If the Internet is to reach everywhere—from the pills you swallow to the shoes on your feet—then computers will need to get a whole lot smaller. A new microchip that is two millimeters square and contains almost all the components of a tiny functioning computer is a promising start.
The KL02 chip, made by Freescale, is shorter on each side than most ants are long and crams in memory, RAM, a processor, and more. The genesis of the chip was a customer asking for help creating a wireless device small enough to be easily swallowed and cheap enough to be considered “digestible.” Freescale is now offering the chip for general sale, and also embarking on an R&D push to create more tiny computers that also include sensors and wireless data connections.
“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.”
If connected sensors are to be spread throughout the world around us, those technologies need to shrink in size, power consumption, and price, says Karimi. Freescale is betting that one of the best ways to do that is to integrate, into a single chip, components such as processors, memory, sensors, radios, and antennas that would usually be laid out across a circuit board.
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