Bitmain to Open New Data Center in Texas

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Bitmain, the world’s largest bitcoin mining firm, is preparing to open a new data center in Texas, external job postings show.

The China-based cryptocurrency company, which reportedly recorded $1.1 billion in profit during the first quarter, is currently looking for a project manager and data center site manager to staff a new plant in Rockdale, TX, a small town nestled an hour-and-a-half south of Waco.

The news was first reported by local media outlet KXAN, who said that residents are hopeful that the new bitcoin mining operation will bring hope to a region devastated by job cuts in the coal production and manufacturing industries.

In 2014, Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa shut down production at its Rockdale smelting plant, which had opened in 1952 and processed as much as 1.67 million pounds of aluminum per day.

Earlier this year, Dallas-based utility company Luminant shut down its coal-fired power plant in Rockdale, cutting approximately 450 jobs at the plant and a nearby coal mine.

Consequently, residents say that they are optimistic that Bitmain’s new data center will bring high-paying skilled jobs to the community.

“These are technical jobs, these are well-paid jobs,” said Rebecca Vasquez, chair of the local Chamber of Commerce, adding that she hopes the business will bring new homeowners to the area and increase its tax base.

However, as one unnamed cryptocurrency investment fund manager noted in the report, cryptocurrency mining industry operations tend to be “capital-heavy and human-light,” so it’s not clear how many long-term jobs the new data center will bring to the area.

Bitmain is also hiring staff in Chandler, AZ, as well as two cities in Washington — Malaga and Wenatchee — as it strengthens its growing foothold in the North American market.

Earlier this month, Bitmain opened a 20,000 sq. foot office in the heart of Silicon Valley, a move concurrent with its desire to follow up its recent $400 million funding round with another $1 billion in financing ahead of its planned initial public offering (IPO) later this year.

The firm has also established a major data center in Quebec, which has a large surplus of electricity but has nevertheless had a complicated relationship with the cryptocurrency mining industry.

Bulletproofs Explained

The improved protocol allows for stronger privacy, cheaper and faster transactions, and greater ASIC miner resistance.

Bulletproofs is a unique feature among digital assets, at least among large-cap networks. It gives users more privacy by hiding the number of coins that they send in transactions. The technology implements new logarithmic math in order to verify transactions (if you’re into heavy math, take a look at the academic paper that was the guidepost for the tech).

The upgraded protocol also brings much cheaper transactions fees and quicker transactions. As the team’s blog update states:

“With our current range proofs, the transaction is around 13.2 kB in size. If I used single-output bulletproofs, the transaction reduces in size to only around 2.5 kB! This is, approximately, an 80% reduction in transaction size, which then translates to an 80% reduction in fees as well. The space savings are even better with multiple-output proofs. This represents a significant decrease in transaction sizes. Further, our initial testing shows that the time to verify a bulletproof is lower than for the existing range proofs, meaning speedier blockchain validation.”

Another side-effect is occurring as well: XMR miners are reporting that mining difficulty has dropped steeply since the fork. The blockchain’s ledger will now also require much less hard disk space. Overall, the version is a massive upgrade that helps Monero remain a top privacy coin.

Monero developers strongly recommend that everyone upgrade their wallets and nodes if they haven’t done so already, as running the old version could lose transactions.

ASIC Resistance: The War Continues

The team behind Monero publicly declared war against ASIC mining equipment. This came after Bitmain released specialist equipment that would have crowded out CPU and GPU miners had the cryptocurrency not “bricked” Bitmain’s ASICs by altering its mining algorithm.

Monero’s long-held goal is for all users to mine the coin, not only manufacturers or mining farms that have the resources to throw around immense hashing power, as has happened on the Bitcoin network. This way, average users can stay profitable with GPU and CPU chips. Monero developers agreed on semi-annual network upgrades and tweaks to the Proof-of-Work (PoW) function in order to stay one step ahead of ASIC manufacturers. Today’s fork continues that warfare.

There is no question that the entire cryptocurrency sector is in a bear market, with many cryptocurrencies losing over 50% of their value.  However, this certainly hasn’t prevented individuals from becoming very wealthy through cryptocurrency-related ventures.

Specifically, despite the decrease in market capitalization of various cryptocurrencies, several Chinese businessmen have landed onto a list of China’s wealthiest individuals thanks to companies associated with cryptocurrency.

