What is your BIG idea for a tiny technology?
engineering design computers technology creative problem solving applications product innovation devices
top 3
32 months ago
There will be 3 prizes awarded for the top ideas: 1st place - $1,500, 2nd place - $700, 3rd place - $400
Small pic intel 1


Imagine the tiniest computers, smaller than a grain of rice down to a grain of sand!  Sometimes known as smart dust (or millimeter scale computing), these micro-computer systems may have the following example functionalities:

  • -Sensing & actuating - for example, but not limited to light, temperature, humidity, touch, vibration, magnetism, chemicals, any other known / future technologies
  • -Mobilizing - they might be able to fly, drive, or just stay in one place
  • -Communicating - in varied methods to and with the environment, and functioning as part of a swarm or on their own
  • -Harvesting their own energy and never getting charged
  • -Operating autonomously 

In the future, smart dust will be used all around us (even inside of us!) and has a wide array of potential applications for humans, machines, and within the environment.  Smart dust can also be embedded in existing products or replace / enhance products that we see in the market today that can benefit from having tiny brains.  

Consider the following example uses for these micro-scale computers:

  • -Replacing pollination by bees
  • -Detecting and preventing diseases
  • -Dropping them into a forest fire to measure wind direction and temperature 
  • -Detecting hazardous conditions in industrial systems in locations too difficult or dangerous for a human to visit 
  • -Controlling the future battlefield 
  • -Developing smart materials
  • -Monitoring and metering


We are interested in the ways that smart dust may influence our daily lives in the future.  We want YOU to propose a new application for smart dust that will showcase the value of this tiny technology!  Specifically, please answer the following:

1. Describe your concept for smart dust:

  • - What will it do?
  • - What problem(s) does it solve?
  • - How could it enhance your daily life? 
  • - How will people, machines, or the environment interact with it?  

2. Why is your idea possible with smart dust and not larger computing systems?