IBM has doubled the power of its quantum computer. At yesterday's CES 2020 conference, the company announced it had successfully achieved a Quantum Volume of 32 using its 28-qubit quantum computer known as Raleigh.
In short, Quantum Volume is the metric used to describe the complexity of problems that can be solved by a quantum computer. The Quantum Volume can be used to compare the performance of different quantum computers and IBM has managed to double this value each year, since 2016.
Quantum computers have long been hailed as one of the most important innovations of the 21st century, with potential applications in practically every industry—ranging from healthcare and artificial intelligence to financial modeling and much more.
IBM's quantum computer on show last year at CeBIT. Image: Shutterstock
However, quantum computers have only recently entered a stage of development where they can be considered practical, with the first bona fide quantum computer being unveiled by Jonathan Home back in 2009. Since then, development in quantum computers has picked up considerably, with the industry currently being dominated by a handful of tech giants—including the likes of Google and IBM.
Although IBM's latest advancements can be considered significant progress, quantum computers can currently only be used for very specific tasks—e.g. they are far from the general-purpose classical computers we are accustomed to using. As such, concerns that they could be used to break the cryptography used to secure cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin remain unfounded, at least for now.
As a network built entirely around cryptographically secured transactions, it stands to reason that a sufficiently powerful quantum computer could eventually crack the encryption used to generate Bitcoin private keys. However, according to a June 2017 paper by Martin Roetteler and several co-authors, such as a machine would need to command approximately 2,500 qubits of processing power to break the 256-bit encryption used by Bitcoin.
Since the current most powerful quantum computer only features a 72-qubit processor, it will take several years for quantum computers to reach encryption-threatening levels. But with IBM doubling its computing power every year and Google having reached Quantum Supremacy, it is still a threat. As a result, there are currently efforts underway to ensure Bitcoin is resistant to potential quantum computing attacks.