IBM Reveals a Computer the Size of a Grain of Salt

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It's smaller than a grain of salt, but it could soon help guarantee that the products you buy are the real deal and not a knockoff. That might not seem a lot when compared to the power of the latest smartphone chips, but it's still pretty nippy for a computer that you could accidentally sprinkle on your chippy dinner.

In comparison, the last "world's smallest computer" to make a big splash was the Michigan Micro Mote in 2015, which measured a whopping 2mm across. It uses blockchain, the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Etherium, to ensure people don't purchase counterfeit goods. A blockchain is merely a distributed ledger that can be used for various purposes. Specifically, this computer will be a data source for blockchain applications.

With a total footprint of 1mm x 1mm, the IBM micro-computer could be embedded in nearly anything.

IBM is hard at work on the problem of ubiquitous computing, and its approach, understandably enough, is to make a computer small enough that you might mistake it for a grain of sand.

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The company posits that manufacturers could use the chips and blockchain technology to verify the authenticity of goods. The computer is hard to identify with the naked eye without the help of a microscope. These chips could also boost the internet of things (IoT) by making more devices "smart" without adding to their size or complexity.

Adding a computer to everything sounds expensive, but IBM doesn't think that will be the case.

The report claims the manufacturing of the computer costs just 10 cents and the device houses "several hundred thousand transistors", according to IBM. IBM expects that the computer will find its place in market in next 5 years. However, the company believes the first models could be made available to clients in the next 18 month, and within five years, advances in microfluidics, packaging, cryptography, and non-volatile memory could bring these systems to the marketplace.