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IBM claims to be launching Quantum Computing in the cloud

Mon 6 Mar 2017

IBM has announced a pending cloud-based offering which will leverage the power of Quantum Computing on a commercial basis – though details are scarce at the moment.

The announcement states that Big Blue will offer commercial QC systems via the IBM Cloud Platform, based around the company’s IBM Q quantum computing platform. The claim is that the system ‘will be designed to tackle problems that are too complex and exponential in nature for classical computing systems to handle’:

‘[Quantum] computers will deliver solutions to important problems where patterns cannot be seen because the data doesn’t exist and the possibilities that you need to explore to get to the answer are too enormous to ever be processed by classical computers.’

IBM maintains a quantum computing research laboratory at Yorktown Heights in New York. However the general consideration of the field, in terms of commercial value, is one of nascent potential rather than current direct commercial applicability. Since the concepts and specialised hardware required for QC are difficult to understand and to exploit, the announcement seems more a statement of intent than a firm product offering.

Quantum computing employs Quantum bits (qubits) rather than binary digit bits, and these are capable of post-linear operation and superimposition of states. The technology is most anticipated in its potential relative to cryptography, which has engendered interest in ‘post-quantum’ cryptographic methods which operate on the assumption that quantum computers, once an established technology, will be able to penetrate traditional security encryption with ease.

Early commercial QC offerings include D-Wave Systems, which after an extensive period of development began to offer the D-Wave One product, initially operating on a 128-qubit chipset, and now offering capacity of 2048 qubits – relative to the 50-qubit offering that IBM anticipates. At the end of January 2017 the company announced its first system order, of the D-Wave 2000Q Quantum Computer. D-Wave claims that its QPUs outperform linear bit-based algorithms by a factor of 1000-10,000.

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