Mia Gardner | 03 May 2018
When we say small, we mean really small. Forget about the credit card sized Raspberry Pi; think more along the lines of a computer the size of grain of salt. Yes folks, that’s right, a fully functional microcomputer with the same computing power as an x86 machine from the 1990’s, measuring just 1mm across.
Who is responsible for this technological wonder? IBM of course. Unveiled in their 2018 “Think” conference in March, this marvel of micro computing is so small you would need a microscope to see its details.
Measuring just 1mm x 1mm, the computer has more functionality than most home-based computers in the mid-90’s. To put the size into perspective, the new IBM computer is half the size of the previous world’s smallest computer, the Michigan Micro Mote unveiled in 2015, which measured 2mm x 2mm. Back then, it was believed that no computer manufacturer would even contemplate designing and constructing anything smaller.
But IBM took on the challenge and has delivered the goods. According to reports, the computer has just enough computing power to run the Doom game, which would be pretty cool if you could hook it up to a screen. It could also potentially power online casino games, but for now, it’s going to be used for an entirely different purpose. So, those looking for an even smaller mobile gaming option may have to consider other options, at least for a while anyway!
Essentially, what the unit is designed to do is run basic AI functions such as data sorting and target finding. Crammed into this tiny piece of hardware are almost a million transistors. It also features a bank of static random-access memory (SRAM), a small light emitting diode (LED) as well as a super-small photo-detector for communication purposes. All of this is housed on a 1mm x 1mm silicone carrier. Since the unit is so small, it is powered by a built-in photovoltaic cell. Just hold it up to the light and it can start working.
While you might think that IBM built the computer just for the bragging rights, but that is not the case. Yes, they have something to shove in the face of their competition, but these microcomputers are actually designed to have a function. While IMB expect their inventions to make their way into consumer electronics in the next five years, for now, they are focused on blockchain technology.
According to IBM, these computers will act as a vital data source in blockchain application with a manufacturing cost of just 10 cents per unit. When put into the system, they will be able to complete rudimentary AI tasks and track shipment of goods, thereby eliminating fraud and theft. The most immediate focus for these microcomputers is to become a type of crypto-anchor.
When linked together with blockchain applications, the crypto-anchor can verify a products origin and supply chain. This is how it works:
At present, up to $600 billion dollars a year is lost to fraud in the global economy. According to reports, as much as 70% of all medical drugs arrive at the consumer as counterfeit merchandise, and this is just in one sector. Having a supply chain consisting of multiple handlers in multiple countries makes it incredibly difficult to prevent fraudsters from tampering with shipped merchandise. This goes for everything from consumer electronics to paper money, medical drugs and even children’s toys.
To create a more stable supply chain, companies are looking at implementing digital blockchain technology. This creates a more stable chain of supply but cannot fully rule out the possibility of fraudulent items working their way into the system. This is where crypto-anchors come into play.
A crypto-anchor is a type of digital fingerprint that is imbedded into the product itself. IBM has been working on a number of concepts for crypto-anchors including magnetic ink and microcomputers. Once imbedded into the product, the digital fingerprint is completely tamperproof and unclonable. When arriving at its destination, stores and consumers can verify the products origin simply by scanning the anchor with a smartphone app. IBM’s microcomputer can act as a data store for shipment tracking as well as being a crypto-anchor due to its small size.
It’s amazing that something so small could make such an impact, but it proves the old adage true- dynamite really does come in small packages!