Smaller Than a Grain of Salt: IBM Unveils 'World's Smallest Computer'

Published March 19th, 2018 - 12:36 GMT
The chip is so tiny you’ll need a microscope to see it. (Photo: IBM)
The chip is so tiny you’ll need a microscope to see it. (Photo: IBM)

IBM has made a computer which is smaller than a grain of salt.

The tiny computer bristles with several hundred thousand transistors and measures approximately 1mm squared, and has the computing power of an x86 chip from back in 1990, as Mashable reports.

It will cost less than 10 cents to produce these grain-sized computers but, obviously enough, they aren’t something you’ll be running Microsoft Word on. The tiny devices are part of IBM’s vision for future technology – they will be ‘cryptographic anchors’ embedded in everyday objects, used to ensure the object’s authenticity in combination with blockchain tech.

In other words, the microchip is an anti-fraud measure. At any point in the supply chain, counterfeit goods can potentially be introduced, but if the real devices have these tiny chips in them, they can be physically verified as the genuine item.

Anti-fraud measure

The new IBM microchip could be applied to expensive gadgets so you can be sure you’re buying the real thing and not a knock-off, or they could even be embedded in objects like malaria pills as (edible) ink dots, again to ensure that patients are getting the genuine drug and not a fake one.

IBM is testing the initial prototype at the moment, and it’s not clear when these ‘dot’ computers will make the transition from the research labs to the market, although the company says it will be ‘soon’.

IBM observed: “These technologies pave the way for new solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects, and provenance of luxury goods.”

By Darren Allan

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