Notable Figures

The Hurun report is released annually, and 13 cryptocurrency-related businessmen have made the list, which includes individuals with at least a net worth of 2 billion yuan, or $289 million USD.

The highest entry belongs to Micree Zhan Ketuan, the founder of Bitmain Technologies, and the only cryptocurrency-related businessman to penetrate the list of the 100 wealthiest people in China, with an estimated net worth of 29.5 billion yuan.  This is not surprising, considering Bitmain – the largest bitcoin mining company in the world – is on track to reach $10 billion in revenue by the end of this year, and is valued at over $10 billion already.  Another high entry belongs to the other co-founder of the same company, Bitmain, Wu Jihan, who comes in at #204, with an estimated worth of 16.5 billion yuan.

China has been known to dominate the bitcoin mining sector.  In fact, Bitmain, and its two main competitors, Canaan Creative and Ebang International Holdings, have all applied to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX).  Nine of the thirteen entries on the Hurun report come from these three companies alone.

China Crackdown

This is even more interesting considering the fact that China has been cracking down on the cryptocurrency sector in general.  The Chinese Central Bank has repeatedly warned bitcoin exchanges about their activity, and went on to ban initial coin offerings, which led to the iconic cryptocurrency exchange BTCC closing, which many in the cryptocurrency community felt was a symbolic end to an era where China seemed to tolerate cryptocurrency – and that the tides were shifting.

Ironically, it was this crackdown that actually helped Binance, the world’s largest exchange by daily volume, adapt and expand to countries such as Japan and Singapore, rather than keep China as headquarters.  Zhao Chenpeng, 41, also makes the list, at #230, with an impressive 15 billion yuan.

It is clear that despite the crackdowns on cryptocurrency in China, and the volatility of the markets – the leaders in the cryptocurrency market have certainly been able to accrue substantial wealth in 2018.

Opera, the fifth most widely utilized browser behind Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari, has added built-in Ethereum support to its desktop app, enabling Web 3.0, an ecosystem that allows users can seamlessly interact with decentralized applications (dApps) and peer-to-peer systems on the blockchain.

To utilize Ethereum-based dApps, users are required to have non-custodial wallets like MetaMask to securely send transactions on the mainnet. But, for most casual users, relying on external applications as an additional step towards using dApps could restrict accessibility.

As mainstream browsers move towards adding support for Ethereum and various blockchain standards, the accessibility and user activity of dApps is expected to increase massively.

Importance of Opera Integration

Opera only accounts 3.7 percent of the market share of the browser industry. But, that is because Chrome and Safari have absolute dominance over the browser industry with a combined market share of 71 percent.

The integration of Ethereum and the ERC20 standard by Opera marks an important step towards mainstream acceptance of cryptocurrencies and dApps. While its market share and user base are  relatively small in comparison to its competitors, Opera is a widely recognized browser with an active and loyal user base.

Currently, on Google Chrome, most Ethereum and dApp users rely on MetaMask, a non-custodial Ethereum wallet operated by ConsenSys, a blockchain software studio created and run by Ethereum co-creator Joseph Lubin.

opera browser ethereum wallet
Source: Opera

To access MetaMask, users have to download and install the plugin on Google’s browser store, which requires users to undergo additional steps to install the wallet. On Opera, because the wallet is already integrated into the browser, users can seamlessly utilized its built-in infrastructure to access dApps.

Still, the Ethereum wallet of Opera needs significant improvement. It lacks the sophistication and execution of popular apps like MetaMask particularly in fee estimation and testnet support.

But, the cryptocurrency sector has already taken a major step towards gaining mainstream recognition by major browsers.

One Ethereum user who tested the ETH integration on Opera said:

“I tried it out today – its incredible to think that mainstream browsers are integrating Web 3.0. I love the split between mobile and desktop – security of mobile with convenience of desktop. and yes, mobile phones are still way more secure than desktops. They need some work on supporting ropsten – i ran into numerous issues that were not a problem on mainnet.”

Crypto-Focused Opera

In July, it was reported that Bitmain, the world’s largest crypto mining equipment manufacturer, is set to acquire 43 percent of stake in Opera. Although it remains unclear whether Bitmain has invested in the browser, the two corporations reportedly held discussions prior to the release of the reports in regarding a potential acquisition.

