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IBM’s new quantum computer will have you drooling

Written by Wed 9 Jan 2019

Unveiled at CES, IBM’s Quantum Q System One is designed for commercial and scientific use and will reside in the cloud

In the centre of a cold tiled room sits a monolithic glass cube. Inside, suspended from its upper ceiling, hangs a mercurial cylinder reflecting its surrounds like a monochrome kaleidoscope.

The scene is unmistakably sci-fi, but this dazzling object is not an extraterrestrial that has arrived unannounced, but an earthborn quantum computer, produced by the ever-enduring IBM and dubbed ‘Q System One’.

IBM took the wraps off its new “integrated universal approximate” quantum system at CES last night, which Big Blue says is the world’s first designed for enterprise and academic use.

Businesses and academics won’t be able to (technically) get their hands on the new system however, as IBM will be keeping Q System One tucked away, leasing access only via IBM cloud.

Other quantum companies offer cloud access to their systems, a trend started by IBM several years ago. But by enlisting the company that makes display cases for the Mona Lisa and the crown jewels, IBM evidently thinks one way to attract a critical mass to its quantum cloud service is to produce the most attractive quantum block, on the block.

Quantum of promise

Powered by quantum bits, or qubits. Quantum computers promise to exceed the performance of the most advanced supercomputers.

Researchers and innovators claim that with sufficient high-quality, usable qubits, they will be able to simulate complex problems, such as producing more accurate models of chemical reactions or financial data, or optimising logistics and fleet operations.

However, the commercial viability of quantum computing is questionable, given the delicate nature of qubits — which have previously been compared to snowflakes. IBM’s half-inch-thick borosilicate display case is not merely aesthetic, but specifically designed to minimise the disturbances that can destroy qubits.

IBM is opening its Q Quantum Computation Center in New York later this year, which will expand the IBM Q Network commercial quantum computing program, which already includes systems at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York.

The new centre will house some of IBM’s most advanced cloud-based quantum computing systems, accessible to members of the IBM Q Network, a worldwide community of leading Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions, and national research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore its practical applications.

“The IBM Q System One is a major step forward in the commercialization of quantum computing,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud and director of IBM Research.

“This new system is critical in expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab as we work to develop practical quantum applications for business and science.”

Written by Wed 9 Jan 2019

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