IBM Research has announced it is making quantum computing available to members of the public, who can access and run experiments on IBM’s quantum processor through the cloud.
The cloud-enabled quantum computing platform, called IBM Quantum Experience, will allow users to run algorithms and experiments on IBM’s quantum processor, work with the individual quantum bits, and explore tutorials and simulations to demonstrate the possibilities of quantum computing.
In a video on IBM’s website, IBM research fellow, physicist, and information theorist, Charles H Bennet explains that you do not need to fully understand quantum mechanics to leverage quantum computing technologies.
‘Can you understand what a quantum computer can do differently without understanding [quantum] physics? Yes, because, just as Shannon and Turing in the mid-20th century, separated the theory of computing and information processing from the theory of electrical circuits; or the way the gears interlaced in an old Marchant calculator, so the theory of quantum computing separates the essential information processing part, treating it as quantum.’
'It’s not a complicated idea, but it is an idea that nobody would ever think of from the human experience that we all have. That is that a completely, perfectly orderly whole can have disorderly parts’ said Bennet.
IBM scientists have built a quantum processor composed of five superconducting qubits, housed at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center in New York. While the technology is not available today, IBM envisions medium-sized quantum processors of 50-100 qubits to be possible in the next decade. The leap in processing power offered by quantum computing technology could lead to the discovery of new pharmaceutical drugs and completely safeguard cloud computing systems. It could also unlock new facets of artificial intelligence, and search large volumes of big data.
Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director, IBM Research commented: ‘Quantum computers are very different from today’s computers, not only in what they look like and are made of but more importantly in what they can do. Quantum computing is becoming a reality, and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today’s computers. By giving hands-on access to IBM’s experimental quantum systems, the IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology.’
Much of the recent work to develop early quantum computers both at IBM and other research organisations focuses on error correction and the design of scalable quantum circuits, as reported in Scientific Computing World last year. Largely due to that fact that quantum information is fragile and needs to be protected from errors that can result from heat and electromagnetic radiation.
IBM scientists have achieved a further advanced lattice design by combining five qubits in the lattice architecture, which demonstrates a key operation known as a parity measurement – the basis of many quantum error correction protocols. The road towards universal quantum computing relies upon successful quantum error correction, and the IBM team has taken another important step towards this goal.
IBM plans to add more qubits and different processor arrangements to the IBM Quantum Experience over time, so users can expand their experiments and help uncover new applications for the technology. IBM hopes that by giving users access to the IBM Quantum Experience, it will help businesses and organisations and students to understand the technology’s potential.
‘It is a beautiful challenge to pursue the path to build the first universal quantum computer, but it requires us to change how we think about the world. Access to early quantum computing prototypes will be key in imagining and developing future applications,’ said Dario Gil, vice president of science and solutions, IBM Research. ‘If you want to understand what a true quantum computer will do for you and how it works, this is the place to do it. You won’t experience it anywhere else.’
IBM’s quantum computing platform is a core initiative within the newly formed IBM Research Frontiers Institute. The Frontiers Institute is a consortium that develops computing technologies to spur world-changing innovation. Companies can leverage IBM’s research talent and cutting-edge infrastructure to explore what the future of quantum computing may mean for their organisation and business. Founding members of the Frontiers Institute include Samsung, JSR, and Honda.