Mining for Bitcoin may take tremendous amounts of time and computing power these days, but new hardware which uses error finding technology could boost the output of mining operations by as much as 30 percent.
The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has surged in popularity over the past few years. Once upon a time, you could buy hundreds of coins belonging to the virtual currency for a pittance in traditional cash; but now, each BTC is worth over $400 -- having reached a peak point of over $1000 per BTC several years ago.
It was once possible to set your PC the task of mining for Bitcoins using algorithms, or joining mining pools with other users to share the computational expense of mining in return for a share of the profits.
Nowadays, for the average PC user, the trade-off between the expense of running PCs systems capable of mining for Bitcoin is no longer worth the reward.
However, a research team from Illinois, led by Rakesh Kumar, has released a study (.PDF) documenting how a new machine dubbed "Approximate" could lessen the time and power required to find elusive Bitcoins.
Within the paper, Kumar and his team say that computers set to the task of Bitcoin mining try to generate hashes with certain values. As noted in an interview with CCN, Bitcoin mining starts by looking at a nonce -- a value that results in a double SHA-256 hash -- before looking for a value below this target.
Mining seeks hashes which correspond to a large number of nonces, with either a straight success or failure; a system Kumar calls an "embarrassingly parallel application."
Mining hardware contains sets of mining units, each of which generates a hash, and if an error occurs, this error impacts only one unit -- which also prevents the spread of errors to other units.
However, Bitcoin mining often comes with the risk of two major faults: false positives and false negative results. Recording and sorting these errors can push up the time and system power required in mining operations.
This is where "Approximate" hardware comes in. Not only could this type of hardware measure errors and accept false positives and negatives with less power consumption, but it could also generate twice as many hashes per second than traditional PCs. In turn, miners could earn more virtual currency while spending less on computational power.
In total, the team found that using the faster and smaller Approximate hardware creates the opportunity to raise Bitcoin mining profits by up to 30 percent.
Kumar told the publication:
"When compared to original non-approximate hardware, a smaller and faster approximate system allows the miner to pack more mining units into the same or smaller chip area. Increased speed, and more hashes per second, increases how many bitcoins can be mined per unit-time."
The team told the publication that the goal isn't to build vast arrays of specialist systems for mining cryptocurrency, but to help developers consider new ways and methods for mining in the future.
In related news, a recent study has suggested that roughly $103,000 in virtual currency has been siphoned out of Bitcoin wallets over the past six years due to alternative security measures which used easy-to-remember passwords rather than cryptographic keys.