The Ethereum Foundation is funding efforts to create specializing mining hardware in partnership with blockchain data storage network Filecoin.
Announced Thursday at Devcon, the annual gathering of developers in Prague, Ethereum Foundation researcher Justin Drake unveiled preliminary designs for application-specific integrated circuits, or ASICs, that will support an upcoming ethereum technology called the "beacon chain."
In essence, the beacon chain is a random number generator, and it's expected to form part of the next major iteration of the ethereum network – ethereum 2.0 – under an alternative, proof-of-stake consensus protocol (compared to the proof-of-work approach utilized today).
While the term "ASIC" in the cryptocurrency space is more commonly associated with the technology applied to mining, the proposed ethereum 2.0 hardware isn't engaging in that same, computationally-intensive process.
Instead, these ASIC devices will engage in a comparatively less costly operation known as the Verifiable Delay Function. This helps to shuffle the validators that are intended to replace miners in ethereum's proof-of-stake system. The idea is that the hardware will prevent any one individual or organization from coalescing enough power to overtake system operations.
All told, the project is estimated to cost between $20 million and $30 million, according to Drake. That includes $15 million to $25 million for research and development, as well as $5 million to build an estimated 5,000 machines.
At present, the Ethereum Foundation and Filecoin – which raised more than $250 million through an initial coin offering (ICO) last year – are currently splitting costs for a project viability study to the order of "a few hundred thousand dollars," said Drake in email to CoinDesk.
Looking at the work ahead, Drake struck a positive tone – particularly the prospect of designing and implementing the plan in an open-source fashion.
"Open-source ASICs haven't really been done before so it's all very exciting for me," Drake remarked.
Correction: Filecoin has not committed to funding full research and development expenditures for this project.
Photo of Justin Drake taken by Phil Lucsok
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.