IBM Showcases "Crypto-Anchors" at Think 2018

Faith Obafemi
Mar 23, 2018

Innovative technologies are those that fundamentally change how things are done in business and society. Five technologies that fit this description are selected yearly by IBM as a part of the "5 in 5" program. This program is IBM's opportunity to showcase to the world innovative technologies birthed at its Research global labs. To earn a spot on the list, the technologies must be capable of fundamentally disrupting the status quo in the next five years.

At Think 2018 in Las Vegas, where this year's “5 in 5 at a Science Slam” was held, IBM featured an ultra-miniaturized cryptographic anchor that can help fight product fraud. This tech comes from the "Industry Platform and Blockchain" team at IBM Research Zurich lead by Andreas Kind.

At a production cost of less than 10 cents, and with a size smaller than a grain of salt, the crypto anchors are deemed world's smallest computers. They contain several hundreds of thousands of transistors and can collate, monitor and even act on data. Customers can expect to get the products in hand within 18 months.

According to Arvind Krishna, head of IBM Research: “They’ll be used in tandem with blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to ensure an object’s authenticity from its point of origin to when it reaches the hands of the customer. These technologies pave the way for new solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects and provenance of luxury goods.”

The new tech can be used to verify authenticity of products using a cryptographically secure, tamper-proof signature. This is one physical use case for blockchain technology aimed at improving IoT solutions. Applicable areas include pharmaceuticals, supply chain and the whole journey from manufacturer to consumer for any product.

When a product's authenticity is verifiable, instances of fraud and counterfeits are eliminated. This works by the customer crosschecking that the product's information match the records kept on the blockchain since the product's manufacture.

Effects of counterfeits in the market range from financial to health risks. Markets usually affected include pharmaceuticals, makeup and cosmetics, food and household items. A way if verifying these products would be by embedding crypto-anchors in them.

You can watch the presentation for crypto-anchor and others in the "5 in 5" here.

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