IBM says that customers will have access to its first commercially available quantum computing systems before the year is out. The company announced two significant quantum processor upgrades for its IBM Q early-access commercial systems. These upgrades represent rapid advances in quantum hardware. The first IBM Q systems available online to clients will have a 20 qubit processor, featuring improvements in superconducting qubit design, connectivity and packaging. Coherence times (the amount of time available to perform quantum computations) average 90 microseconds, and enable high-fidelity quantum operations.
IBM announced it has also successfully built and measured an operational prototype 50 qubit processor with similar performance metrics. This new processor expands upon the 20 qubit architecture and will be made available in the next generation IBM Q systems.
Clients will have online access to the computing power of the first IBM Q systems by the end of 2017, with a series of planned upgrades during 2018. IBM is focused on making available advanced, scalable universal quantum computing systems to clients to explore practical applications.
The latest hardware advances are a result of three generations of development since IBM first launched a working quantum computer online for anyone to freely access in May 2016. Within 18 months, IBM has brought online a 5 and 16 qubit system for public access through the IBM Q experience and developed the world's most advanced public quantum computing ecosystem.
“We are, and always have been, focused on building technology with the potential to create value for our clients and the world,” said Dario Gil, vice president of AI and IBM Q for IBM Research. “The ability to reliably operate several working quantum systems and putting them online was not possible just a few years ago. Now, we can scale IBM processors up to 50 qubits due to tremendous feats of science and engineering. 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."
Over the next year, IBM Q scientists will continue to work to improve its devices including the quality of qubits, circuit connectivity, and error rates of operations to increase the depth for running quantum algorithms. 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.
In addition to building working systems, IBM continues to grow its quantum computing ecosystem, including open-source software tools, applications for near-term systems, and educational and enablement materials for the quantum community. Through the IBM Q experience, over 60,000 users have run more than 1.7 million quantum experiments and generated over 35 third-party research publications. Users have registered from over 1500 universities, 300 high schools, and 300 private institutions worldwide, many of whom are accessing the IBM Q experience as part of their formal education. This form of open access and open research is critical for accelerated learning and implementation of quantum computing.
To augment this ecosystem of quantum researchers and application development, IBM rolled out earlier this year its QISKit project, an open-source software developer kit to program and run quantum computers. IBM Q scientists have now expanded QISKit to enable users to create quantum computing programs and execute them on one of IBM's real quantum processors or quantum simulators available online. Recent additions to QISKit also include new functionality and visualization tools for studying the state of the quantum system, integration of QISKit with the IBM Data Science Experience, a compiler that maps desired experiments onto the available hardware, and worked examples of quantum applications.
IBM has business partners exploring practical quantum applications through the IBM Research Frontiers Institute, a consortium that develops and shares a portfolio of ground-breaking computing technologies and evaluates their business implications. Founding members include Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase.
For more information about IBM’s quantum computing efforts, visit www.ibm.com/ibmq.