One of the largest crimes to emerge in this century is counterfeiting electronics. As resources become more abundant, the means of access substantially increase. To counter these increasingly open-source crimes, DARPA has begun development of tiny semiconductor chiplets known as “dielets,” which will be affixed to virtually any object you can think of.
“We are on track to build the world’s smallest highly integrated computer chip. If we succeed, then an untrained operator at any place along the supply chain will be able to interrogate the authenticity of any component used by the Defense Department or in the commercial sector, and get high-confidence results back immediately, on site, securely and essentially for free.”
– Kerry Bernstein, DARPA Program Manager
At the moment, these dielets are nothing more than duds. Though in the future, DARPA’s SHIELD envision these dielets to essentially become “Lilliputian electronic tamper-watching sentinels.” They may appear tiny, but they’ll also be attached with around 100,000 transistors, alongside several features and functions, such as two-way radio communication, on-board encryption, energy harvesting, and sensors for tamper-detection.
If successful, these tiny computer chips will safeguard any and all electronics from being counterfeited. That is the goal of DARPA, after all. However, if anyone were to detect these dielets and have nefarious motives, there is also the possibility of reverse-engineering them. As a result, a whole new black market of re-purposed dielets will stream across society, used for any number of reasons. One hopes the on-board encryption of these dielets will live up to usefulness. If not, who’s going to safeguard the anti-electronic counterfeiting chips from being counterfeited themselves?
Photo Credit: DARPA