IBM Q quantum computer

IBM pushes toward quantum goal

IBM is stepping up efforts to commercialize its quantum computing solution.

On March 6 the company announced an initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems -- called "IBM Q" -- that it will deliver to select business and science partners over the next few years via the IBM Cloud platform.

IBM plans to scale its quantum computers to 50 qubits, based on advancing all parts of the system from the superconducting qubits to system integration and semiconductor-based advances. The company is also developing software tools along with an environment that enables collaboration with developers, programmers and university partners.

In June 2016, IBM launched the cloud-based IBM Quantum Experience, which allowed researchers to connect to IBM’s quantum processor via the IBM Cloud to run algorithms and work with the individual quantum bits. About 40,000 scientists used the environment to run over 275,000 experiments, the company said.

To make its quantum tools more accessible, IBM is now offering an application programming interface for developers to build connections between quantum and classical computers. IBM has made the specs for its new Quantum API available on GitHub and provided simple scripts to demonstrate how the API functions.

In the first half of 2017, IBM said it plans to release a software development kit on the IBM Quantum Experience so users to build simple quantum applications and software programs. The company also said it will release an upgraded simulator that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits.

One of the first and most promising applications for quantum computing will be in the area of chemistry, according to IBM, which also suggests the technology could be used in supply chain and logistics, financial services, artificial intelligence and cloud security.

"Unlocking the usefulness of quantum computing will require hands-on experience with real quantum computers," said Isaac Chuang, professor of physics and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. In the fall 2016 semester, MIT used IBM’s Quantum Experience as part of an online quantum information science course. Students “were able to run experiments on IBM’s quantum processor and test out for themselves quantum computing principles and theories they were learning,” he said.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at or @sjaymiller.

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