IBM Built a Computer the Size of a Grain of Salt. Here’s What It’s For
IBM has unveiled what it claims is the world’s smallest computer—the size of a grain of salt. […]
The device is one type of what IBM calls “crypto-anchors”—”digital fingerprints” that can be embedded in everyday items in order to verify their provenance and contents. Another example of this concept is edible ink that can be stamped on pills.
The idea is to use these methods to link things to their records, which are stored on a blockchain.
IBM’s new computer, which it will detail at its Think 2018 conference on Monday, contains up to 1 million transistors, along with a small amount of static random access memory, a light-emitting diode (LED) and photo-detector that allow it to communicate, and an integrated photovoltaic cell for power.
IBM claims that it is “small enough and cheap enough to be put anywhere—and everywhere.”
“These [crypto-anchor] technologies pave the way for new solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects and provenance of luxury goods,” said IBM research chief Arvind Krishna in a blog post.
IBM during World War II
In Germany, during World War II, IBM engaged in business practices which have been the source of controversy. Much attention focuses on the role of IBM’s German subsidiary, known as Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft, or Dehomag. Topics in this regard include
– documenting operations by Dehomag which allowed the Nazis to better organize their war effort, and in particular the Holocaust and use of Nazi concentration camps;
– comparing these efforts to operations by other IBM subsidiaries which aided other nations’ war efforts;
– the selection methods as developed and used had the purpose to select and kill civil people.
In the United States IBM was, at the request of the government, the subcontractor for the Japanese internment camps’ punched card project:
His grand design for 1943 was a locator file in which would appear a Hollerith alphabetic punch card for each evacuee. These cards were to include standard demographic information about age, sex, education, occupation, family size, medical history, criminal record, and RC location. However, additional data categories about links to Japan were also maintained, such as years of residence in Japan and the extent of education received there… The punch card project was so extensive and immediate that the War Relocation Authority subcontracted the function to IBM.
IBM’s “world’s smallest computer” is the size of a grain of salt
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[…] You might imagine that it won’t be able to do much, but it has the compute power of an x86 machine from the 1990s. Not very impressive compared to today’s PCs, true, but then you do need a microscope to see it clearly—check out the picture of one placed on a pile of salt.
Mashable reports that the computer even has enough power to perform basic AI functions, such as sorting the data it’s been given. […]
IBM’s researchers are still testing the prototype model, so don’t expect them to hit the market anytime soon. But it’s amazing to think the same power we saw in PCs from the 1990s is now available in something the size of a grain of salt.
IBM’s latest computer is a blockchain-ready CPU smaller than a grain of salt
“These technologies pave the way for new solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects, and provenance of luxury goods,” Krishna continues.
So, it’s fair to say the breakthrough here isn’t just the size of these computers, it’s their potential use. Think of them like the bar codes on items in the grocery store. But instead of communicating price info, these CPUs could tell you everything about the product — where it was made, by whom, and where it’s been.
IBM and the Holocaust
IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation is a book by investigative journalist Edwin Black which details the business dealings of the American-based multinational corporation International Business Machines (IBM) and its German and other European subsidiaries with the government of Adolf Hitler during the 1930s and the years of World War II. In the book, published in 2001, Black outlined the way in which IBM’s technology helped facilitate Nazi genocide through generation and tabulation of punch cards based upon national census data.