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The world's smallest ARM chip announced, designed for swallowable computers (wired.com)
77 points by zaaaaz 1605 days ago | hide | past | web | 32 comments | favorite

ARM processors on that scale (2.17x2.32mm package) are commercially available today. The LPC1102LVUK from NXP for example. I don't really see why a chip that is only marginally smaller (1.9x2mm) and not available anywhere is getting this much attention.

Forgive my ignorance if I missed your point, but this is more of a SOC than just a processor; from the article: "The KL02 has 32k of flash memory, 4k of RAM, a 32 bit processor, and peripherals like a 12-bit analog to digital converter and a low-power UART built into the chip."

The LPC1102 has more or less all of those things as well. The ADC is not as high resolution, but that's really it. You can head over to Mouser and buy it for a couple of dollars and use it immediately (product number 771-LPC1102UK118). In comparison, the chip mentioned in the article is essentially a one-off run for a specific unnamed customer, and does not, for all practical purposes, exist to mere mortals like us.

The LPC1102LVUK is a microcontroller, just like the KLO2. 8K SRAM, 32K Flash on-chip, ADC, UART, SPI, built-in oscillator, GPIOs, etc.

Wow! Those are teeny! I've never seen microcontrollers that small. That'd make a pretty nice sized Arduino if Atmel made 328's that size.

Same Kliment from #reprap?

None of those come in a package nearly as small.

The data sheet claims that the ATtiny1634-UUR is 2.38x2.02mm, which to me does not seem all that much larger than the chips under discussion.

Ah, you are entirely correct. I didn't see the -U in the listing on Atmel's site, but it is indeed in the datasheet. The ball layout is a pain to route though, 0.4mm pitch.

These small developments are hugely exciting to me, primarily because they move us a little closer to the inevitable future of biological machines in our bodies.

Imagine little robots that crawl through your veins clearing out cholesterol, or hunting down cancer cells and signaling the immune system to attack them. We'll get there - probably sooner than most people think.

I think that, if we mamage to do that, the biochemists will win that race, not the lithographers.

Veins have the (for this goal) unfortunate property of repeatedly splitting into less wide veins. I think macrophages are the largest cells in the blood; they typically are 20 micrometer or 2E-5m in diameter. To get there, this thing would have to shrink by a factor of 100 linearly, or 10,000 in area. That's about 13 Moore's law iterations or 20-ish years.

I doubt we will get those from silicon. And that's ignoring the fact that capillaries are 5-10 micrometer; AFAIK, lots of cells have to fold to get through them.

Because of that, this 'ingestible' claim aims more at stuff working in your guts than at stuff making it into the bloodstream that way.

Its funny that when the word cyborg is mentioned, you immediately think about people with obvious physical enhancements, but micro machines like this would basically be invisible to other people.

The article's title, "Freescale’s Insanely Tiny ARM Chip Will Put the Internet of Things Inside Your Body" is entirely misleading. Has the IoT term really been watered down this much from its technical definition? The chip in question lacks the power necessary to support a full IP stack, which is necessary for there to be integrated with other things in an Internet. Perhaps the chip is marketed with a communication application in mind, but having devices talk to each other does not make it an Internet of Things.

You don't need a full IP stack in order to do something useful. 32 kB flash and 4 kB RAM is more than enough for basic IP-networking.

http://www.rowley.co.uk/msp430/uip.htm - requires less than 2 kB RAM, 12916 bytes of flash.

http://dunkels.com/adam/miniweb/ - a minimal "web server", supports only one connection at a time among other restrictions. But it needs only 30 bytes of RAM. Yes, 30 bytes, not kilobytes.

Author of miniweb and uIP here. uIP is a real IPv4 stack, with all the needed bells and whistles, but miniweb really is only a super-specific proof-of-concept that is not particularly useful for anything else than demonstrating that it can be done.

