Quantum computing has always sparked the imagination of technology enthusiasts and scientists. Until now, the process to gain access to a supercomputer remains quite expensive. IBM hopes to change all that by launching the “Q” service, which provides quantum computing as a service. An intriguing development that will potentially spur a new race to build the world’s fastest supercomputer.
A Quantum Computer as a Service
On paper, it sounds rather crazy to think anyone in the world could get access to a supercomputer. Most consumers and small businesses do not have any use for this technology whatsoever. Computers and even smartphones are more than powerful enough for consumers looking to complete basic tasks. However, IBM Q is not necessarily designed for the average person on the street.
More specifically, IBM Q is a commercially available universal quantum computer for both businesses and scientists. It is widely believed quantum computing would provide solutions to important problems otherwise too complex to solve through traditional means. It is quite an intriguing project that can currently be accessed free of charge upon providing academic credentials. Do keep in mind users will be somewhat limited as to what they can do during the early stages of IBM Q availability, though.
Under the hood, IBM Q makes use of two universal quantum computing processors. The project provides 16 qubits of computing power for public use and 17 qubits of computing power for commercial use. This first processor can be accessed through the IBM Cloud service at no additional cost, which is a nice gesture. The commercial processor, on the other hand, is twice as powerful as the free version. It is unclear how much access to this resource will cost, though.
Even though this is a major breakthrough in the world of quantum computing, this hardware will not solve every problem in the world. It will also pose no threat to the Bitcoin ecosystem whatsoever, as the computing resources made available – both free of charge and in exchange for a payment – are not powerful enough to threaten Bitcoin’s cryptography. Should the available resources be increased in quantity and capacity, that could change in the future. Even then, it seems highly unlikely someone would deliberately try to “break” Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
It is quite impressive to see how far we have come in the world of quantum computing. Access to such powerful resources seemed to be strictly off-limits for multiple decades. Yet here we are in the year 2017, a time during which quantum computing as a service became an official service. It is a bit unclear who will use IBM Q – the free tier, that is – but it is a more than welcome development regardless.
The bigger question is whether or not IBM Q offers an intuitive graphical user interface for people to enjoy. Having access to more powerful computing resources is one thing, but if it is difficult to make sense of it all, IBM Q will only be half as appealing. It will be interesting to see how the general public responds to this development. Rest assured this will generate a buzz of excitement in academic circles, though.
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