IBM is working hard on the problem of ubiquitous computing, and its methodology is to make a very tiny computer that you might mistake it for a grain of sand. In time, these ubiquitous small computers could assist authenticate products, trace medications and more.It’s an evolution of IBM’s “crypto anchor” program, in which it uses various ways to establish what amounts to high-tech watermarks for products that confirm they’re, for example, from the factory the distributor claims they are, and not counterfeits mixed in with genuine items.
The “world’s smallest computer,” as IBM continually refers to it, is meant to bring blockchain capability into this; in which the security benefits of blockchain-based logistics and tracking could be brought to something benign. Apart from getting the computers extra-tiny, IBM plans to make them extra-cheap, maybe 10 cents apiece. So there’s not much of a lower limit on what types of products could be equipped with the tech.
Besides, the usual promises of ubiquitous computing also apply: this smart dust could be all over the place, doing little calculations, sensing conditions, connecting with other motes. It’s very tiny, about 1mm x 1mm, but it still has the power of a complete computer, although not a hot new one. With a few hundred thousand transistors, a bit of RAM, a solar cell and a communications module, it has about the power of a chip from 1990. Of course at this point it’s very much still a research project in IBM’s labs, not quite a reality; the project is being promoted as part of the company’s “five in five” predictions of turns technology will take in the next five years.