Originally posted by Ron Miller on TechCrunch
IBM has been offering quantum computing as a cloud service since last year when it came out with a 5 qubit version of the advanced computers. Today, the company announced that it’s releasing 20-qubit quantum computers, quite a leap in just 18 months. A qubit is a single unit of quantum information.
The company also announced that IBM researchers had successfully built a 50 qubit prototype, which is the next milestone for quantum computing, but it’s unclear when we will see this commercially available.
While the earliest versions of IBM’s quantum computers were offered for free to build a community of users, and help educate people on programming and using these machines, today’s announcement is the first commercial offering. It will be available by the end of the year.
Quantum computing is a difficult area of technology to understand. Instead of being built on machines interpreting zeroes and ones in on/off states, quantum computers can live in multiple states. This creates all kinds of new programming possibilities and requires new software and systems to build programs that can work with this way of computing.
Dario Gil, IBM Research VP of AI and IBM Q, says the increased number qubits is only part of the story. The more Qubits you deal with, the more complex the qubit interactions become because they interact with one another in a process called entanglement. If you have more qubits, but there is a high error rate as they interact, then they might not be any more powerful than 5 qubit machine with a lower error rate. He says that IBM researchers have managed to achieve the higher qubit number with low error rates, making them highly useful to researchers. “We have more qubits and less errors, which is combined to solve more problems,” Gil said.