IBM Eyes Quantum Computing, Says It’s Seeing ‘A Direct Path To The 50-Qubit Range’

6 March 2017, 6:42 am EST By Carl Velasco Tech Times
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IBM has announced that it’s stepping its quantum computing game up with its Q quantum computing program. Even better, it’s enlisting outsider programmers and developers to help push it forward.  ( David Ramos l Getty Images )

IBM's explorations in artificial intelligence gave birth to Watson, and its groundwork-laying for blockchain brought the Hyperledger Project. The company is eyeing the field of quantum computing next, seeing it as a significant opportunity to move itself forward in the tech industry.

IBM Expands Its Quantum Computing Efforts

Quantum computers, with the help of complex physics, can perform considerably more sophisticated operations than traditional computers. Most computers store information as bits in two states: one or zero, equating to "on" or "off," respectively. A quantum computer, on the other hand, makes use of "qubits" to hold multiple states simultaneously. This ability, called superposition, allows the computer to process a huge number of calculations at the same time.

IBM Q Program

In a few years, IBM will create a quantum computer with more than 50 qubits, which would easily beat out traditional computers. The quantum computing program has a nice, succinct moniker: Q, and it's easy to imagine how remarkable it will give or take a few years.

IBM Q is poised to deliver paid quantum computing consultations and services to consumers. It holds similarities with Watson, IBM's Jeopardy!-competing AI-powered computer. In the sense that Watson uses traditional computers, Q will use quantum-computing ones, according to PCWorld.

The quantum computer, at 50 qubits, is poised to usurp IBM's presently housed 5-qubit system tenfold, and it will be capable of performing tasks traditional computers aren't capable of doing. IBM said that it could accelerate pharmaceutical development, and it might even make scientific discoveries.

IBM is turning to outsiders to expand development. To get more people involved with the technology, the company released an API on March 6, allowing developers to create their own software integrations connecting traditional computers and IBM's current quantum computing system. IBM also plans to develop a simulator able to model 20-qubit circuits, and release a full software development kit for programmers in the coming months.

Of course, for IBM, such a trajectory only paints a picture of the beginning. It also plans to make quantum computers a household name, with commercial availability scheduled in the coming years, according to Fortune.

"We see a direct path to the 50-qubit range," Scott Crowder, vice president and chief tech officer of IBM's quantum computing division, said. The company is specifically looking to lend quantum systems and edge over traditional computers in terms of computational problems.

"Within the next few years we'll make it commercially available for the cloud for people to use," Crowder added.

The notion of consumer adoption is of course, to be met with a series of engineering hurdles. But IBM is already encouraging notional customers to think about ways in which quantum computing can be implemented in business operations within this decade.

At present, IBM is at the stage of wooing developers to start tinkering with the technology, hoping it may one day pave the way for breakthroughs in the field of medicine, chemistry, finance, logistics, and other industries and sciences.

IBM's presently existing 5-qubit quantum computer is currently being offered as a public cloud program called the Quantum Experience, which will remain free.

The Race For Commercial Quantum Computers

IBM's goal of commercializing quantum computers essentially begins the race to sell such a technology at its gestation period, as Wired notes, mentioning the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Alibaba, companies at present inching toward quantum computing efforts.

"This is a significant commitment from IBM," said Ike Chuang, an MIT physicist and quantum computing researcher. "It shows a confidence that quantum computing can make money."

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