The Future of Secure Encryption
Maybe you’re like me. When you were younger, you stored your money in the form of coins or paper assets in a safe place such as a used glass jar, an old cigar box or a piggy bank for safekeeping Well, times have changed. And that’s not only because I have a lot more money. It seems that over time, I, and everyone else, are handling hard asset forms of money less often. Rather than have cold, hard cash, we choose to receive it and spend it in the form of digital assets. Over the past few generations, credit cards in our wallets and purses have primarily replaced the cash we have on hand.
The ultimate vault of the future needs to protect digital assets such as Bitcoin. Here, we’ll look at how embedded design technologies—including graphics processing units (GPUs), application-specific integrated circuit (ASICs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)—enable the future of encryption by allowing blockchain and cryptocurrencies to flourish.
PROTECTING DIGITAL ASSETS
Cryptocurrencies are virtual assets distributed across an extensive computer network outside the control of the government or controlled institutions. Paramount to this type of asset’s success is the network’s security, which relies upon sophisticated encryption techniques. Blockchains are vital components to most cryptocurrencies because they provide a recognized organizational methodology that ensures transactional data integrity. Companies such as Amazon, IBM and Microsoft are all making large business bets on the future of this technology. They have adopted their corporate strategies to position their success within the new world of blockchain (Figure 1).
Blockchain will also come to play significant roles in other powerful applications. These include financial services. Exchanges and insurance companies plan to benefit by having their recordkeeping, trades, data security, client information and data privacy concerns addressed by this technology. Similarly, legal contracts to maintain records of executed documents and proper data privacy protections will prevail. Blockchain will be used to verify client users as a sort of digital identification. Blockchain-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) devices will connect people and machines and provide the necessary security protections in a highly connected future.
Cryptocurrencies (Figure 2) have recently exploded onto the scene and are attracting enormous attention. Cryptocurrencies can be considered a form of tokens or coins that exist, not as a hard asset but rather as a digital asset. This digital asset is tracked on a distributed and decentralized ledger. They rely on blockchain’s encryption technology to keep them safe. This encryption technology is focused on decentralization, transparency and immutability. It provides users with efficient, secure, private, universally accessible access to digital assets. The most known cryptocurrency in the world today is Bitcoin.
EMBEDDED ICs MAKE IT POSSIBLE
Embedded semiconductor processors are at the heart of blockchain technology and are vital to its success. Although traditional CPUs are known by most of us because of their ubiquitous use in laptop and desktop computers, three other sister processor technologies are where the future of encryption lies.
GPUs: Graphics processing units (GPUs) are specialized processors initially designed to accelerate graphics rendering. GPUs can process many pieces of data simultaneously by employing parallel processing. Parallel processing enables GPUs to be extremely useful for applications that require blockchain and machine learning (ML) technologies. GPUs are very flexible and adaptable, and user-friendly. This combination of attributes with parallel processing enables them to be an easy-to-deploy processor for blockchain applications. GPUs have exploded onto the scene over the past decade as AMD and Nvidia lead the way forward in innovating new GPU products. Nvidia’s line of CPUs has been used extensively wherever blockchain technology has been adopted. The most significant factor in fueling Nvidia’s GPU sales has been the exponential growth curve of the burgeoning cryptocurrency market space. One drawback of GPUs is their power consumption relative to other processing options.
ASICs: Application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are specifically designed to match the application. ASICs intended to run a blockchain are the most power-efficient way to perform the requisite processing. They are not flexible or adaptable because they have been designed only to perform one specific task. ASICs have been employed quite extensively to date to mine for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency mining has two primary functions. One function is to bring new cryptocurrency coins into circulation. The second function is developing and maintaining the ledger that drives the encrypted security that blockchain technology envelops.
FPGAs: Field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)  align themselves somewhere in the middle between GPUs and ASICs. They are more power-efficient than GPUs but less power efficient than ASICs. They provide more flexibility and adaptability to tackle different functions than ASICs but fewer than GPUs. This flexibility is because FPGAs can be programmed. They are competent at mining and the proper choice when design flexibility is needed.
The future requires secure encryption. Don’t be a blockhead by holding steadfast to the old concept of physical money. Get hip to the future of blockchain and crypto. You have read how embedded designs employing ASICs, GPUs or FPGAs can secure digital assets through the use of blockchain technology. Blockchain’s cryptography makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend digital currency and is what the future will run on.
 Figure 1 source: whiteMocca/Shutterstock.com
 Figure 2 source: Andreanicolini/Shutterstock.com
Mouser Electronics | www.mouser.com
PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • September 2021 #374 – Get a PDF of the issue
As a Technology Specialist, Paul Golata is accountable for driving the strategic leadership, tactical execution, and overall product line and marketing direction for solid-state lighting and other advanced technology products. Prior to Mouser Electronics, he served in various Marketing and Sales roles for various high technology companies. Mr. Golata holds a BSEET (DeVry) and MBA (Pepperdine).