IBM's prototype quantum processor does not look anything like its traditional counterpart

IBM opens its quantum processor to public via cloud

IBM is letting members of the public sample the computing capabilities of its quantum processor via the cloud.

The cloud-enabled quantum computing platform - called IBM Quantum Experience - will allow users to run algorithms and experiments on the company’s quantum processor, work with the individual quantum bits (qubits) and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing.

The platform can be accessed through the IBM Cloud on a wide range of desktop or mobile devices.

Quantum technology could herald a new era for computing and has the potential to solve certain problems that are impossible to solve on today’s supercomputers. It also promises to allow for machines that are exponentially faster than traditional computers.

The processor is composed of five superconducting qubits and is housed at IBM’s research centre in New York.

The five-qubit processor represents the cutting edge of IBM’s work on quantum architectures which it believes will also scale well to larger systems.

Although a universal quantum computer does not exist today, IBM thinks that medium-sized quantum processors of 50-100 qubits will become a possibility in the next decade.

A quantum computer built of just 50 qubits would already be more powerful than the world’s top supercomputers.

“Quantum computers are very different from today’s computers, not only in what they look like and are made of, but more importantly in what they can do,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director, IBM Research.

“Quantum computing is becoming a reality and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today’s computers.

“This moment represents the birth of quantum cloud computing. By giving hands-on access to IBM’s experimental quantum systems, the IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology.”

Moore’s Law, the theory that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years, is coming to an end as scientists reach the physical limit of how many transistors they can fit in an area small enough for a processor.

It is hoped that quantum computing will present a bright future by reinventing the underlying mechanics behind computers to realise much faster systems that are not impeded by the physical limits transistors are currently coming up against.

Work is also accelerating in other areas of the quantum field with Australian researchers recently managing to faultlessly transport data in the form of entangled quantum bits using a novel device that paves the way for a future quantum data bus.

The ability to transfer quantum data between locations is one of the key prerequisites for the development of quantum computers. However, the task is complicated due to the fragile nature of the quantum states.

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