IBM readies quantum computing as a service

A universal quantum computer, available through the cloud, offers the potential for researchers and enterprises to tackle computationally impossible problems

IBM has said it is building the first commercially available, universal quantum computer, which will be made available through the cloud.

IBM said the systems it plans to build will be exponentially more capable than existing classical computing. This computational power is expected to affect many aspects of society – from drug and materials discovery, financial services, artificial intelligence, cloud security and more.

Arvind Krishna, senior vice-president of hybrid cloud and director for IBM Research, said: “Following Watson and blockchain, we believe quantum computing will provide the next powerful set of services delivered through the IBM Cloud platform, and promises to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries.”

While technologies that currently run on traditional computer architectures, such as Watson, can help find patterns and insights buried in vast amounts of existing data, IBM said quantum computers are able to solve problems far more complex.

In preparation for IBM Q, the company has introduced an application programming interface (API) to enable developers and to start building interfaces between its existing five quantum bit (qubit) cloud-based quantum computer and traditional computers.

IBM has also released an upgraded simulator on the IBM Quantum Experience that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits.

In the first half of 2017, IBM said it plans to release a full software development kit on the IBM Quantum Experience for users to build simple quantum applications and software programs.

This will enable anyone to connect to IBM’s quantum processor through the IBM Cloud, run algorithms and experiments, work with the individual quantum bits, and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing.

Five application areas for quantum computing

  1. Drug and materials discovery: untangling the complexity of molecular and chemical interactions leading to the discovery of medicines and materials.
  2. Supply chain and logistics: finding the optimal path across global systems of systems for ultra-efficient logistics and supply chains, such as optimising fleet operations for deliveries during the holiday season.
  3.  Financial services: finding ways to model financial data and isolating key global risk factors to make better investments.
  4. 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.
  5. Cloud security: making cloud computing more secure by using the laws of quantum physics to enhance private data safety. 

IBM said it would be offering quantum computing alongside traditional computing architectures to solve computationally challenging problems.

Tom Rosamilia, senior vice-president of IBM Systems, said: “We envision IBM Q systems working in concert with our portfolio of classical high-performance systems to address problems that are currently unsolvable, but hold tremendous untapped value.”

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