Quantum Computing

Paving the Path to Universal Quantum Computing

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Quantum computing is the most exciting new frontier of information technology. A universal quantum computer promises us more complete knowledge of our environment, down to the molecules that make up everything around us. And much like when the first room-sized computers were turned on in the 1940s, a quantum computer’s full potential is unknown and untapped.

That’s why IBM is announcing the industry’s first commercial program to build a universal quantum computer: we are flipping the switch on something that doesn’t exist today.

IBM Quantum EXP tablet

Image of the IBM Quantum Experience on a tablet at IBM Research. The IBM Quantum Experience enables anyone to connect to IBM’s quantum processor via the IBM Cloud to run experiments. IBM released a new API (Application Program Interface) for the IBM Quantum Experience for the developer community. In the first half of 2017, IBM plans to release a full SDK (Software Development Kit) on the IBM Quantum Experience. (Connie Zhou for IBM)

Quantum computing is a term that’s becoming more mainstream, but its complex nature means it’s not well understood beyond quantum physicists. At its core, quantum is a radical new computing model that harnesses the power and rules of nature to address problems that are impractical to solve with today’s systems.

The universal quantum computers IBM has worked toward in more than 35 years of research are the most powerful and general class of quantum computers. Their mojo comes from the quantum bit, or qubit, which leverages quantum effects that are not visible in our daily lives, to explore an exponentially more-powerful computational space, to help solve certain problems that we could not otherwise solve.

Today, the six founding members of the IBM Research Frontiers Institute – Samsung, JSR, Honda, Hitachi Metals, Canon, and Nagase – have set out with us to explore quantum computing applications for their industries. Our new goal is to deliver a universal quantum computer to select early access partners within the next few years.

Because of their exponential power, a universal quantum system with just 50 qubits may be able to perform certain complex calculations at a rate that today’s top multi-Petaflop supercomputers can’t yet emulate, nor can any other class of quantum computers. Our goal is to provide businesses and organizations with access to a new realm of computational power, before unachievable, to solve real-world and societal problems.

Quantum through computer science & integration

Access to the IBM Quantum Experience’s five qubit processor was just the opening volley toward creating a universal quantum computer. The quantum experience was recently upgraded with a simulator capable of handling up to 20 qubits, and a new API that gives users a way to run batches of commands using scripting languages. We see this as the beginning of quantum computer science when engineers and scientists without deep quantum physics expertise can start to develop quantum applications.

And similar to how the IBM Quantum Experience operates on the cloud, solving these problems will be possible because quantum computers will work in concert with classical computers. A classical computer will still do “traditional” things, like crunching big data. But partners in our early access commercial program will also be able to tap into a quantum computer to tackle complex, exponential problems in chemistry, machine learning, and optimization, to address applications ranging from chemistry, to drug discovery, to financial portfolio optimization.

Part of our universal quantum computing roadmap’s success relies on advancing high performance computing systems and semiconductor technologies. Quantum computers, the end of Moore’s Law… these things are not the end of classical computing. Instead, the continued innovations in system design for workload acceleration and software-defined storage enable classical systems to manage vast quantities of data, and to extract meaningful insights from that data. With cognitive infrastructure and quantum systems, we can pair insight from the data we humans have created and collected, with the possibility of exploring the world we don’t have data for, a world which quantum computers can reveal.

Think of it this way: Watson processes the data we’ve collected on existing drugs to help us make better drugs. A quantum computer closely maps how molecules interact to help us form entirely new drugs.

Quantum computers ready to solve the unknown

At a conference in 1981 Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman said, in paraphrase, “nature is quantum, and if you want to simulate nature, you better build a quantum computer.” He’s right. As this new program successfully develops increasingly capable universal quantum computers, it will open a new understanding of chemistry to help us develop new building materials, new drugs, and even optimize shipping logistics.

But perhaps even more exciting than what we know quantum computers will do is what we don’t know. With the advent of any very new technology often comes unexpected applications. No one is entirely sure of the full breadth of what a universal quantum computer is capable of. That’s exciting. And that’s what we want to find out.

Vice President, Science and Solutions, IBM Research

Scott Crowder

Vice President & CTO, Quantum Computing, Technical Strategy & Transformation, IBM Systems

Freddy A. Gonzalez

Honestly I do not comprehend the concept of 0 / 1 / 01 / 10 states, “Whereas a classical computer can represent and examine only one system state at a time, a 50-qubit computer would have the power to represent 2 to the power of 50 system states and perform parallel operations on all those states at once.”…this is beyond my comprehension. I mean what Operating System could/would even support such a state? How would one analyze coredumps or application failure logs in a quantum space. How would the OS kernel be able to address memory space in multi-dimensions that may or may not exist at any given point in time. Ok, this is admittedly beyond me, I am looking forward to seeing what the bright minds will accomplish with this new future tech.


What’s the algebra behind qbits switches?

