IBM announces new system-on-a-chip

IBM introduced what it claims to be the world’s smallest computer for blockchain technology at IBM Think 2018, according to a report by Mashable.

The miniature computer IBM premiered is a complete system-on-a-chip (SoC) reportedly “smaller than a grain of salt.” The chip includes a processor, memory, storage and communication module. The computing power of the chip is comparable to that of the x86 chip from 1990. Although that is not very fast by conventional computer standards, it is impressive given the chip’s size.

According to IBM, the chip can integrate with “several hundred thousand transistors,” enabling it to, “monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data.” IBM said the chip costs less than 10 cents to produce and will serve as a data source for blockchain applications. The computer was made to track the shipment of goods in addition to detecting theft, fraud and non-compliance. Additionally, it can perform basic artificial intelligence (A.I.) tasks, such as sorting data it is fed.

“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,” wrote Arvind Krishna, head of IBM Research, in a company blog post. “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.”

Blockchain is a way of performing online transactions in a distributed, decentralized way leveraging a public ledger. With the technology, users can forward bundles of records, known as blocks, into a chronological chain, sealing it with a mathematical language called cryptography. The technology became popular as a means of powering the digital currency Bitcoin. Since then, however, IBM and a host of other companies have been looking to tap into potential use cases of blockchain technology that extend well beyond cryptocurrencies.

This isn’t the first time IBM has made headway with small computer chips. In 2015, for example, IBM took the title for making chips with the smallest components. Last year, the company also teamed up with Samsung to create one of the world’s smallest chips.

An exact release data for the chip is not clear as IBM researchers are testing its first prototype. Nevertheless, the company said it could start offering the miniature computers to customers in the next 18 months.

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