we expect this chip to be a highly attractive choice for developers as it enables them to deliver more intelligent product experiences to their users," Zhang said.

Established in 2013, Nasdaq-listed Canaan described itself as a technology company focused on ASIC high-performance computing chip design, chip research and development, computing equipment production and software services.

In early June, Canaan reported a surge close to 500 percent in first-quarter sales reaching 402.8 million yuan ($63.12 million), with overseas markets now contributing 78.4 percent of its total revenues compared with just 4.9 percent in the first quarter of 2020, according to Reuters.

Besides Canaan, the AI subsidiary of Bitmain Technologies Ltd, China's biggest maker of cryptocurrency mining machines, was also at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference. Its products are more focused on application-specific integrated circuit chips and cloud computing.

Bitmain had suspended sales of its products in the spot market to help ease pressure after China banned Bitcoin mining, according to a report by Reuters on June 24, adding that the firm is also looking for quality power supplies overseas including the US, Canada, Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

China's State Council vowed to crack down on Bitcoin trading and mining in late May in an effort to fend off financial risks. 

Many Bitcoin mines in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, one of China's largest cryptocurrency mining bases, were closed. Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Southwest China's Yunnan Province have also announced rules to curb Bitcoin mining.