Millimeter-Scale Computing For 'Internet of Things'

The ant-sized KL02 chip was created by Freescale to help a customer who wanted a wireless device that could be easily swallowed, and therefore digestible. Now, they're available for general sale.

(KL02 microcontroller)

“The Internet of things is ultimately about services, like your thermostat connecting to the Internet and knowing when you’re coming home,” says Kaivan Karimi, director of global strategy for microcontrollers at Freescale, “but the technology those [services] are based on is embedded processing and sensors.”

Bringing sensors and other components close together creates challenges because they each produce their own kind of electronic noise that can interfere with the workings of other components. It’s an area of chip engineering that is suddenly more important than processing power, says Karimi. “It is a packaging exercise, not a Moore’s Law problem, and the ultimate miniaturized version requires different sorts of packaging technology from what we’ve used in the past.”

Fans of Stanislaw Lem recall the incredible Gigagnostotron from his 1965 novel The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age. Its smallest components were computers as small as a grain of sand:

"The desert on our planet is in reality no desert, but a Gigagnostotron, in other words a good 10^9 times more powerful than this primitive device of yours. Our ancestors created it for the simple reason that anything else would have been too easy for them; in their megalomania they thought to make the very sand beneath their feet intelligent..."
(Read more about Lem's smart dust)

Via KurzweilAI and MIT's Technology Review.

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