IBM’s New ‘World’s Smallest Computer’ is Built for Blockchain


Cryptocurrencies are all over the news these days, but we also hear a lot about the underlying technology: blockchain. Regulators and traditional financial gatekeepers are some of the first to speak critically of bitcoin, yet highly of blockchain, but why is that? Why are businesses interested in the technology driving the majority of cryptocurrencies? We hear about blockchain in the news all the time, but not everyone in the crypto world can point to some specific examples of the technology’s adoption and a viable use-case. Now, we can.

At the Think 2018 Conference, International Business Machines (IBM) introduced the world’s smallest computer purpose-built for one thing: blockchain technology. This tiny computer is around the size of a large grain of salt and was designed specifically with the blockchain in mind. Okay, well that sounds great, but what exactly does that mean? Buzzwords, marketing, and PR aside, what’s the point?

The real focus of the little computer is to contribute to the supply chain management industry and improve tracking and logistics. With a purpose-built computer so small, IBM’s little chips can essentially be tagged to anything. Using what we know about distributed ledger technology and the way blockchain technology works, we start to get a pretty good idea of how this is fitting together.

IBM’s tiny chips can be applied to a wide variety of products and used by companies to stay up to date on a network much like an “internet of things.” Those in charge of supply chain management will be able to consistently receive up-to-date information about products like where a shipment is, where an individual product is, and whether something happened to the product or not. According to the official IBM blockchain industry page:

Blockchain offers a shared ledger that is updated and validated in real time with each network participant. It enables equal visibility of activities and reveals where an asset is at any point in time, who owns it and what condition it’s in.

On top of that, IBM has been boasting the ability for the new computer to also aid in seriously cracking down on fraudulent activity and the promotion of fake products with their “crypto-anchors.” With the small computers and blockchain integration, suppliers will be able to verify real products from “replicas” and cut down on the rip off industry.

And if IBM bringing blockchain to the mainstream wasn’t exciting enough, there’s another reason to like the new computer. The tiny little blockchain device is only going to cost around $0.10/unit to produce. That’s a pretty affordable computer, especially if it’s going to supply so much for those engaged in managing supply chains.

The little device, while still a prototype, packs a fair amount of punch with it. The miniscule computer is designed as an entire system-on-a-chip (SoC), meaning the little guy has everything it needs built in, including storage, a processor, and communication ability with the rest of the network. That micro-computer is supposed to be able to operate on the same level as an x86 computer from 1990 as well. Now, that may not sound like a lot of processing power (because it really isn’t), but considering the size and specific application of the device, it’s a pretty powerful product.

IBM is definitely working to be a pioneer in this space, but as the movement gains tractions, be on the lookout for more adopters. We’ve already seen the blockchain mania with putting the title in the name of your company (like “Long Blockchain Corp.”), but the industry is going to see a lot more disruptive behavior once companies start actually implementing blockchain in practice, not just name.

Images and media courtesy of IBM, ZDNET

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Written by Pini Raviv @ March 31, 2018 Pini Raviv

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