IBM Research said that it is allowing its quantum computing processor to be available for experiments via the company's cloud services. The research lab will be home to a 512-qubit quantum computer built by Canadian company D-Wave Systems. There won't be a charge for the quantum computing tryout. IBM Research has made a few quantum computing breakthroughs and sees the technology as the next generation of computing and supercomputing. The effort, dubbed the IBM Quantum Experience, will allow users to run algorithms and experiments on Big Blue's quantum processor and work with individual quantum bits, or qubits.
Speaking at MIT Technology Review's EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco, Dario Gil of IBM said that quantum computers, which take advantage of the mind-bending phenomena of quantum physics, could have a big impact on one of the hottest fields in technology: artificial intelligence. Unlike classical computers, which store information in bits that are either 1 or 0, quantum computers use qubits, which can exist in multiple states of 1 and 0 at the same time--a phenomenon known as "superposition." Qubits can also influence one another even when they're not physically connected, via a process known as "entanglement." Thanks to these exotic qualities, adding extra qubits to a quantum machine increases its computing power exponentially (see our qubit counter here). There are still challenges to be overcome.
IBM said it is advancing on its efforts to commercialize quantum computing with a 50 qubit processor prototype and online access to 20 qubit processors by the end of 2017. The company will outline its advances at an IEEE conference. IBM has said that it plans to commercialize quantum computing, a breakthrough that will enable new applications for a variety of workloads. IBM delivered a 17-qubit prototype processor in May. Quantum computing processes in parallel compared to traditional processors that are binary.
One of the biggest obstacles to quantum supremacy is error rates and subsequent scalability. Qubits (the quantum version of traditional bits) are very unstable and can be adversely affected by noise, and most of these systems can only hold a state for less than 100 microseconds. Google believes that quantum supremacy can be "comfortably demonstrated" with 49 qubits and a two-qubit error below 0.5 percent. Previous quantum systems by Google have given two-qubit errors of 0.6 percent, which in theory sounds like a miniscule difference, but in the world of quantum computing remains significant.