IBM expects to be commercializing quantum computers within 3-5 years. Time is certainly ticking, but the cryptocurrency community still has time to prepare.
Quantum computers will become commercially viable once they can outperform the existing supercomputers. This event may possibly occur in the early 2020s, according to Norishige Morimoto, Director of Research and global vice president at IBM.
Quantum Computers on the Horizon
At this stage, IBM provides both free and paid access to its quantum computers, however, the company intends to commercialize the technology as soon as it becomes quicker than supercomputers at finishing specific tasks.
The latest IBM quantum computing system, System Q One, has a 20-qubit quantum processor with a quantum volume of 16. To achieve quantum supremacy, it needs to reach a benchmark of at least 50 qubits.
The company claims that the computing performance of its systems doubles every year in line with Moore’s Law adapted by IBM for quantum computers. Speaking at the opening session of the IBM Think Summit in Taipei on May 22, Norishige Morimoto confirmed that IBM’s next-generation quantum computer (with an as-yet-unconfirmed number of qubits) would be suitable for commercialization.
Effects on the Cryptocurrency Industry
Quantum computing has fantastic potential and many use cases in different industries, including artificial intelligence (AI), molecular modeling, and cryptography.
The theory goes that, being powerful enough, a quantum computer will be able to decrypt the keys created with most of the currently existing cryptographic algorithms. To compare, supercomputers would need to spend several universe lifetimes to crack a credit card with the existing RSA cryptographic algorithm.
Meanwhile, quantum computing makes this task easily doable thanks to Shor’s algorithm. As such, it poses a threat to decentralized networks, as their cryptographic algorithms will become vulnerable to hacks. Considering the censorship-resistant nature of blockchains, it will be difficult, if possible at all, to reverse any transactions once users’ public keys are compromised.
Two things should be considered before we hit the panic button. First, at the initial stages, quantum computers will have only limited application in the AI industry. According to IBM’s Morimoto, it will take time for AI to be able to perform data inferences through deep learning.
Moreover, quantum computers require extremely low temperatures for normal functioning, which means that they won’t likely get adopted on a mass scale anytime soon, even after quantum supremacy is achieved.IBM’s System Q One may be a masterpiece of innovative engineering, but it is very far from practical application. Click To Tweet
According to Winfried Hensinger, professor of quantum technologies at the UK’s University of Sussex, IBM’s quantum computer is more like a symbol than a practical device. Even being faster than existing machines, they cannot efficiently solve the tasks that quantum computing is known for, stating,
“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.”
Industry On Alert
With this background, it is evident that no quantum armageddon is coming for cryptography and blockchain engineering any time soon. Years will pass before negative scenarios related to quantum computing will become a reality. This is provided that blockchain and cryptography engineers sit on their hands and do nothing to avoid the threat, which is not the case.
Moreover, quantum computing has the potential to make a revolution in cryptography cybersecurity. In fact, certain methods of quantum cryptography can be used to create over-protected communication channels and vulnerability-resistant encryption methods.
Do you believe that quantum computing is a threat to blockchain? How will this technology influence future cryptocurrency industry developments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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