IBM's "world's smallest computer" is the size of a grain of salt

By midian182 ยท 24 replies
Mar 19, 2018
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  1. We’ve seen companies boasting that they’ve created incredibly small computers in the past, but most of these are still massive compared to IBM’s latest effort. Measuring just 1mm x 1mm, its device is the size of a grain of sand.

    The company is unveiling the computer at its IBM Think 2018 conference, which starts today. You might imagine that it won’t be able to do much, but it has the compute power of an x86 machine from the 1990s. Not very impressive compared to today’s PCs, true, but then you do need a microscope to see it clearly—check out the picture of one placed on a pile of salt.

    The tiny computer costs under ten cents to manufacture and contains up to one million transistors, according to IBM. The company said this “crypto-anchor” could be embedded in everyday items to improve shipment tracking and processing, acting as a data source of blockchain applications.

    "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 Arvind Krishna, IBM's head of research.

    The tiny computer costs under ten cents to manufacture and contains up to one million transistors, according to IBM.

    "They'll be used in tandem with blockchain's distributed ledger technology to ensure an object's authenticity from its point of origin to when it reaches the hands of the customer.”

    "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."

    Mashable reports that the computer even has enough power to perform basic AI functions, such as sorting the data it's been given. In addition to all those transistors, it includes some static random-access memory (SRAM), a light-emitting diode (LED) and photo-detector for communicating, and a photo-voltaic cell for power.

    IBM’s researchers are still testing the prototype model, so don’t expect them to hit the market anytime soon. But it’s amazing to think the same power we saw in PCs from the 1990s is now available in something the size of a grain of salt.

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    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2018
  2. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,905   +1,201

    "The tiny computer costs under ten cents to manufacture and contains up to one million transistors, according to IBM."

    Yeah, it won't run Crysis, but that's damn impressive!
    skinnybuttons and stewi0001 like this.
  3. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,906   +1,287

    This is awesome! But how do you interface with it?
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,995   +2,381

    You don't, it will interface with you, when you the least expect, like in your sleep.
  5. MannerMauler

    MannerMauler TS Addict Posts: 202   +50

    Sounds like you interface with it the same way your TV remote interfaces with your TV, LEDs. That's the only reason I see for putting LEDs and photo sensors on there.
  6. Badvok

    Badvok TS Maniac Posts: 238   +104

    "LED communications unit and photo-detector" - see it's amazing what you can find out by reading the article.
    erickmendes and JaredTheDragon like this.
  7. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,906   +1,287

    I did read it, just didn't put 2+2 together this time.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  8. Vulcanproject

    Vulcanproject TS Guru Posts: 427   +462

    If you accidentally swallow it with your salt do you suddenly get extremely good at maths?

    Intel need to make some. Then you really can have an intel inside.
  9. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,164   +2,637

    Is that table salt or rock salt .... or a salt block like we have down on the farm! LOL
    MirekFe, VBKing and cliffordcooley like this.
  10. gnpfrslo

    gnpfrslo TS Enthusiast Posts: 62   +10

    It turns out reading is good, hard to believe.
  11. Catweazle

    Catweazle TS Enthusiast Posts: 48   +36

    Do you want Borg, because this is how you get Borg.
    Lounds likes this.
  12. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 10,462   +4,341

    I was thinking the same thing. I never have considered rock salt a grain. And what they have pictured is rock salt.
  13. hood6558

    hood6558 TS Evangelist Posts: 352   +109

    Install one in each person, and start the zombie apocalypse, or control your own slave army. Maybe they're already in place - this would explain a lot of recent behavior. Get your supply of tinfoil before it's all sold out, and start making those hats.
  14. Ravey

    Ravey TS Booster Posts: 87   +31

    I have to disagree, I am an expert on The Borg having watched every Borg related episode of Star Trek at least twice - this includes movies - I can assure you IBM was never mentioned in the creation of The Borg.
  15. MarkHughes

    MarkHughes TS Addict Posts: 162   +82

    I really want to make a joke about taking the news with a grain of salt but I'm stuck... Anyone got anything ?
  16. MarkHughes

    MarkHughes TS Addict Posts: 162   +82

    What do you think the B of IBM stands for... Invasive Borg Machine.
  17. joe1946

    joe1946 TS Rookie Posts: 18

    Is it on the 7nm process ?
  18. Royboy Jones

    Royboy Jones TS Rookie

    "basic AI functions, such as sorting the data it's been given"

    There no "AI" needed for sorting. /smh

    AQUARIAN TS Rookie

    No No No...this is Dangerous !! just imagine you accidentally swallow this nano computer - and its now in your system - and someone in Russia decides to "hack" that nano computer /per-se make it go crazy and the nano computer is by now linked to all your Neuro Motor Nerves in your body internally and triggers a/ or gives you a BONER - which "unfortunately " is all happening inside of you without your control - Man !! that's it.... Now you got = Intel Inside and Boner Outside
  20. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 10,462   +4,341

    IBM does not equate to Intel, the phrase would be IBM Inside.
  21. Nero7

    Nero7 TS Maniac Posts: 319   +119

    Yes please put it into everyday products and add a tiny microphone to it. It will end up in the sea and when the birds and fish eat it they'll become cyborgs.

    10 cents manufacturing cost? It will be everywhere. If it not already is.
  22. hood6558

    hood6558 TS Evangelist Posts: 352   +109

    Powered by light, communicates by flashing the light, and costs 10 cents. Every product that costs $20 or more will have these
    included, for inventory tracking, anti-theft, and customer data mining. I should invest in a company that makes lead-lined, light-proof faraday-cage containers. Maybe that would keep people's sensitive data safe, for a while. Until they modify the chips to communicate through sound waves, or maybe tiny atmospheric pressure fluctuations. It never ends...
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2018
  23. ddferrari

    ddferrari TS Maniac Posts: 389   +166

    A "grain of salt" might be a bit of an exaggeration. Based on that pic, that's more like 20 grains of sea salt. Still, impressive.
  24. bobc4012

    bobc4012 TS Enthusiast Posts: 93   +40

    I measured that picture and then "-" on my browser to reduce it to 1mm. Pretty damn small. Just don't drop it on a shag carpet (or any carpet).
  25. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,697   +165

    Nice... Thanks for sharing...

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