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IBM ups pressure on rivals with quantum computer prototype
11 November 2017, 12:51 | Bernard Bryant
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Last summer, IBM showcased a 5 qubit quantum processor that was robust enough to allow more operations than ever before on such a system.
IBM has announced two powerful new quantum computer processors, one client-ready and another in the works.
Since those early days, IBM has hit some important milestones on the road to quantum computing, including demonstrating the first quantum algorithms at their Almaden research center in the 1990s using a different type of qubit-one that was based on a liquid state nuclear magnetic resonance system.
"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".
IBM established a landmark in computing Friday, announcing a quantum computer that handles 50 quantum bits, or qubits. "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".
Quantum computers hold the promise of being able to solve hard problems from fields such as chemistry and material science that are now beyond the reach of the most powerful conventional supercomputers.
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The 20-qubit quantum processor would beat IBM's other offering as well as Intel's recent 17 qubit announcement. These numbers might be small in the grand scheme of what folks hope to one day do with quantum computers, but they're some of the highest in the industry to date.
IBM said the 50-qubit processor will be implemented in Q Systems sometime next year via a series of planned upgrades, leading to even greater performance. For example, within six months, the IBM team was able to extend the coherence times for the 20 qubit processor to be twice that of the publicly available 5 and 16 qubit systems on the IBM Q experience. Instead, classical computers will interact with quantum computers via the cloud or some other system to perform calculations that benefit from the quantum speed-up. "The holy grail is fault-tolerant universal quantum computing".
"I use the IBM Q experience and QISKit as an integral part of my classroom teaching on quantum computing, and I can not emphasize enough how important it is".
To augment this ecosystem of quantum researchers and application development, IBM rolled out earlier this year its QISKit (www.qiskit.org) project, an open-source software developer kit to program and run quantum computers.
The ultimate goal of quantum computing is a fault tolerant universal system that automatically fixes errors and has unlimited coherence. Founding members include Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase.
Our modern computers process ones and zeros, whereas quantum computers can represent ones, zeros or both (at the same time) as qubits commingle in entanglement and superposition states.
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