The microscopic computer is roughly the size of a grain of sand but has enough computing power to handle basic AI tasks and work with blockchain. As well as being powerful it is also cheap, reportedly costing less than 10 cents to make.
IBM said the chip contains "several hundred thousand transistors," that allow it to "monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data." This tiny chip is a complete system-on-a-chip (SoC) with a processor, memory, storage, and even a communication module.
It is capable of the same performance as an x86 CPU from 1990. Although that isn’t very fast at all compared to a regular modern chip, it is pretty impressive considering how tiny it is.
"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."
Amongst a raft of other applications, IBM is excited about the chip's potential to advance blockchain technology. While most of us will immediately jump to thinking about Bitcoin. IBM has plans to use blockchain, which is at its core a distributed ledger, in other ways without the cryptocurrency coming along.
The chip was released as part of IBM’s 5 in 5 initiative that focuses on tech that has the potential to change the world within the next 5 years.
"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," says IBM head of research Arvind Krishna.
IBM is still in its testing phase of the tiny computer with no word when it will be released publically. While bloggers and tech experts love to try and predict the future, IBM has created a list that outlines where they think the future is really changing.
IBM describes the 5 in 5 initiative saying, “Each year, we showcase some of the biggest breakthroughs coming out of IBM Research’s global labs – five technologies that we believe will fundamentally reshape business and society in the next five years.
This innovation is informed by research taking place at IBM Labs, leading-edge work taking place with our clients, and trends we see in the tech/business landscape.” As well as the tiny chip, IBM have shown off their other future-focused technologies.
Included in the list are super powerful encryption methods, ocean cleaning AI-powered robots, unbiased AI and quantum computing. IBM says they have already invented and handed over to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a post-quantum encryption method, that makes hacking virtually impossible now and in the future.
It also laid out plans it has for the small AI-powered robot microscopes to be deployed in the oceans monitor and predict ocean pollution and threats. The technology is predicted to be available within the next five years and will track plankton to predict and monitor the health of our oceans.
If IBM’s predictions and technology prove right, the future looks bright.