Ant-sized chips enable Internet of Pills

May 31st, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

This article was authored by John C. Tanner, and was originally posted on

The so-called “Internet of Things” currently consists mainly of smart meters, webcams and whatever major appliance you can fit a wireless broadband radio into (TVs, refrigerators, coffee makers, vending machines, cars, etc). In the future, that will expand to include pills.

No, really. Work is already being done to develop pills that can be swallowed to gather and transmit data from inside the human body. The challenge to doing that, of course, is making a chipset, sensor and radio small enough to fit in a capsule, and cheap enough to be disposable (since yr not likely to get it back, and probably wouldn’t want it back even if you could).

Freescale Semiconductor says it has done just that with its KL02 chipset, which includes a processor, RAM and memory, and is around the size of an ant. And while the genesis of the KL02 was creating a swallowable computer for medical research, integrated millimeter-sized chips could enable all kinds of things to be outfitted with sensors and an internet connection, reports Technology Review:

If connected sensors are to be spread throughout the world around us, those technologies need to shrink in size, power consumption, and price […]. 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.

Freescale will start offering the KL02 along with some slightly larger microcontrollers, all with Wi-Fi integrated, later this year. Wireless connectivity is added by stacking the guts of a Wi-Fi chip on top of the current designs. The company is also working to refine technology for packaging chips and other components together to enable many more millimeter-scale computers.

Needless to say, that kind of integration at millimeter scales is not a trivial undertaking, and that’s before you get to other issues like battery power.

Still, such work seems likely to get us well on our way to move from the Internet of Things to the Internet of Literally Everything.

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