While we’re still trying to figure out the possible advantages and applications of quantum computing, IBM has unveiled a sleek commercial quantum computer at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The 20-qubit system, called the IBM Q System One, is essentially a nine-foot glass box that houses the components needed to make quantum computations work, including a cooler that keeps the qubits at just above absolute zero, around -460 Fahrenheit. IBM touts the Q as the “world’s first fully integrated universal quantum computing system.”
Rather than selling the Q System One, IBM is planning to hook it up to the internet, allowing researchers, scientists, and engineers to take advantage of it remotely.
The System One isn’t the most powerful quantum computer out there. In fact, IBM itself already built a more poweful 50-qubit machine back in 2017.
A quantum bit — or qubit for short — is the equivalent of the zeros and ones that form a “bit” in a classic binary computing system. The more qubits, the more computations the machine can do at a time.
20 qubits is not powerful enough to replace the big number-crunching computations a traditional data center has to take care of these days. Researchers believe quantum computers would actually need far more to outperform their binary counterparts.
But that’s not the point. IBM is emphasizing that the Q is mostly a symbolic first step into the world of commercial quantum computing. It could also help researchers find applications for quantum computing in the world of science, and business that could make it actually, you know, useful one day.