IBM unveiled a first-of-its-kind quantum computer at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday January 8th.
While not yet for sale, the IBM Q System One houses 20 qubits – particles capable of variations far more complex than traditional binary computer bits – in an imposing 3 by 3 metre cube.
That cube, which is encased by a half-inch layer of glass, was created by the same designers behind the glass surrounding the British Crown Jewels and the Mona Lisa.
Inside it hangs a cylinder housing both the cryogenic equipment that keeps the tiny quantum particles at a temperature close to absolute zero and an advanced system of circuits and wires to control and read the qubits.
While not as large as Google’s 75-qubit quantum computer housed in Mountain View, California, the IBM Q One is the first time a quantum computer has been packaged in as a fully self-contained unit. IBM is calling it an “iconic moment” for quantum computing, even though real-world applications for such computers are still years away.
Experts say that once fully realised quantum computers are made and software is created for them, they will have the potential to revolutionise scientific computing, internet security, medicine, artificial intelligence, and more.
In May 2018, Arvind Krishna, the director of IBM Research, told a panel in San Francisco that quantum computers will be able to instantly break the strongest encryption available today. "Anyone that wants to make sure that their data is protected for longer than 10 years should move to alternate forms of encryption now," Krishna said, according to ZDNet.com.
While IBM’s Q systems have been available since 2016, IBM Research says that its new System One “enables universal approximate superconducting quantum computers to operate outside the research lab,” signifying “a major step forward in the commercialization of quantum computing.”