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World's smallest computer: IBM's fraud-fighter is so tiny it's almost invisible

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IBM has unveiled a computer so small it can slip through a salt shaker and could help prevent the $600bn a year trade in counterfeit drugs, gadgets, and cash.

The company announced the new microcomputer on Monday at its Think conference and predicts it will play a key role in a blockchain network designed to monitor fraud in global supply chains.

The microscopic computer is one square millimeter in size and will act as a so-called 'crypto-anchor' in anti-fraud systems.

IBM says the devices cost just 10 cents to manufacture and contain "several hundred thousand transistors, storage, power, and communications capabilities all packed into a footprint about the size of a grain of salt".

IBM hasn't revealed specifications for the computer yet, but a spokesperson told ZDNet that each of the devices is as powerful as an x86 chip from the 1990s.

IBM researchers at the Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, will detail the computers in a forthcoming paper. In the meantime, IBM has offered a rough outline of the computer's schematics.

The photo below shows 64 motherboards. Two of the world's smallest computers are the raised cubes in the top-left corner, which are mounted on the motherboard beneath.

IBM reckons the dramatic fall in cost and size of the computers will make it possible to integrate them into products to ensure goods are authentic as they move through the supply chain and on to consumers.

See also: What is blockchain? Understanding the technology and the revolution [1](free PDF)

The tiny solar-powered computers IBM designed would be embedded in products and rely on LED lights to

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