While something like uIP definitely can be used (and is being used) for IoT applications, uIP only is an IPv4 endpoint. Most IoT applications have a wireless communication medium which by its nature is fluctuating and unpredictable, so you'll typically want to have support for a self-healing wireless mesh network. Such a mesh network adds a bit of complexity, code footprint, and memory usage. And since existing low-power meshing standards like IETF RPL are defined for IPv6 and not IPv4, you need to have support for IPv6 as well. So in the end, the nice and small footprint of uIP will have grown. Also, the footprint for uIP given on the Rowley page are for the stack alone, and does not include things like radio drivers or an OS scheduler.

For a full-mesh low-power IPv6 IoT system, a more realistic figure is what we have in Thingsquare Mist (http://thingsquare.com/mist/), where mesh nodes with a full Contiki OS and IPv6 support have a code footprint closer to 50k than 12k. That said, we have successfully been running Thingsquare Mist on devices with 32k flash and 4k RAM, like the KL02 ARM device in the article. But this has been for non-mesh fringe nodes that only used UDP/IPv6 multicasts to communicate with its immediate neighbors, and no mesh networking.

very cool. thanks for sharing. Whats a good starting point to understand the network engineering going on at this resource regime?

Just a few quick pointers from the top of my head:

Nice starting point to get a feeling for power/throughput trade-offs in low-power wireless networking: http://sing.stanford.edu/pubs/sing-08-00.pdf

Sensys 2008 paper about web services for tiny IoT systems: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/zhao/pubs/tws0...

Proceedings of the IEEE 2010 article on IPv6 for low-power wireless: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~jwhui/pubs/jhui-ieeeproc112010.p...

Sensys 2011 papers on trade-offs and interoperability of RPL mesh routing for low-power IPv6 and on TCP for low-power wireless: http://dunkels.com/adam/ko11beyond.pdf http://dunkels.com/adam/duquennoy11lossy.pdf

There are also two books on the subject and a bunch of relevant papers on the Contiki website: http://6lowpan.net/the-book/ http://www.thenextinternet.org/ http://www.contiki-os.org/support.html

(Full disclosure: I'm a co-author on a bunch of those last pointers.)

Thanks! (Thats part of why I asked!)

I'm actually slowly spending a bit of time on the side chewing on how to write a simple user land network stack (mostly because I want to really understand standard transport protocol semantics and performance), so looking at the low power / embedded regime and trying to understand that piece too is just kinda fun :)

It made 50% sense to me, but thanks for being awesome :D You sounds like a nice person!

Internet of Things and M2M doesn't imply IP stack. In many cases it will be a slow non-IP network. For example most Smart Meters communicate over PLC (PowerLine Communication) once every night - I.e. even not Realtime, like regular IP communication.

Has the IoT term really been watered down this much from its technical definition?

It happens to all sorts of good words; I cease to be surprised.

I feel that at this point the bottleneck is our ability to safely and reversibly enhance human bodies with all of the amazing technology we've created in the past few decades. Maybe this has always been the case, but it seems ever more so now.

I can certainly foresee future technology visionaries' frustration with having amazing nano-scale machines with which they want to experiment and push humanity's boundaries, but no way to guarantee that there won't be severe consequence to one's health on the long term.

The chip is small, but the USB connection is a b*tch.

Really, though, it gives rise to other potential dangers (not that that's a reason to not do it). Imagine a USB flash drive with a full computer behind it (but so small you'd not know it was there).

There are real uses that would benefit greatly from this, such as artificial eyes that could do whole image processing and send it on to the brain.

Imagine a USB flash drive with a full computer behind it?


Is $200.

Google Glass 2? :)

Definitely a comment worthy of down votes.

Interesting. Freescale's original press release didn't mention that the chip was designed for swallowable computers: http://media.freescale.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=196520&p=irol...

Now, just strap a 2 pound battery to it and you'll be set.

It would be good if they could figure out a way to use our body's electricity, no idea how though.

There are studies underway about converting body glucose into electricity. Fascinating stuff.


Talk about Trusted Platforms, how do I add the FDA's signing cert to my immune system?

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