Government Looks to IBM for Exploding Electronics

We've already got the technology to remotely wipe data from our devices if they are lost or stolen. But the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) wants to go one step further with sophisticated sensor devices it hopes to use on the battlefields of the future.

With the help of tech giant IBM, the DoD wants to deploy gadgets that can be blown to bits via remote control to keep them from falling into enemy hands.

Glass As Driving Force

The department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency last month awarded Big Blue a contract worth $3.45 million for Vanishing Programmable Resources, (VAPR) a cute acronym for a technology that basically vaporizes electronics.

The grant published on the government's General Services Administration Web site, and first reported by the British Broadcasting Company, aims to "develop and establish a basis set of materials, components, integration, and manufacturing capabilities to undergird this new class of electronics."

According to the DARPA synopsis, IBM will use strained glass substrates to shatter as the driving force to reduce device chips to worthless powder.

"A trigger, such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will be used to initiate shattering, in at least one location, on the glass substrate," it said. "An external [radio frequency] signal will be required for this process to be initiated. IBM will explore various schemes to enhance glass shattering and techniques to transfer this into the attached CMOS [complementary metal oxide semiconductor] devices."

The announcement comes at the same time that the California state Senate is considering a bill that would empower civilians to do something similar, though less destructive, by mandating so-called "kill switches" that would render smartphones inoperable if stolen.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told us that bricking a device or wiping out data might be OK for a device that holds personal information or...

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