Friday, 24 November, 2017

IBM unveils new quantum processors to power its commercial Q Systems platform

IBM Raises the Bar with a 50-Qubit Quantum Computer IBM unveils new quantum processors to power its commercial Q Systems platform
Sherri Watson | 10 November, 2017, 21:25

It also announced a 20-qubit processor for IBM Q systems, boasting improvements in "superconducting qubit design, connectivity and packaging".

Aside from their 50-qubit machine, IBM also has a 20-qubit quantum computing system that's accessible to third-party users through their cloud computing platform.

The latest advances are the result of three generations of development. In just a six-month period, for example, IBM was able to extend the coherence times (the amount of time available to perform quantum computations) for the 20 qubit processor to be twice that of the 5 and 16 qubit systems.

"We are really proud of this; it's a big frickin' deal", IBM's director for AI and quantum computing Dario Gil, who made Friday's announcement, told the MIT Technology Review. "The ability to reliably operate several working quantum systems and put them online was not possible just a few years ago. We at Volkswagen want to be among the first to use quantum computing for corporate processes as soon as this technology is commercially available", said Martin Hofmann, chief information officer of the Volkswagen Group. "These latest advances show that we are quickly making quantum systems and tools available that could offer an advantage for tackling problems outside the realm of classical machines".

The ultimate goal of quantum computing is a fault tolerant universal system that automatically fixes errors and has unlimited coherence. Because they use qubits, quantum computers can manipulate multiple combinations of states at once, which makes them far more powerful than their nonquantum cousins, at least for performing a range of advanced computing tasks such as genomic sequencing, materials science research and more. If you recall, IBM launched its first quantum computer for cloud users in May 2016. Whereas classic computers encode information in regular "bits", represented by ones and zeros, quantum computers encode information in "qubits", which can be ones, zeros or both at the same time. This form of open access and open research is critical for accelerated learning and implementation of quantum computing.

IBM also pointed towards its growing quantum computing ecosystem. "The holy grail is fault-tolerant universal quantum computing". He says that IBM researchers have managed to achieve the higher qubit number with low error rates, making them highly useful to researchers. It's not going to happen overnight, but companies, governments, universities and interested parties are undertaking research to see how this can work in practical application.

The auto manufacturer is hoping for more success with its second quantum vehicle: A quantum computing partnership with Google, which was announced this week. The system IBM has developed is still extremely finicky and challenging to use, as are those being built by others.

These quantum advances are being presented today at the IEEE Industry Summit on the Future Of Computing as part of IEEE Rebooting Computing Week.