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AI tokens outpace record-breaking bitcoin

Figurines with computers and smartphones are seen in front of the words "Artificial Intelligence AI" in this illustration taken, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
Figurines with computers and smartphones are seen in front of the words "Artificial Intelligence AI" in this illustration taken, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The artificial intelligence boom has hit the crypto market with a bang.

Coins linked to AI-focused crypto projects have jumped alongside tech stocks like Nvidia (NVDA.O), driven by insatiable investor appetite for applications like machine-learning.

The rise of many AI crypto tokens has outpaced even that of bitcoin over the past year as the world’s biggest cryptocurrency has surged to record levels.

Their combined market value has ballooned to $26.4 billion, from just $2.7 billion last April, according to CoinGecko data. Tokens linked to these projects are up between 145 per cent and 297 per cent in the past 30 days.

If the more optimistic industry predictions come to pass, there could be more room to run, as some market watchers say crypto and blockchain technology could help solve some of the AI industry’s teething problems such as privacy and a need for computing power.

“As both AI systems and blockchain networks continue to grow, we will see more and more use cases fusing together the two industries,” said Markus Levin, co-founder of blockchain data storage firm XYO Network.

The CoinDesk Indices Computing Index, which includes AI-linked tokens, has leapt over 165 per cent over the past 12 months, outpacing even bitcoin’s 151 per cent rise to record levels.

Trading volumes in AI tokens have also risen sharply this year, Kaiko Research data showed, hitting an all-time high of $3.8 billion in late February.

“There is a significant chance that … AI applications will be crypto’s raison d’être,” fund manager VanEck’s Matthew Sigel and Patrick Bush said in a note.

Some of the top blockchain projects at the moment include the Render Network, a blockchain platform for peer-to-peer sharing of AI-generated graphics, Fetch.AI, a platform to build AI apps and SingularityNET, an AI services marketplace.

“Investors are starting to realize that if you want real value, you need products that are uncorrelated to the crypto market,” said Ahmad Shadid, founder of AI-focused blockchain startup io.net.

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WINNERS AND LOSERS

AI-linked blockchain products include a wide variety of services including payments, trading models, machine-generated non-fungible tokens and blockchain-based marketplaces for AI applications where users pay developers in cryptocurrency.

Investment manager VanEck has predicted that revenue from AI crypto projects could reach $10.2 billion by 2030 in their base case, and over $51 billion in their bullish scenario.

VanEck pointed to the use of crypto tokens as rewards, developing physical computation infrastructure, data verification, and transparency in proving digital ownership as primary areas where blockchain technology lends real-world value to AI development.

Offering crypto tokens as incentives allows quick scalability, said io’s Shadid. His company plans to launch a token later this year.

“The reason we can scale fast is because of the token we have coming out,” he added. “The token incentivizes owners of physical infrastructure to bring their computers on to our network,” Shadid added.

Yet, just as with the AI boom itself, picking winners and losers could be fraught with peril.

“We’re still in the very early stages of AI networks integrating with blockchain-based networks, and the utility of a lot of tokens is still very much uncertain,” cautioned Levin.

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