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IBM To Commercialize Quantum Computing

IBM is moving forward with its effort to build commercially viable quantum computers.

Cutting-edge IBM Q systems will be delivered to select business and science partners over the next few years via the IBM Cloud platform, the company said this week.

According to the initiative's Web site, "A quantum computer is an entirely new type of system based on the properties of quantum physics." Working with quantum mechanics at the most fundamental levels, this approach promises to process information in a new way completely different from classical computers. The technology is explained here.

As part of its initiative, IBM announced it will also provide software tools and an environment that enables collaboration with developers, programmers and university partners.

The company said it will scale its quantum computers to 50 qubits, based on advancing all parts of the system from the superconducting qubits to system integration and semiconductor-based advances.

Last June, IBM launched the cloud-based IBM Quantum Experience, which allowed researchers to connect to IBM's quantum processor via the IBM Cloud to run algorithms and work with the individual quantum bits. About 40,000 scientists used the environment to run over 275,000 experiments, the company said.

To make its quantum tools more accessible, IBM is now offering an API for developers to build connections between quantum and classical computers. IBM has made the specs for its new Quantum API available on GitHub and provided simple scripts to demonstrate how the API functions.

In the first half of 2017, IBM said it plans to release a software development kit on the IBM Quantum Experience so users to build simple quantum applications and software programs. The company also said it will release an upgraded simulator that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits.

One of the first and most promising applications for quantum computing will be in the area of chemistry, according to IBM, which also suggests the technology could be used in supply chain and logistics, financial services, artificial intelligence and cloud security.

"Unlocking the usefulness of quantum computing will require hands-on experience with real quantum computers," said Isaac Chuang, professor of physics and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. In the fall 2016 semester, MIT used IBM's Quantum Experience as part of an online quantum information science course. Students "were able to run experiments on IBM's quantum processor and test out for themselves quantum computing principles and theories they were learning," he said.

About the Author

Susan Miller is an editor and writer with 1105 Media's Public Sector Media group.

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