IBM announces quantum computer, new weather forecasting system at CES 2019

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IBM Q System 1 Quantum Computer
Photo courtesy of IBM

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show featured compelling announcements from the world’s most innovative technology companies. Not to be outdone by its younger rivals, legacy tech giant IBM made two major announcements at CES.

The first was that the company has finally developed a commercial quantum computer. The new superposition machine, called the IBM Q System One, is housed within a nine by nine-foot hermetic glass and steel case designed to minimize vibrational interference.

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To construct the 50 qubit machine, IBM enlisted its best engineers as well as a host of industrial designers and manufacturers. Many of these individuals even have experience in creating secure displays to showcase extremely valuable art and national treasures.

IBM hopes for its “fully integrated universal quantum computer system” to be a solution for organizations operating in the pharmaceutical, financial, and artificial intelligence sectors. Pricing for use of the Q System One, which can only be accessed by customers via the cloud, was not made available.

IBM’s Crowd-Sourced Weather Prediction

IBM’s second CES announcement, made by CEO Ginni Rometty, was that it has created a new optimized global weather prediction system. Called the IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF), the new system is said to be able to forecast localized weather disturbances on a worldwide scale.

IBM  also boasts that its new system will be able to offer 200 percent better forecasting resolution than current models and that its predictions will update on an hourly basis.

GRAF’s next-generation predictive capabilities are due to the fact it crowdsources its data. The system will draw upon information provided by millions of sensors, including those in globetrotting aircraft, individual weather stations and the smartphones of Weather Channel app users.

That immense amount of data will be processed by the corporation’s IBM POWER9 supercomputers, which already serve the United States Department of Energy.

Like its quantum computing system, IBM hopes its new weather system will be able to affect change on a systemic level. Once up and running in 2019, the system will ideally be able to help airlines reduce turbulence disruption, farmers optimize harvesting, and utility providers better manage service outages.

The corporation has stated that organizations and individuals will be able to benefit from GRAF’s insights via its Weather Underground and Weather Channel apps and websites.

Once Cloudy, IBM’s Future is Looking Bright Again

In recent years, industry analysts have hammered IBM for the underperformance of its purportedly game-changing products and services. But since ending its 22-quarter streak of declining revenue in January 2018, Big Blue has turned things around.

The company moved away from its money-losing experiments in artificial intelligence and refocused on more lucrative areas like cybersecurity. IBM also made waves last October by purchasing open source cloud computing company Red Hat for $34 billion. With the unveiling of the ambitious Q System One, that acquisition suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Moreover, if GRAF is everything it’s touted as being, it could be a legitimately revolutionary product. IBM estimates that bad weather conditions cost the industry $500 million in 2018.

Provided IBM can supply insights that meaningfully reduce that number with its new weather system, it won’t be an aging legacy corporation anymore; it will be a cutting edge tech firm.