IBM Reveals 50-Qubit Quantum Processor

An IBM quantum computer cryostat

Today's announcement includes both a 20 qubit processor ready for use by its IBM Q clients and an operational 50 qubit prototype now in development.

The 50-qubit processor, meanwhile, will become available in the next generation of IBM Q systems.

IBM has announced two powerful new quantum computer processors, one client-ready and another in the works. In just a six-month period, for example, IBM was able to extend the coherence times (the amount of time available to perform quantum computations) for the 20 qubit processor to be twice that of the 5 and 16 qubit systems.

"We are really proud of this; it's a big frickin' deal", Dario Gil, who directs AI and quantum computing at IBM, told MIT Technology Review.

While the earliest versions of IBM's quantum computers were offered for free to build a community of users, and help educate people on programming and using these machines, today's announcement is the first commercial offering.

While it is still early, we look forward to fulfilling the true potential of quantum computing.

I continue to be amazed and inspired by the ecosystem we have built over the a year ago and a half, and I believe there is much more we will do through the development of QISKit, the quantum information software development kit. The company describes it as an initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems accessible through the IBM Cloud platform.

Quantum computing is often seen as the "holy grail" when it comes to the next logical progression in processing performance. But Google has a 49-qubit processor in the works that may be the first quantum computer to out-perform a classical computer at the same task.

The company said clients will have online access to the new IBM Q systems by the end of the year with a series of upgrades planned for 2018. Chow says many domain specialist (i.e. chemistry researchers) versus physicists have not known where to start with quantum computing. IBM Q, which was announced in March, is a followup to that effort.

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. "IBM's team is fantastic and it's clear they're serious about this, but without looking at the details it's hard to comment", he says. "Those qubits might be noisy, and there could be issues with how well connected they are", he says.

Quantum computing promises to be able to solve certain problems - such as chemical simulations and types of optimization - that will forever be beyond the practical reach of classical machines. We are taking a universal path that can scale toward some eventual fault tolerant quantum system. He unveiled the breakthrough at the IEEE Industry Summit on the Future of Computing in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning. A replay of his talk will be added here, and shared on the IBM Research Facebook page, and Twitter handle.

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