Quantum computing technology continues its rapid advance with top competitors IBM and Google recently announcing major breakthroughs in qubit volume and time crystals. IBM now claims its new chips will allow quantum systems to start outperforming classical computers within the next two years.
Right on their heels, however, is a wave of nimble startups that are just beginning to enter public markets. Following IonQ’s successful SPAC listing last month, Rigetti Computing is the next quantum-focused firm in line to close their own SPAC merger, valuing the company near $1.5 billion.
Related Stocks: International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), Alphabet Inc. (GOOG), IonQ, Inc. (IONQ), Supernova Partners Acquisition Company II, Ltd. (SNII)
Per Gartner data, 20% of global organizations, including governments and companies, are expected to budget for quantum-computing projects by 2023, up from less than 1% in 2018.
A 2020 paper by Inside Quantum Technology (IQT) projects that the quantum computing market will reach $2.2 Billion by 2026 as the number of installed quantum computers will reach around 180 over that same period.
A simple description of quantum computing, via MIT Technology Review, states that a classical computer utilizes bits that carry information represent either a 1 or a 0 (this is known as binary); but quantum bits, or qubits—which take the form of subatomic particles such as photons and electrons—can be in a kind of combination of 1 and 0 at the same time, a state known as “superposition.” Unlike bits, qubits can also influence one another through a phenomenon known as “entanglement.”
Using these two principles, qubits can exist in numerous different states and act as more sophisticated switches, enabling quantum computers to function in ways that allow them to solve difficult problems that are intractable using today’s computers. Quantum computing also has the potential to rapidly scale up its power, bypassing constraints that slowed the growth of traditional computers like Moore’s Law, which saw computing power double every 18 months to 24 months or so.
IBM’s Qubit Count, Google’s Time Crystal
Just the other day, IBM announced the company’s new Eagle processor more than doubles previous iterations of fully-programmable quantum computers by stringing together 127 qubits, making it the largest, and theoretically most powerful, superconducting quantum computer to be demonstrated. It was only 5 years ago that IBM was rolling out a 5-qubit quantum prototype. Looking down the line, Reuters notes that IBM is planning an “Osprey” chip in 2022 with 433 qubits and a “Condor” chip 1,121 qubits.
To contextualize the capacity of this processor, IBM says simulating Eagle would require more classical bits than there are atoms in every human being on the planet. Company executives believe the new chips will allow quantum systems to start outperforming classical computers in a variety of tasks within the next two years. IBM’s quantum tech has already been employed for enterprise use via the cloud for several years.
While we can easily demonstrate the superior power of quantum computers against classical computers, Engadget notes that it is more complex to compare quantum processors against one another based on number of qubits alone. Last October, for instance, Honeywell claimed its System Model H1 had a quantum volume of 128 with just 10 connected qubits versus IBM’s 27 qubit system with a quantum volume of 64.
IBM has yet to release a calculation of quantum volume for Eagle, but that may be due to their work on a new method of measuring a quantum computer’s speed. IBM posits that the number of qubits only reflects one of the three critical attributes of a quantum computer’s performance (the other two being speed and quality). As ZDNet writes, quantum volume measures quality, but circuit layer operations per second (CLOPS) is the first measure of speed that gauges the number of quantum circuits a quantum processing unit (QPU) can execute per unit of time. Although all of IBM’s quantum computers up to 65 qubits have a similar quantum volume, company researchers found vast differences in speed: the largest machine actually performed the slowest, at a CLOPS of 753 layers per second, compared to 1,419 for the smallest processor. This is likely an issue IBM has worked on in their new Eagle processor.
While Eagle has apparently vaulted IBM into the top position among companies working on fully-programmable quantum computing in terms of qubit volume, their processors are not yet at the point where it can solve problems that classical computers cannot.
Alphabet’s Google, also knee deep in quantum computing tech, made that claim back in 2019 with their quantum Sycamore system – a claim that was heavily disputed by competitors. In 2019, MRP broke down the facts and fiction behind their supposed achievement of “quantum supremacy”; the point at which a quantum computer that can…
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