IBM's online quantum machine gets faster

Mar 6, 2017 · bbc.co.uk

Screen shot 2017 03 06 at 09.28.26

IBM has made its quantum computing system commercially available to businesses and beefed up an existing system used by the research community.

The firm is hoping to boost the numbers of people able to use such computers.

The machine, based in New York, has been available via the internet since May last year.

Future applications include the discovery of new materials and medicines as well as making artificial intelligence much more powerful.

Tricky problem

Since the system went online last year, more than 40,000 users have run over 275,000 experiments on it.

While the system it has made publicly available is currently only as powerful as a standard laptop, it is an important first step, said IBM scientist Dr Jerry Chow.

"It is about growing an eco-system of users, developing a community that can grow and define the software that will run it," he explained.

He added that the system now includes an interface which allows programmers to launch instructions for the machine using traditional programming languages.

Traditional computers process all their information using bits - information stored in tiny transistors that can either be on or off - interpreted as values of one and zero.

Quantum computing instead takes advantage of a mechanism called super-positioning that allows quantum bits - or "qubits" - to have values of one, zero, or both at the same time.

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