Innovation

Is this the world's smallest computer? IBM chip is no bigger than a grain of salt

The machine will pack several hundred thousands of transistors into a chip designed to combat fraud in global supply chains.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • IBM has created what it says is the world's smallest computer, which packs several hundreds of thousands of transistors into a chip smaller than a grain of salt.
  • The processor is designed work alongside blockchain technology to help track goods, and while it won't be doing heavy lifting, IBM claims it will be capable of monitoring, analyzing and sorting data.

IBM will today reveal what it claims is the world's smallest computer.

The machine will pack several hundred thousands of transistors into a chip smaller than a grain of salt, and cost less than 10 cents to manufacture.

The processor is designed to help track goods and combat fraud in the global supply chain, and while it won't be doing heavy lifting or have much in common with what most people consider a computer, IBM claims it will be capable of monitoring, analyzing and sorting data, thanks to having access to about as much power as a 1990s x86 processor.

According to IBM the chip will act as what it describes as a crypto-anchor, which works alongside blockchain technology to connect the physical to the digital world, to help verify if a product has been handled properly throughout its journey.

IBM describes crypto-anchors as "tamper-proof digital fingerprints" that are linked to the blockchain, and says its researchers are developing the chips to be embedded into products. The tiny solar powered computers would rely on LED lights to communicate with a network.

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Tying these chips to a blockchain, provides "a powerful means of proving a product's authenticity" says IBM, adding "within the next five years, cryptographic anchors and blockchain technology will ensure a product's authenticity — from its point of origin to the hands of the customer".

What makes blockchain so potentially useful for tracking goods is that it offers a decentralized database that is immutable and unforgeable.

IBM says the first crypto-anchor chips could be available within 18 months and be commonplace within five years.

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The new chip which IBM describes as the world's smallest computer.

Image: IBM

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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