No, IBM’s Quantum Computer Won’t Break Bitcoin
January 13th, 2019
IBM recently unveiled its Q System One at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019, with the company describing the quantum computer as being developed for “commercial use.” Despite numerous media outlets again decrying the imminent death of Bitcoin, IBM’s quantum system is not the game-changer that many are heralding it to be.
IBM Unveils Quantum Computing System
IBM’s commercial launch of its new quantum computing system has fueled reports claiming that the technology may spell doom for bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
The reports are based on a long-standing fear that the advent of quantum computing could break contemporary encryption practices, undermining the security of distributed ledger technologies.
The Q System One uses IBM’s 20-qubit chip, with the company claiming that the unit is “designed for commercial use.” At launch, Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research, described the system as “critical in expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab as we work to develop practical quantum applications for business and science.”
Despite IMB implying that the computer can be physically purchased, the device is only accessible via the cloud due to the extreme delicacy and climate required to operate quantum chips. According to Gizmodo, IBM also “already offers cloud-based access to its [quantum] experience, which includes the 20-qubit chip.”
Experts Doubt Practical Uses for IBM’s 20-Qubit System
While a number of analysts have noted the commercial significance of IBM’s Q System One, many onlookers are skeptical of the capabilities of the system, instead suggesting that 50-qubit chips are likely to have a greater array of practical applications.
Helmut Katzgraber, the principal researcher at Microsoft Quantum, similarly described IBM’s announcement as a “historical milestone to be able to commercially acquire a digital device, even though the technology,” but anticipates that the system will be of little use beyond research and PR.
IBM Q System One Comprises Commercial Rather Than Computational Milestone
Despite describing the increasing accessibility of quantum computing as “significant,” Andrew Childs, the co-director of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science at the University of Maryland, expressed skepticism regarding IBM’s device, stating: “Ultimately though, I think figuring out how to make a lot of low-noise qubits is a lot more important than figuring out how to put them in a beautiful package.”
“It’s more like a stepping stone than a practical quantum computer,” stated Winfried Hensinger, professor of quantum technologies at the University of Sussex. “Don’t think of this as a quantum computer that can solve all of the problems quantum computing is known for. Think of it as a prototype machine that allows you to test and further develop some of the programmings that might be useful in the future,” he added.