Quantum computing promises to be the next major technology with the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries. Following on the success of competitors like D-Wave, IBM has announced that it too will begin commercializing quantum based computer systems.
Functional quantum computers are an entirely new paradigm of computing, and so far have only had limited implementation in the marketplace. IBM Q systems hopes to change that. The computing company will design a new class of computers that make use of quantum computers and aims to sell them commercially in a very short time.
"Our goal is to provide businesses and organizations with access to a new realm of computational power, before unachievable, to solve real-world and societal problems."IBM intends to build their IBM Q systems with around 50 qubits in the next few years to demonstrate capabilities beyond today’s classical systems, and will collaborate with key industry partners to develop applications that exploit the quantum speedup of the systems. Potential applications include medicine and materials discovery, supply chain and logistics, financial services, artificial intelligence and cloud security.
Due to the exponential power of quantum computers, it is postulated that a universal quantum system with just 50 qubits may be able to perform certain complex calculations at a rate that today’s top multi-Petaflop supercomputers can’t yet produce.
IBM has demonstrated prototype systems that use quantum effects in small-scale demonstrations. They have taken advantage of effects like superpositioning, where trapped electrons can exist in two states at the same time, and used this behaviour to allow them to work in far more complex ways than the 1s and 0s that are used in today's computers.
One of the first and most promising applications for the new quantum computer system will be in the simulation of chemistry. Even for simple molecules like caffeine, the number of quantum states in the molecule can be astoundingly large – so large that all the conventional computing memory and processing power scientists could ever build could not handle the problem.
"The universal quantum computers IBM has worked toward in more than 35 years of research are the most powerful and general class of quantum computers," writes Dario Gil, Vice President, Science and Solutions, IBM Research. "Their mojo comes from the quantum bit, or qubit, which leverages quantum effects that are not visible in our daily lives, to explore an exponentially more-powerful computational space, to help solve certain problems that we could not otherwise solve."
"Our goal is to provide businesses and organizations with access to a new realm of computational power, before unachievable, to solve real-world and societal problems," Gil writes on the company's blog.
IBM has been collaborating and engaging with developers, programmers and university partners for the development and evolution of IBM’s quantum computing systems. Since its launch less than a year ago, about 40,000 users have run over 275,000 experiments on the IBM Quantum Experience API. So far, 15 third-party research papers have been posted to arXiv with five published in leading journals based on experiments run on the Quantum Experience.
IBM has worked with academic institutions, such as MIT, the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, and École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
to leverage the IBM Quantum Experience as an educational tool for students.
Quantum computers are projected to have the capabilities to tackle problems that are currently seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical computers. The promise of these systems is that they will deliver solutions to important problems where patterns cannot be seen and the number of possibilities that you need to explore to get to the answer are too enormous ever to be processed by classical computers.