IBM achieves highest quantum volume to date

For significant improvement over classical systems, the power of quantum computers must double every year, according to IBM's quantum roadmap.

At the 2019 American Physical Society March Meeting, IBM announced it has achieved its highest quantum volume to date.

What is quantum volume? It’s a measurement–a procedure developed by IBM–that determines how powerful a quantum computer is, accounting for both gate and measurement errors, device cross talk, as well as device connectivity and circuit compiler efficiency.

IBM suggests that the higher the quantum volume, the more real-world, complex problems quantum computers can potentially solve, such as simulating chemistry, modelling financial risk and supply chain optimisation.

What determines quantum volume? Well, a variety of factors, including the number of qubits, connectivity and coherence time, plus accounting for gate and measurement errors, device cross talk and circuit software compiler efficiency.

See also: Quantum Computing will render much of today’s encryption unsafe, says Dr. Andrew Shields, Cambridge Research Laboratory of Toshiba Research Europe, but Quantum Cryptography could be the solution.

Double the power

According to IBM, it has doubled the power of its quantum computers annually since 2017.

“IBM first made quantum computers available to the public in May 2016 through its IBM Q experience quantum cloud service.”

The latest quantum computer developed by the tech giant (Q System One) has a fourth-generation 20-qubit processor and has produced a quantum volume of 16 — this is roughly double that of the current IBM Q 20-qubit IBM Q Network devices, which have a Quantum Volume of 8.

See also: Quantum computing will be one of the defining technologies that will emerge over the next five to ten years, according to Chris Lloyd-Jones from Avanade.

Quantum computing — coming soon to an enterprise near you?

According to the announcement, in addition to producing the highest Quantum Volume to date, ‘IBM Q System One’s performance reflects some of the lowest error rates IBM has ever measured, with an average 2-qubit gate error less than 2%, and its best gate achieving less than 1% error rate’.

“To build a fully-functional, large-scale, universal, fault-tolerant quantum computer, long coherence times and low error rates are required.”

Quantum volume translates to quantum advantage

Quantum Volume is a very useful performance metric that measures progress in the pursuit of quantum advantage: the point at which quantum applications deliver a significant, practical benefit beyond what classical computers alone are capable.

Potential use cases, such as precisely simulating battery-cell chemistry for electric vehicles, delivering a quadratic speedup in derivative pricing and many others are will emerge.

“To achieve quantum advantage in the 2020s, IBM believes that we will need to continue to at least double quantum volume every year.”

In “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits” in 1965, Gordon Moore postulated that the number of components per integrated function would grow exponentially for classical computers. IBM Q system progress since 2017 presents a similar early growth pattern. This makes it imperative that Quantum Volume doubles every year, presenting a clear roadmap towards achieving Quantum Advantage.

“Today, we are proposing a roadmap for quantum computing, as our IBM Q team is committed to reaching a point where quantum computation will provide a real impact on science and business,” said Dr. Sarah Sheldon, lead of the IBM Q Quantum Performance team, dedicated to quantum verification at IBM Research. “While we are making scientific breakthroughs and pursuing early uses cases for quantum computing, our goal is to continue to drive higher quantum volume to ultimately demonstrate quantum advantage.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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