With the successful deployment of built-in cryptocurrency wallet and Ethereum integration, Opera is expected to move forward with its cryptocurrency-focused development roadmap.

Considering that Opera is more popular amongst mobile users than desktop users and the various security benefits of using mobile-based systems over desktop and web-based platforms, it is likely that Opera will continue to show improvements in its mobile cryptocurrency infrastructure.

Circle, the $3 billion bitcoin startup backed by investment banking giant Goldman Sachs, has created a cryptocurrency “stablecoin” whose value is pegged to the U.S. dollar and backed by physical currency stored in company-owned bank accounts.

Circle Unveils USD-Backed Cryptocurrency

Announced on Wednesday, the new cryptocurrency — USD Coin (USDC) — will allow individuals and institutions to tokenize physical currency for use in overseas trading and other cross-border transactions that require rapid settlement.

Commenting on the announcement, Jeremy Allaire and Sean Neville, co-founders of Circle, said:

“When we founded Circle five years ago, we and many in the crypto community envisioned fiat money and financial contracts executing on top of distributed public network infrastructure, building on open standards that would allow us all to share value as instantly and easily as we can access content in web browsers and exchange messages in email and messaging apps. Just as HTTPS, SMTP and SIP enabled free borderless information sharing and communications, crypto assets and blockchain technology will enable us to exchange value and transact with one another in a similar way: instantly, globally, securely and at low cost.”

Circle previewed USDC back in May in tandem with its announcement that it had achieved a $3 billion valuation following a Series E funding round led by bitcoin mining giant Bitmain.

Contrary to most other USD-backed stablecoins, Circle will not be USD Coin’s sole issuer. Instead, the token will in the future have multiple issuers as more organizations join CENTRE, an open-source consortium launched to develop a decentralized network of fiat stablecoins.

Per CENTRE’s organizational guidelines, USDC issuers must possess regulatory licenses authorizing them to handle electronic money, have audited anti-money laundering and compliance programs, provide audited monthly reports demonstrating that tokens they have issued are fully-backed by reserves stored in bank accounts, and agree to redeem all USDC tokens — including those issued by other consortium members.

USDC is structured as an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum network. According to CENTRE, it utilizes a Ricardian smart contract that will allow the consortium to change the code if it determines a particular issuer is not fulfilling its obligations.

30 Launch Partners

poloniex cryptocurrency exchange
Poloniex, Circle’s cryptocurrency exchange, will eventually replace tether with USDC.

At launch, 30 partners have agreed to provide support for USDC, including top-10 cryptocurrency exchange DigiFinex. The token will also soon be listed on decentralized cryptocurrency exchange (DEX) platforms including Paradex and IDEX, as well as lending protocol Dharma.

Additionally, major cryptocurrency wallet services including Coinbase, BitGo, Ledger, and imToken will provide native support for USDC.

The consortium also includes cryptocurrency payment processor BitPay, whose merchant network received more than $1.2 billion in bitcoin and bitcoin cash payments in 2017.

“BitPay has always been supportive of open source crypto communities and blockchain initiatives and likes the direction CENTRE is taking with USDC,” said Stephen Pair, CEO of BitPay. “We envision a future where all digital assets and payments live on the blockchain.”

USDC joins a growing list of stablecoins seeking to unseat the controversial tether (USDT) as the dominant USD-backed cryptocurrency token. Just this month, cryptocurrency exchange operators Gemini and Paxos have launched stablecoins under the oversight of New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS), creator of the rigorous BitLicense regulatory framework.

In an interview with Business Insider, Circle’s Allaire said that Poloniex — the cryptocurrency exchange Circle acquired earlier this year — will eventually replace tether with USDC, though he did not give a timetable for this transition.

The world’s largest bitcoin mining pool is preparing to expand its horizons.

BTC.com, which produced 21 percent of all newly-mined BTC over the past 12 months and currently accounts for more than 16 percent of the bitcoin hashrate, announced on Thursday that it has opened an ethereum mining pool.

The pool will initially support both ethereum and ethereum classic, and users will have the ability to shift between the two Ethash-based cryptocurrencies to enhance profitability.

“Because contracts are charged per line of executed code and miners are rewarded for dedicated hashes using GHOST, Ethereum provides multiple different reward incentives to contribute hash power to the network,” said Zhuang Zhong, director of BTC.com’s mining pool.

