IBM opens up quantum computing to the masses

4 May 2016

IBM scientist Stefan Filipp, takes a closer look at the dilution refrigerator which will keep qubits are temperatures colder than the deepest parts of outer space. Image via IBM Research/Flickr

Starting from today (4 May), researchers and scientists, or anyone with a serious interest in complex computational calculations, will be able to access IBM’s quantum computing power via the cloud.

While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently made headlines for his ability to understand quantum computing, the next revolutionary step of computing that looks beyond a world of ones and zeroes is still beyond the realms of comprehension for many.

Using the properties of quantum mechanics, quantum computers are based on the power of a qubit – which can be a one, zero or both at the same time – in a state referred to as a superposition.

Using it, calculations can be achieved at speeds that are simply impossible using traditional binary computers, with companies like Google boasting of quantum computers that are 100-times faster than current systems.

Opening up this world, IBM has announced that, from today (4 May), any researcher of scientist working with huge amounts of data that needs to be crunched can access its latest quantum computing platform, IBM Quantum Experience, via the cloud on any desktop or mobile device.

‘The birth of quantum cloud computing’

To do this, IBM has built a new quantum processor comprised of five superconducting qubits that allow users to run algorithms and experiments with the individual qubits, and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing.

Initiatives like this where its technology is being put to the test, IBM says, will help towards the development of a universal quantum computer, with the company envisioning that medium-sized quantum processors of 50-100 qubits will be possible in the next decade.

Speaking of the launch of this publically-accessible platform, Arvind Krishna, senior vice-president and director of IBM Research, said: “This moment represents the birth of quantum cloud computing.

“By giving hands-on access to IBM’s experimental quantum systems, the IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic