20-qubit IBM Q quantum computer could double its predecessor’s processing power

IBM has long been one of the organizations at the forefront of research into quantum computing, especially when it comes to offering commercial access to its hardware. Now the company has announced significant new developments pertaining to its IBM Q program.

When IBM first gave the public access to its quantum computer via the internet in May 2016, its quantum processor comprised only 5 qubits. The company has announced that by the end of 2017, clients will be able to access a 20-qubit processor via its online portal.

Thanks to across-the-board improvements to elements like its connectivity and packaging, this means that the computer will be able to perform quantum computations as much as twice as fast as the 5- and 16-qubit systems that are currently available via the IBM Q platform.

IBM says that these improvements come as the result of three generations of development that have taken place since the IBM Q project got underway. Further enhancements are set to come in 2018, which should allow users to further explore the practical applications for this technology.

The company has already built and measured a prototype 50-qubit processor that is apparently already operational. It’s reportedly capable of similar performance to the systems that have already been rolled out, and will be made available as part of the next generation of IBM Q hardware.

These hardware improvements are accompanied by an expansion of QISKit, IBM’s open source software developer kit that’s intended to facilitate the use of quantum computers. Users can now use the package to create their own programs that can then be run on the company’s quantum hardware, or simulators.

Over the past 18 months, IBM Q has allowed 60,000 uses to run a total of 1.7 million quantum experiments for educational and experimental purposes. While various different entities are pushing the field of quantum computing forward, IBM stands alone in terms of its efforts to make the technology widely accessible to anyone who is interested in using it. Going forward, the possibilities are only going to grow in scope thanks to the improvements being made to the company’s hardware.


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