Mining, in this context, refers to solving complex mathematical problems as a means to verify crypto-currency transactions – a task for which the owners of the computers involved are rewarded with new digital tokens or “coins”.
These are chips that are custom-designed to carry out a single task – in this case “mining” Bitcoin or another specific crypto-currency – but not general computing operations.
Until 2013, Asic chips were more commonly associated with the TV industry.
But that year, a New York-based entrepreneur began selling processors custom-designed for Bitcoin mining, which promised better performance and lower energy use than GPU (graphics processing unit) chips, which are still more commonly associated with the task.
In recent months, a shortage of high-end GPU cards has pushed up their prices, making the rival Asic technology even more appealing.
Image captionMost mining rigs currently use GPUs rather than Asic chips
According to The Bell, Samsung completed development of its own Bitcoin-related Asic chip last year and began mass production earlier this month.
Until now, Taiwan’s TSMC was the only other major processor-manufacturer engaged in the activity.
One expert said Samsung’s move represented a bet that Bitcoin’s rise in value does not represent a bubble that is about to burst.
“We don’t know how low Samsung can sell its chip for and still be profitable,” said Garrick Hileman, a crypto-currency researcher from the University of Cambridge.
“But if Bitcoin’s price were to collapse and enter a bear market like in 2014 to 2015, one would wonder if Samsung would stay with this line of business through such a turn.”
Taking top spot
Samsung’s latest venture coincided with news that its semiconductors division logged 74.3tn won ($69.6bn; £49.1bn) of sales last year.