Quantum Computer
© IBM/AFP/File
This undated file photo courtesy of IBM shows Watson, powered by IBM POWER7
A major announcement was made at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas, from IBM. This was the presentation of the computer firm's first commercial quantum computer. This is a 20-qubit 'hybrid' system, capable of quantum and conventional computing operations.

By hybrid, this is an indication that the new offering from IBM combines into a single platform a quantum computer together with a classical computer. The new computer is aimed at academic and business applications (particularity financial services, pharmaceuticals and for developers of artificial intelligence), and it is the first quantum computer from IBM for use outside of its own facility (where people can access quantum computers via cloud services).

IBM's development is called the the IBM Q system. The system boasts state-of-the-art superconducting qubits that can operate rapidly, performing operations within 100 microseconds. The main computer is housed within a nine-foot-tall, nine-foot-wide case of half-inch thick borosilicate glass forming a sealed, airtight enclosure, which has been designed by leading design firms, including Milan-based Goppion.

The housing is not only about design. The casing is vital to the quantum operation, where cryogenic engineering is required to deliver a continuous cold and isolated quantum environment. Within the device, high precision electronics, in compact form, work to tightly control large numbers of qubits.


According to Arvind Krishna, Senior Vice President of Hybrid Cloud and director of IBM Research: "The IBM Q System One is a major step forward in the commercialization of quantum computing. 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."

While the new computer is powerful, it remains a long way from the true potentate of quantum computing, according to analysis by TechCrunch. However, the new device will be scalable and it presents an important first step in the development and eventual adoption of quantum computing technology.

Other major technology firms are developing quantum computers: Intel is working on a 49 qubit chip; Google is designing a 72-qubit system called Bristlecone; and Microsoft is hoping to create a topological quantum computer.

There are risks presented from quantum computers, such as using the computing power to break cryptography associated with conventional computers. This risk has been identified by the U.S. security services, as Digital Journal has covered (see: "U.S. sees quantum computing and AI as 'emerging threats'").