IBM Research

IBM’s New Computer is Smaller Than a Grain of Salt and Can Almost Run Doom

  • 3 April 2018
  • Cas Proffitt

IBM has created a tiny, cheap computer smaller than a grain of salt for use in blockchain supply chain solutions.

Back in the 90’s, you may remember playing the video game ‘Doom’ on a clunky, cream-colored desktop computer. Fast forward a couple decades, and now a computer that is nearly powerful enough to run the game exists for only 10 cents, thanks to IBM. What’s perhaps even more stunning is that this cheap computer is also the smallest in the world, tinier than a single grain of salt.

Below, you can see two of these computers mounted on the corner of a 64-motherboard panel sitting atop someone’s finger as well as the tiny black speck of a computer sitting in a pile of salt.  

IBM 64 motherboard computer compared to saltPhoto credit IBM Research

The computer contains a processor sporting several hundred thousand transistors, SRAM memory, and a communication system that harnesses an LED and photo-detector for communications. It is powered by a photovoltaic cell.  

For an up-close and personal view, check out this video from the IBM Research team:

Why do we need such tiny computers?

In the past, we discussed IBM’s foray into supply chain management utilizing blockchain technology. These tiny computers are another step along that path.

IBM intends to use these yet-unnamed mini-computers to track items through the supply chain while collecting and analyzing data which can be added to the blockchain. It is just one prototype in a line of crypto-anchors that IBM has been working on in order to help combat fraud. Other products in this lineup include edible magnetic inks that can be revealed on medications by adding a droplet of water and mobile sensor + AI combo that can be used for liquids and expensive metals as well as identify DNA sequences “in minutes.”

Fraud is but one use case of this new computer, because it could also be utilized for shipment tracking. As IBM previously discussed, blockchain could help with tracking package environments and conditions, e.g. a hard bump in the road while in the back of a  semi or an overheating incident, as well as the stops along the way for gas, breaks, etc.

This computer could be available to consumers within 18 months.

What uses can you think of for IBM’s salt-sized computer? Will you be implementing it into anything? Let us know in the comments below!

About Cas Proffitt

Cas is a B2B Content Marketer and Brand Consultant who specializes in disruptive technology. She covers topics like artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, and big data, to name a few. Cas is also co-owner of an esports organization and spends much of her time teaching gamers how to make a living doing what they love while bringing positivity to the gaming community.