IBM Building First Universal Quantum Computers for Business and Science

On March 6th 2017, IBM announced the company’s initiative to build the first universal quantum computing system for commercial use in New York.

On March 6th 2017, IBM announced the company’s initiative to build the first universal quantum computing system for commercial use in New York. The so-called “IBM Q” quantum system and service will be delivered via the IBM Cloud platform. While technologies that currently run on classical computers, such as Watson, can help to find patterns and insights buried in vast amounts of existing data, quantum computers will deliver solutions to important problems where patterns cannot be detected because data doesn’t exist. In this case, possibilities are too enormous to ever be processed by classical computers.

At the same time, IBM also announced an API (Application Program Interface) launch corresponding to the new quantum computing system. The release of a new API for the IBM Quantum Experience enables developers and programmers to begin building interfaces between the existing five quantum bit (qubit) cloud-based quantum computer and classical computers, without needing much background in quantum physics. The release of an upgraded simulator on the IBM Quantum Experience can model circuits with up to 20 qubits. In upper 2017, IBM plans to release a full SDK (Software Development Kit) for the IBM Quantum Experience to help users build simple quantum applications and software programs.

“IBM has invested decades to the growing field of quantum computing and we are committed to expanding access to quantum systems and their powerful capabilities for the science and business communities,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud and director of IBM Research. “After Watson and blockchain, we believe that quantum computing will provide the next powerful set of services delivered via the IBM Cloud platform, and it is promised to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries.”

IBM intends to build IBM Q systems to expand the application domain of quantum computing. A key metric will be the power of a quantum computer expressed by “Quantum Volume”, which includes the number of qubits, quality of quantum operations, qubit connectivity and parallelism. As the first step to increase Quantum Volume, IBM aims at constructing the commercial IBM Q systems with ~50 qubits in the next few years to demonstrate capabilities beyond today’s classical systems, and plans to collaborate with key industry partners to develop applications that exploit the quantum speedup of the systems.

IBM Q systems will be designed to tackle problems that are currently seen as too complex and exponential for classical computing systems to handle. One of the first and most promising applications for quantum computing will be in the area of chemistry. Even for simple molecules like caffeine, the number of quantum states in the molecule can be astoundingly large — so large that all the conventional computing memory and processing power scientists could ever build are unable to process the problem.

IBM’s scientists have developed techniques to efficiently explore the simulation of chemistry problems on quantum processors ( and and experimental demonstrations of various molecules are in progress. In the future, the goal will be to scale on even more complex molecules and try to predict chemical properties with higher precision than possible with classical computers.

“Classical computers are extraordinarily powerful and will continue to advance and underpin everything we do in business and society. But there are many problems that can never be handled by a classical computer. To create knowledge from much greater depths of complexity, we need a quantum computer,” said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems. “We envision IBM Q systems working in concert with our portfolio of classical high-performance systems to address problems that are currently unsolvable, and hold tremendous potential value.”

IBM’s roadmap to practical quantum computers is based on a holistic approach which advances all parts of the system. IBM will leverage its expertise in superconducting qubits, complex high performance system integration, and scalable nano-fabrication processes from the semiconductor industry to help advance quantum mechanical capabilities. Also, developed software tools and research environment will benefit IBM’s world-class mathematicians, computer scientists, and software and system engineers.

“As Richard Feynman said in 1981, ‘…if you want to make a simulation of nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem, because it doesn’t look so easy.’ This breakthrough technology has the potential to advance the fundamentals of science, materials science, environmental and energy research, which are central to the missions of the Department of Energy (DOE),” said Steve Binkley, Deputy Director of Science, US Department of Energy. “The DOE National Labs have always been at the forefront of new innovation, and we look forward to working with IBM to explore the applications of their new quantum systems.”


Growing the IBM Q Ecosystem

IBM believes that collaborating and engaging with developers, programmers and university partners will be essential to the development and evolution of IBM’s quantum computing systems.

Since its launch less than a year ago, about 40,000 users have run over 275,000 experiments on the IBM Quantum Experience. It has become the enablement tool for scientists in over 100 countries and up to now, 15 third-party research papers have been posted to arXiv with five published in leading journals based on experiments run on Quantum Experience.

IBM has worked with academic institutions, such as MIT, the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, and École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) to leverage the IBM Quantum Experience as an educational tool for students. In collaboration with the European Physical Society, IBM Research — Zurich recently hosted a full-day workshop for students to learn how to experiment with qubits using the IBM Quantum Experience.

“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. “For the Fall 2016 semester of the MITx Quantum Information Science II course, we featured IBM’s Quantum Experience as part of the online curriculum for over 1,800 participants around the world. They were able to run experiments on IBM’s quantum processor and test out for themselves quantum computing principles and theories they were learning.”

In addition to working with developers and universities, IBM has been engaging with industrial partners to explore the potential applications of quantum computers. Any organization interested in collaborating to explore quantum applications can apply for membership at 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 of the Frontiers Institute include Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase.


“We heavily invest in R&D and have a strong interest in how emerging technologies such as quantum computing will impact the future of manufacturing,” said Nobu Koshiba, President of JSR, a leading chemical and materials company in Japan. “Our pipelines of innovations range from synthetic rubbers for tires to semiconductor and display materials, along with products in the life sciences, energy and environmental sectors. By having exposure to how quantum computing can provide new computational capability to accelerate materials discovery, we believe this technology could have a lasting impact on our industry and specifically our ability to provide faster solutions to our customers.”

Original Article from Synced China| Authors: Zenan Li and Farman Huang| Localized by Synced Global Team: Jiaxin Su, Meghan Han, Rita Chen

2 comments on “IBM Building First Universal Quantum Computers for Business and Science

  1. Dante Li

    Still don’t know where is the way for IBM. Feels like it’s all going down.

  2. Milania

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