Is IBM quantum computer ready for prime time?

The Q System One, showcased at CES, still a long way from quantum supremacy

The Q System One ostensibly shifts quantum computing from research labs and into commercial applications.
The Q System One ostensibly shifts quantum computing from research labs and into commercial applications.

IBM has caused quite a stir at this year’s CES, unveiling what it says is the first quantum computing system available for commercial use.  

The Q System One, housed in a curious nine-foot glass cube, for the first time expands quantum computing beyond the annals of research labs and into the practical domain of commercial quantum applications.

While this development shows progress in the field, the Q System One still falls short of “true” quantum supremacy, experts contend. The Q System One contains “only” 20 qubits, while 50 is the ideal number of qubits required for quantum computers to really hit their stride.

How does quantum computing work?

While standard computers store information in bits – either 1 or 0 – quantum computing uses qubits, which can represent both 1 and 0 at the same time. This state, called superposition, enables quantum computers to perform tasks thousands of times faster than even the most powerful computers available today, crucial in solving complex problems involving lots of parallel processing.


IBM Q System One

Quantum computers are extremely delicate beasts. Chips need to be kept at freezing temperatures and can be disturbed by the tiniest of electrical fluctuations or physical vibrations. Much of the research and development of quantum computers goes into maintaining this fragile equilibrium.

IBM is not alone in its quantum computing endeavours; other tech giants such as Google and Microsoft are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reach quantum supremacy.

You will not be able to pick up the Q System One at your local electronics store; the system is available only as-a-service via the cloud for companies and research institutes through the IBM Q Network.

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