A recent MIT Technology review, “Wanted for the Internet of Things: Ant-Sized Computers,” illustrated just how small one of the smallest is – see the chip on a computer keyboard key:
“The tiny KL02 microcontroller, made by Freescale, was created to enable swallowable wireless computers, and contains an energy efficient processor, memory, and RAM”
The technical challenges of packaging all of the components very closely, without them interfering with each other, are considerable. One approach is to enclose the memory in a mini-Faraday cage!
Providing power can be a challenge since the battery must be so small, but powering from the environment, such as through solar or through a chemical reaction in the gut as in the case of the Proteus Digital Health ingestible smart sensor, are practical posibilities.
The concept of smartdust was first proposed in 1992 and was initially studied for defense applications. Clearly it is getting closer to reality and could have many health applications. It makes you wonder how close we are to an advertisement such as this:
“New Smart Cream monitors and treats your arthritis. Apply once daily. Powered by the Sun”