IBM presented the world’s first commercial quantum computer, a technological milestone that could one day lead us all to own personal computers millions of times faster than the current machines we have.
Dubbed IBM Q System One, IBM’s supercomputer was officially unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES) in a 2.7-metre hermetic cube made of 1.27-centimetre-thick glass half-inch.
What is this computer like?
The first commercial quantum computer combines both quantum and "traditional" computing. IBM Q uses physics theories to create computer techniques much more powerful than current devices.
While the applications of quantum computing in the real world are still far away, the technology could be used to revolutionize fields as varied and interesting as medicine, artificial intelligence, financial markets and internet security.
The revolutionary new computer of IBM (already a definitive product and not in tests) will be the first of its kind to be put on sale for commercial use for companies when it is launched at the end of this year 2019.
IBM has been testing its Q System since 2016, which has been open to users and accessed by more than 100,000 researchers and scientists.
Quantum computing is radically different from the way computers operate today. Modern machines operate using a binary system of electron particles to give answers composed of ones and zeros to make decisions.
Quantum computers, however, use quantum particles known as qubits. Unlike electrons, qubits can take both positions of one and zero at a time, or a mixture of the two, and particles can interact with each other in a process known to physicists as "quantum entanglement".
This process makes the computer much more powerful than normal computers and can reach conclusions using gigantic data sets or very complicated algorithms much faster and more efficiently.
The IBM Q System One computer is shown to us as a stack of circuit boards and cables, enclosed in a metal cylinder and seated in a kind of sealed glass cube in which the computer operates hermetically to avoid interference with the exterior. This 'quantum safe' has been built by designers who have protected valuable goods such as the Crown Jewels or the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
The IBM computer is a 20-qubit machine, technically smaller than the 72-qubit quantum computer built by Google in its laboratory in Mountain View, California (U.S.A. Bristlecone).
Can I take him home?
Clearly not. The machine needs to be in an isolated environment with zero absolute temperatures, i.e., -273ºC, so it also requires a special installation and environment. This is the IBM Q Quantum Computation Center. This is where companies can come to use the computer.
Until now, IBM Q had been used to conduct experiments and tests by scientists. This launch is the first step in making quantum computers available to customers.
"The IBM Q System One is a big step forward in the commercialization of quantum computing," stated Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research. This new system is fundamental to expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab.
This is only the first approach, which is not bad.