IBM ramps up quantum computing ecosystem with 20 qubit processor systems

IBM has been solidly building its efforts in quantum computing over the past couple of years – and a new milestone has been reached with the launch of upgraded systems featuring 20 qubit processors, with 50 qubits on the way.

The company describes the latest news as “rapid advances in quantum hardware… as IBM continues to drive progress across the entire quantum computing technology stack, with focus on systems, software, applications and enablement.”

Quantum computing is gaining prominence as a significantly more powerful alternative to classical computing. The latter is based around bits which can only exist in 1 and 0 states, while the former, built on the principles of quantum mechanics, aims to take advantage of subatomic particles existing in more than one state at any time. A qubit is the quantum equivalent of the classical bit.

The idea therefore is that in this state, algorithms can be run and conclusions drawn which current computing methods simply cannot comprehend; ‘we expect them to open doors that we once thought would remain locked indefinitely’, as IBM itself puts it.

One issue in this is the concept of coherence, the amount of time machines can exist in this quantum state before reverting to their classical equivalents. Today, the maximum time available to researchers is 90 microseconds; not a huge amount one would normally think, but this does represent serious progress from even the past couple of years.

As this publication noted 18 months ago when IBM launched its five qubit quantum processor, the company stated that medium-sized quantum processors of 50-100 qubits will be possible ‘in the next decade.’

IBM added that the 50 qubit processor had been built and measured, adding that it will be made available in the next generation IBM Q systems, though not specifying a date.

“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,” said Dario Gil, vice president of AI and IBM Q at IBM Research.

“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,” Gil added.

You can find out more about the announcement here.

Read more: Why IBM believes quantum computing is the next big cloud hit after AI and blockchain