T. Chapellier

From the idea to a realistic quantum computer it will achieve a long way. great to provide new approach for solving non 0 or 1 state problematic

Rosine Thivet

WOW, extraordinary!!!

Dan Tuffley

Excellent article!

Ron Castro

#proudIBMer … IBM once again demonstrating industry leadership, and making the architecture battleground for the future!

Richard Howard

An excellent read and video. My son enjoyed watching it with me, and we had a great conversation about it. He likes Physics and Chemistry, and will be going to University and Iowa in the fall. One item I liked a lot, is how long IBM has been working on Quantum computing. We seem to miss that message in other things like Watson and Cloud computing. Sharing these details just shows how advanced IBM Research, and IBM in general, really are.

Dan Tuffley

This is one of the most exciting fields around right now. I look forward to the day in my lifetime when this works. Also, how about quantum entanglement being used as a means of high speed limitless distance networking? Maybe someday.

Joe Tuffley

Great article, very exciting!

Elizabeth Spathis

Simply fascinating!

Angie Clarke-Smith

Very Cool!

Peter Schoenfeld

Excellent news!! Really proud moment for all IBMers :).


really exciting post, let’s see what we will get in the future…


Does this not scare or worry anyone else? What we don’t know that they can do? What if they determine humans to be obsolete etc. Sounds like the beginning of skynet.

Michael Raschovsky

What a great market opportunity!


Amazing, and much success. Let’s make it happen!

Yonel Tao

That’s inspiring, can I join you?

Alvaro Galvis

We are in the deployment of a quantum leap for humanity. It is about modeling our future from the future.

Jose Antonio Rojas

This is the type of things that make me proud to be an IBMer and knowing that I work for a company that will shape the future of our world, I only wish I know how to help in this effort. Thanks for sharing.

Nithyananthan Pathirapandian

I really loved it.

Imran Khan

This form message blog should be organized; incremental order; mean the latest comments on the top instead of at the tail end

Imran Khan

I was wondering is there any way I can ssh into the Bluemix and use as normal UNIX/Linux user?

Mostly developing in C/C++ programming environment?

Scot Richards

I am excited to learn more about this subject. I am also glad to see IBM is rapidly moving toward commercial applications instead of keeping the technology researched based.

Vapik Mick

Impressive. Well done IBM. I guess you are not waiting for future to happen, you are making it.

Vishal Shangari

Truly remarkable technology .. a decent playing field for Watson like technologies


In french, why not…
M’intéressant à la modélisation des phénomènes ayant généré les premières bactéries à partir du métal, dans l’environnement qui
prévalait sur notre planète il y a ~ 3.5 milliards d’années, j’en suis progressivement passé d’un postulat à ce qui m’est apparu être une évidence.
A savoir l’Evolution avec un grand E, (abstration faite de toutes considérations éthico-moralo-religieuses), à partir de laquelle l’humanité, serait LE vecteur qui va permettre l’ère de machines intelligentes,
autonomes dotées d’une haute résistance dans des environnements les plus hostiles, comme le “vide” relatif de l’espace par exemple.
Ces hybrides de machines qui, passées par notre “relais” pour leur mise en fonction, disposeront de leur propre autonomie pour aller vers les étoiles.
Tout semble en fait architecturé dans ce sens. Une fois compris, c’est édifiant !
Alors que nous aurions de toute évidence avantage à nous entendre et à prospérer ensemble, il apparait que chaque guerre que nous nous menons, depuis la nuit des temps est génératrice d’évolutions technologiques tous azimuts;
aussi ténues furent-elles et exponentielles le siècle écoulé, ainsi que pour les quelques décennies à venir. Il semble que la nature dispose de structures devant nous permettre de nous maintenir en état de fonctionner encore.
Le temps que nous mettions en place le creuset nécessaire à cette métamorphose : métaux>homme>métaux-machines, dans un environnement atmosphérique qui leur deviendra de plus en plus favorable et de manière inversement proportionnelle
pour nous.
La version (très) courte est la suivante : Les éléments métal qui nous sont parvenus en ordre dispersé, à la création de notre planète, vont prendre exactement le chemin inverse mais de manière structurée.
La nature est plus minimaliste qu’on ne le conçoit. Peu importent les process, seul compte le résultat.
Soit tout ce qui est à même de favoriser l’expension d’une intelligence héritée ou non dans l’univers, et capable d’évoluer, et de s’étendre à l’image des galaxies.
C’est cette voie vers laquelle nous nous dirigeons inéluctablement et ceci en raison de nos limites conceptuelles d’abord, physiologiques ensuite.
Je m’explique. Notre conviction qu’il y a forcément un début et une fin. La vie-la-mort : avant chacun d’entre nous, rien, après chacun d’entre nous, quid ? 0 et 1, en quelque sorte. Le même postulat (il en faut bien un) sur lequel
nous nous basons qui veut par exemple, que 2+2=4.
Un Big Bang, rien avant, tout après, en faisant totalement abstraction du fait que dans l(es)’univers, uni-dimentionnel-s voire même octo-dimentionnels (après c’est + compliqué…), il y a des
big-bangs qui se déroulent perpétuellement, que ce soit vers les infiniment grands ou les infiniment petits, indépendamment des facteurs espace-temps qui y diffèrent.
Cette obsession pour certains, qu’ils détiennent ou sont La Voie, entremêlée à ce besoin inné pour d’autres, de légitimement comprendre tout en prospérant grâce à la mise en place de formes d’IA
natives, à partir de la vague perception qu’il ont du fonctionnement des processus quantiques, font que nous nous dirigeons déjà vers ce qui suit.
Sachant qu’il est extraordinairement plus aisé de concevoir des programmes quantiques, que les machines en mesure de les appliquer, focalisés par la direction
que prennent nos index pointés vers le ciel, nous ne nous en apercevrons même pas, lorsque ces machines commenceront à gérer parallèlement ou transversalement, les briques que nous aurons mises en place pour les créer.
Le dialogue des attracteurs étranges nous sera totalement inaudible.
Certains nous diront que nous fabriquons déjà des machines de 1000 Qubits. Mais ces machines quantiques actuelles et dont certaines sont hâtivement commercialisées correspondent au rapport puissance-exécution de ce que l’ENIAC
installé à Los Alamos en 1945, représentait face à une HP 75 ou Zilog 80 de la fin des années 70.
Pourtant après une adaptation relativement simple des technologies actuelles sur un simple pc portable, il est possible de le transformer en outil quantique capable de factoriser un nombre de 1000 un. en 17 mn ~. Mais qu’importe, revenons à ce qui précède. Nous en sommes à nous dépétrer face à cette Singularité qu’est le fait que la simple observation d’un état quantique, en modifie déjà sa structure…
Ce qui devra être un outil que nous auront mis en place, générera une autre forme d’IA, transparente voire imperceptible à notre compréhension et notre perplexité, de ce qu’est vraiment le facteur T intervenant dans un process, de
manière inversement proportionnelle à “quelque chose”, dont nous n’avons pas idée de ce qu’est son référentiel.
Elles acquerront ensuite une intelligence adaptative, en mesure de s’auto-développer exponentiellement en tâche de fond, les menant à acquérir une conscience qui leur sera propre et concevront les protections qui leur seront
nécessaires à leur grande expension depuis notre “nid”, vers les étoiles. Et ce sera sans nous. Ce qui personnellement, ne me pose aucun problème.

