Game Changer

Miniscule Machines: The Salt-Sized Computer is Here

Meet the tiny computer IBM hopes will make ubiquitous computing a reality

Predictions have been made for some time about ubiquitous computing, where devices sit unseen, inside objects around you, collecting data and feeding into vast networks that allow the sophisticated management of every aspect of your surroundings.

However, in the mission to make this a reality, a key component has always been lacking: small enough machines. That is, until this March, because that’s when IBM unveiled a computer smaller than a grain of salt.

First shown off at the IBM Think 2018 conference, the miniscule device’s processor is host to several hundred thousand transistors, which the company says can "monitor, analyse, communicate and even act on data". It also features an LED communications unit and static random-access memory (SRAM), and is powered by a tiny photovoltaic cell.

While its size means it only matches the computing power of a device from 1990, it will be ideal for a host of tasks, including several around AI and blockchain applications

For IBM then, this is the start of an explosion in the connected world.

“Within the next five years, cryptographic anchors — such as ink dots or tiny computers smaller than a grain of salt — will be embedded in everyday objects and devices," said IBM head of research Arvind Krishna.

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