Different groups of folks like HP and IMEC are working on miniscule self-contained chips that can collect and/or store data and then transmit it when requested.
I love science fiction. I recently re-read an old favorite Great Sky River by Gregory Benford. In a nutshell, we're about 30,000 years in the future on a planet called Snowglade orbiting a sun close to the galactic center.
Basically we're following the lives of a several "families" (more like tribes) of humans who are genetically adapted and augmented with a variety of electronic devices. In addition to their normal senses, their body suits and helmets cocoon them in a "sensorium" which converts external stimuli such as radio waves into forms they can understand.
One downside (apart from the fact that they are being hunted down like vermin by robots) is that but I could rabbit on about this for hours. The point is that their equivalent of data chips and processors are embedded everywhere; in their suits, in their bodies, in buildings, and so forth.
The reason this popped into my mind was the recent article on EE Times about the Miniscule Data Chip being developed by Hewlett-Packard (HP). The size of a grain of rice, this little rapscallion includes memory and a built-in antenna.
The chip has a 10 megabits-per-second data transfer rate, which is 10 times faster than Bluetooth wireless technology and comparable to Wi-Fi speeds. Initial versions will have enough capacity to store a short video clip or dozens of pages of text. This isn't much, but it's a start.
This also reminds me of some very interesting experimental work being performed by the Belgium company IMEC. When I was at the Multicore Expo earlier this year, they were telling me about some interesting micro-devices they were working on.
These tiny little scamps (I seem to recall that they are somewhat smaller than the HP devices) are self contained and scavenge their power from the environment (temperature and pressure changes). They can sit around gathering data, and when requested by some external source they transmit this data via an inbuilt RF stage and antenna. The mind boggles! Where will we by in 20, 50, 100 years time?
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.