The world took a big leap forward toward quantum computing readiness, today. A dozen international organizations representing Fortune 500 companies, academia, and the government joined the newly minted IBM Q Network. Together, we are committed to exploring scientific and commercial applications of quantum computing, leveraging IBM’s recently-announced 20-qubit commercial system – and, soon, our next-generation 50 qubit processor.
What does it mean to be quantum ready?
We all know the reasons why quantum computing has attracted so much excitement. Despite the enormous progress we’ve achieved as a society with “classical” computers, they simply don’t have enough memory or processing power to solve historically intractable problems. Quantum computers, working with classical computers via the cloud, could be the answer for at least some of these.
It is true that much of what you have read about the promise of quantum computers will require fault-tolerance, a goal likely still a decade or more away. But we believe that the initial signs of a computational advantage will be achievable with nearer-term approximate quantum computers, which are now emerging. IBM Q systems are the most advanced superconducting universal quantum computers anywhere in the world today. With these systems, our scientists will continue to push the field towards the initial demonstrations of “quantum advantage” with applications in chemistry, optimization, and machine learning.
We at IBM Research have a long history of sharing our work with the world. Over the last four decades, we have been active and enthusiastic participants in the quantum information research community, both learning from and contributing to fundamental, pioneering work. Through the free and public IBM Q Experience, an open-source collaborative software development kit called QISKit, and our research publications, we continue to live by our belief that we will make more progress together, as a community, than any one organization could make on its own.
Now, through the IBM Q Network, we are extending our sphere of collaborators with whom we will advance quantum computing – from exploring practical business and scientific applications, to developing the tools needed to make the systems more accessible as they grow in power and performance. One of those collaborators includes financial services leader, JPMorgan Chase, which will explore how quantum computing might address the challenges of trading strategies, portfolio optimization, asset pricing, and risk analysis. I am proud to be working alongside industry leaders like JPMorgan Chase and others to advance a technology as exciting as quantum computing.
Prizes for accelerating quantum readiness
Of course, academia is another absolutely critical engine for advancing the field of quantum information, and researchers and educators play a vitally important role in our collective progress as a community. While enabling professors and teachers has always been a core function of our IBM Q Experience, we decided to formally acknowledge and reward students and professors in the community with prizes for:
developing course materials for a lecture series
building Jupyter Notebook tutorials with QISKit
contributing specific code modules to the QISKit SDK
and to students or postdocs who publish a scientific paper that makes use of QISKit (which will be contributed to open source).
We are currently in a period of history when we can prepare for a future where quantum computers offer a clear computational advantage for solving important problems that are currently intractable. This is the “quantum ready” phase.
Think of it this way: What if everyone in the 1960s had a decade to prepare for PCs, from hardware to programming over the cloud, while they were still prototypes? In hindsight, we can all see that jumping in early would have been the right call. That’s where we are with quantum computing today. Now is the time to begin exploring what we can do with quantum computers, across a variety of potential applications. Those who wait until fault-tolerance might risk losing out on much nearer-term opportunities.
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