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IBM Cloud is now providing developers with the infrastructure and portal to a 5 qubit quantum computer. This equips them with the ability to build interfaces between classic computers and IBM’s quantum platform.
Quantum computers make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement to perform operations on data. Quantum computers are different from binary digital electronic computers based on transistors. Whereas common digital computing requires that the data be encoded into binary digits (bits), each of which is always in one of two definite states (0 or 1), quantum computation uses quantum bits, which can be in superpositions of states.
IBM also announced today:
- The release of a new API (Application Program Interface) for the IBM Quantum Experience that enables developers and programmers to begin building interfaces between its existing five quantum bit (qubit) cloud-based quantum computer and classical computers, without needing a deep background in quantum physics.
- The release of an upgraded simulator on the IBM Quantum Experience that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits. In the first half of 2017, IBM plans to release a full SDK (Software Development Kit) on the IBM Quantum Experience for users to build simple quantum applications and software programs.
The broad availability of quantum computing capability could prove to be a significant blow to current data encryption practices. In 2015 the US National Security Agency actually advised US agencies and businesses to prepare for a time when the cryptography protecting virtually all e-mail, medical and financial records, and online transactions would be rendered obsolete by quantum computing. The US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) is also running a competition to spur work on post-quantum algorithms.
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 the “Quantum Volume”, which includes the number of qubits, quality of quantum operations, qubit connectivity and parallelism. As a first step to increase Quantum Volume, IBM aims at constructing 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.
Future applications of quantum computing could include:
- Drug and Materials Discovery: Untangling the complexity of molecular and chemical interactions leading to the discovery of new medicines and materials;
- Supply Chain & Logistics: Finding the optimal path across global systems of systems for ultra-efficient logistics and supply chains, such as optimizing fleet operations for deliveries during the holiday season;
- Financial Services: Finding new ways to model financial data and isolating key global risk factors to make better investments;
- Artificial Intelligence: Making facets of artificial intelligence such as machine learning much more powerful when data sets can be too big such as searching images or video; or
- Cloud Security: Making cloud computing more secure by using the laws of quantum physics to enhance private data safety.
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