“We hope to expand Ethereum’s network by relaying those rewards through our FPPS system. By competing to provide the best reward margins along with our product development, we expect mining operations to grow to 12% of ETH total hashrate in the next 12 months.”

bitcoin mining stats
BTC.com is the largest bitcoin mining pool. | Source: CoinDance

BTC.com is one of two mining pools owned by Bitmain, the dominant manufacturer of ASIC mining hardware. Earlier this year, Bitmain released the first ASICs compatible with the Ethash mining algorithm, which previously had been mined primarily with general purpose GPU chips.

The announcement prompted a heated debate within the Ethereum community over whether the cryptocurrency should fork to maintain ASIC resistance, but, as of yet, this has not happened.

Notably, BTC.com also said that it is not concerned about Ethereum’s planned transition to Casper, a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus algorithm that will replace its current consensus model, with is secured by the Proof-of-Work-based (PoW) Ethash algorithm.

Commenting on BTC.com’s plans for when Ethereum begins migrating to PoS, Zhuang Zhong said, “it’s still possible to host a mining pool in PoS mode. It will increase the complexity to design such a pool since miners need to deposit ether to the mining pool, but we have a lot of hands-on experience with wallet and Ethereum smart contracts to make a PoS mining pool possible.”

GMO Internet, a leading Japanese bitcoin mining firm, has informed investors that it has stopped mining bitcoin cash, documents purportedly distributed by the company show.

Those documents, made public by “The Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast” host Trace Mayer, indicate that the Tokyo-based GMO mined 0 BCH in July, down from a high of 287 in February.

However, it’s possible GMO will resume mining BCH if its profitability increases in the future. The firm’s bitcoin cash mining operation has been highly-sporadic, and it also mined 0 BCH in April before mining 37 and 62 BCH over the next two months.

GMO’s bitcoin mining operation, however, has been characterized by a steady increase in BTC revenue. In July, GMO mined 568 BTC — worth $3.8 million at the present exchange rate — up from 528 the month prior and just 21 in Dec. 2017.

Earlier this year, GMO said that it hoped to scale its mining operation to 3,000PH/s by December. However, that now seems unlikely, as declining cryptocurrency profits have squeezed miner profit margins and reduced the incentive to invest in new hashpower. Indeed, GMO mined with 384PH/s in July, which made it the first month this year that it did not bring new devices online.

In June, GMO unveiled the B2, first bitcoin mining chip wholly-developed by a Japanese company. The device, which also featured the world’s first 7nm chip, quickly sold out. GMO is now accepting preorders for the B3, which the firm claims can achieve a hashpower as high as 33TH/s, compared to the 14TH/s offered by the Antminer S9, Bitmain’s flagship mining rig.

Bitmain is currently planning the cryptocurrency industry’s largest-ever initial public offering (IPO). However, the China-based firm, which once had a market share as large as 85 percent, is facing increasing competition from GMO and others, leading market research firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. to speculate in a recent report that the ASIC designer has lost its competitive edge.

“I respect Bitmain,” GMO CEO Masatoshi Kumagi said in June, perhaps presciently, “but we will top them.”

A California-based Bitcoin mining company has completed work on a repurposed hydroelectric dam to service its new mining farm, a press release announced Thursday, August 23.

DPW Holdings will now prepare to use the dam, which is located in Valatie Falls, New York, as the source of electricity for its yet-to-be-built mining facility towards the end of 2018.

The move means fresh competition for the steadily increasing miner population in New York State, where Coinmint signalled it would begin operations in an old smokestack with local government backing earlier this year.

DPW’s farm will meanwhile employ its own mining hardware, the AntEater, which it developed in conjunction with Samsung in January. It will run the operation via a dedicated subsidiary, Super Crypto Mining.

“This project provided a unique opportunity for DPW subsidiaries to collaborate and innovate to create a new model for cryptocurrency mining, for which electricity is by far the largest operational cost factor,” CEO and chairman Milton “Todd” Ault, III commented in the release.

“We look forward to bringing this innovative new facility fully on-line during the fourth quarter of 2018.”

Various U.S. states will see mining projects start raking in cryptocurrency in the near future, the DPW news coming two weeks after Asian giant Bitmain announced the creation of a complex in Texas into which it would invest $500 million.

Across the border in Canada meanwhile, prospective companies have faced mixed receptions from local authorities, with Quebec in particular voicing its opposition.

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