Is IBMs quantum computer on CES a major breakthrough?

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 Is IBMs quantum computer on CES a major breakthrough?

[Netease Intelligent News, Jan. 11] At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2019, IBM presented its latest model of the quantum computer IBMQ System One. Critics say that the quantum computer is situated in a glass frame 2.3 meters high and looks like a work of art. Although it looks delicate, it is still an experimental device.

IBM claims that QSystem One is the first fully integrated universal quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial purposes in the world, but this is a questionable description. QSystemOne may be designed for commercial use, but it is not yet fully ready. Not the quantum computer you imagined. Quantum computers like QSystemOne are still basically experimental devices. In practical tasks, they cant outperform classical computers (in fact, your laptop may be more powerful in real-life practical computing), instead, they are research tools. Lets see how quantum devices work.

Winfried Hensinger, professor of quantum technology at the University of Sussex, UK, said, Its more like a stepping stone than a practical quantum computer. Dont think of it as a quantum computer that can solve all the problems that quantum computing knows, but think of it as a prototype that allows you to test and further develop programs that may be useful in the future.

Even as an experimental device, IBM is not planning to start selling QSystem One at Best Buy. The company did not disclose the cost of purchasing these machines, or even the quantity of their production.

Like other IBM quantum computers, users can only access them through the cloud, and companies and research institutes can buy time on IBM QNetwork. IBM also announced two new customers: Exxon Mobil, an energy giant, and CERN, the European Research Laboratory that built the Large Hadron Collider.

When it comes to quantum computing, we must know that quantum bits, or qubits, are the basic units of information used by quantum computers. Unlike conventional bits, which store data as 1 or 0, quantum bits make full use of quantum phenomena called superposition. This means that they actually exist as 1 and 0 at the same time. The advantage of this kind of computing is that it can multiply the amount of information you can process. A pair of quantum bits that can exist as 1 or 0 can represent four possible states. Three quantum bits can represent eight states. 300 qubits can represent more states than the total number of atoms in the universe.

So whats so special about QSystem One?

IBM says the main achievement is to turn an experimental quantum machine into a system that is more reliable (and looks like a mainframe computer). Quantum computing is extremely complex and sophisticated. Chips need to be kept at freezing temperatures and vulnerable to small current fluctuations or physical vibration. IBM says QSystem One can minimize these problems.

Its the technology IBM brings to the market, and others dont really do it. We know how to do integrated systems. Bob Sutor, IBMs vice president of quantum research, said, Electronic products for quantum computers are not readily available. You need a temperature control environment, you need to minimize vibration, and you need to minimize any factors that might interfere with quantum computing.

A practical advantage of machines like QSystem One, Sutor says, is that it reduces the downtime in research. After a power surge caused confusion or dissatisfaction among technicians, it was much faster to reset a quantum computer on a device like QSystem One. It used to take days or weeks, but now it only takes an hour or a few days, Sutor said. Although these may sound like marginal gains, reliable research is absolutely crucial if we can use quantum computers to change the world in the way we dream of (for example, discovering new drugs, exploring fusion energy).

Figure: IBMs quantum computer (such as the one in Milan) is a precision machine.

Perhaps equally important, QSystem One seems to be part of it. The machine was designed by MapProject Office, an industrial design consulting firm that has worked with Sonos, Honda and Graphcore. QSystemOne is mounted in a 9-foot-high borosilicate glass cube with a delicate interior structure wrapped in a shiny, round, black shell. This is reminiscent of Apples MacPro in 2013 and Monolith in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It looks like a computer from the future.

For IBM, this is not just an added benefit, but part of the plan. The 107-year-old company may still earn billions of dollars a quarter (mainly from traditional corporate transactions), but it faces what some analysts call an irreversible structural recession. In the latest growth area of the technology industry: mobile and cloud computing have failed to take the lead, and it needs new revenue sources to survive the second century. Artificial intelligence is a stake, and quantum computing is another.

Sutor points out that QSystemOne should inspire confidence in both quantum computing and IBM itself. When people see quantum computing systems, their eyes glow because they understand that this system, which is rumored or too futuristic, is finally starting to produce. When they see this system, they can say,Ah, IBM sees the way ahead!

Machines like QSystemOne are still useful in these terms to give people a glimpse of the future. But what we need to remember is that there is still a lot of work to be done. I dont think its a breakthrough, but its an important step toward commercialization of quantum computing, Hensinger said.

(Selected from: The Verge Author: James Vincent Compiler: Netease Intelligent Participation: nariiiy)

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Source: Netease Intelligent Responsible Editor: Wang Chao_NT4133