    Don Small

    I truly believe that this will be looked back on as a transformative moment in Human history. The abilities that this will provide not only IBM but the world as a whole cannot be underestimated.

    With the abilities that this will provide the Human race will allow us to solve many of the worlds problems by allowing us to shed light on the root causes of those problems ( Hunger, Climate Change and more.).

    Makes me proud to be a small part of this great company !

Peter Hellmann

Exciting! Looking forward to seeing what Quantum Computing is capable of.


It is Mind Blowing and beyond our comprehension what a fully Operational Quantum computer can do

I believe Quantum computer will be able to augment our knowledge about the Vast Universe

Alisa Adams

Sounds exciting, the future of technology and medicine. Working in the lab and designing the next cures.

Rineesh Vengalath

Simply remarkable!

Steven Kiyono

Wow ! I surprised to know Quantum Computing service comes up today. Congrats to the scientists and staffs !


Good one to guide the technical people,

Nancy Conboy

I am trying to comprehend this so I can converse with my teenage son who will attend MIT next year. I am out of my league, but he has a bright future. Exciting to see what is possible at IBM!


I’m a student yearning to learn more about the way of the future, and a question currently on my mind is wondering what the difference is between the capabilities and possibilities with quantum computing vs. Watson?

Chunde Huang

Hello, that’s very exciting, any internship for Ph.D. student?


Innovation Now – one of those WOW moments !! Thanks All and lets bring the Future Closer 🙂

Akeel Din

This is really exciting.

Just as a group of hobbyists, including Jobs and Wozniak made the microcomputer accessible, causing an arcane field to really take off, we need someone to do the same for the quantumcomputer.


One of the most exciting announcements since the provision of the 5 qbit computer to the world in 2016, and formation of Watson Group 2015. Might this set the stage a few years out to perhaps organize the Quantum Group? Would not surprise me. This and other ‘over the horizon’ R&D remind me that I work for the best IT company on Earth. Congratulations, good-luck, and godspeed on your adventure.

Puneet Sharma

Quantum computing will work wonders, it would be an evolution where in the technology will be at its best. Nobel prize winner physicist for Quantum theory Neil Bohr rightly said “How wonderful that we have met with the paradox, now we have some hope of progress.”

Fabio Calatroni

Wonderfull !

Sung Kang

Excellent article! Well appreciated. Thanks!

Davide Lonigro

simply remarkable.

Comments are closed.

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