IBM revealed that, thanks to advances in quantum hardware, it successfully developed an operational prototype 50-qubit processor. 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", IBM's director for AI and quantum computing Dario Gil, who made Friday's announcement, told the MIT Technology Review. "The ability to reliably operate several working quantum systems and putting them online was not possible just a few years ago".
IBM is increasing the pressure on Google in the battle to commercialize quantum computing technology. "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".
Whereas normal computers store information as either a 1 or a 0, quantum computers exploit two phenomena-entanglement and superposition-to process information differently.
IBM also pointed towards its growing quantum computing ecosystem. In other words, the time is increasingly ripe for quantum systems to be granted more legitimacy as accelerators for HPC applications or as wholesale replacements in very select areas like quantum chemistry, for instance. These numbers might be small in the grand scheme of what folks hope to one day do with quantum computers, but they're some of the highest in the industry to date. 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.
IBM said the 50-qubit processor will be implemented in Q Systems sometime next year via a series of planned upgrades, leading to even greater performance. As this toolkit improves, both through our own contributions, and those of the open-source community, our rate of scientific and technical progress as a community will grow alongside it. This form of open access and open research is critical for accelerated learning and implementation of quantum computing. IBM Q, which was announced in March, is a followup to that effort.
IBM is also announcing an upgrade to its quantum cloud software system today. "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. Today's quantum machines are in the 90 microsecond range. Improvements to error mitigation and to the quality of qubits are our focus for making quantum computing systems useful for practical applications in the near future. Founding members include Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase. He unveiled the breakthrough at the IEEE Industry Summit on the Future of Computing in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning. Rather than operating with bits that can only equal zeroes and ones like a regular computer, its bits, or "qubits", equal zero and one at the same time while calculations are taking place.