IBM has made available an industry-first initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems.
The company says IBM Q quantum systems and services will be delivered via the IBM Cloud platform.
It adds that while technologies that currently run on existing computers, such as Watson, can help find patterns and insights buried in vast amounts of existing data, quantum computers will deliver solutions to important problems where patterns cannot be seen because the data doesn't exist and the possibilities that one needs to explore to get to the answer are too enormous to ever be processed by traditional computers.
Quantum computing studies theoretical computation systems (quantum computers) that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. Quantum computers are different from binary digital electronic computers based on transistors.
The IBM Quantum Experience enables anyone to connect to IBM's quantum processor via the IBM Cloud, to run algorithms and experiments, work with the individual quantum bits, and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing.
"IBM has invested over decades to growing the field of quantum computing and we are committed to expanding access to quantum systems and their powerful capabilities for the science and business communities," says Arvind Krishna, senior vice-president of hybrid cloud and director for IBM Research.
"Following Watson and blockchain, we believe quantum computing will provide the next powerful set of services delivered via the IBM Cloud platform, and promises to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries."
IBM intends to build IBM Q systems to expand the application domain of quantum computing. The computing company notes that a key metric will be the power of a quantum computer expressed by the "Quantum Volume", which includes the number of qubits, quality of quantum operations, qubit connectivity and parallelism.
As a first step to increase Quantum Volume, IBM aims at constructing commercial IBM Q systems with less than 50 qubits in the next few years to demonstrate capabilities beyond today's classical systems, and plans to collaborate with key industry partners to develop applications that exploit the quantum speedup of the systems.
IBM Q systems will be designed to tackle problems that are currently seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical computing systems to handle.
The company explains that one of the first and most promising applications for quantum computing will be in the area of chemistry. Even for simple molecules like caffeine, the number of quantum states in the molecule can be astoundingly large – so large that all the conventional computing memory and processing power scientists could ever build could not handle the problem, it notes.
IBM's scientists have developed techniques to efficiently explore the simulation of chemistry problems on quantum processors and experimental demonstrations of various molecules are in progress.
In the future, the goal will be to scale to even more complex molecules and try to predict chemical properties with higher precision than possible with classical computers.
"Classical computers are extraordinarily powerful and will continue to advance and underpin everything we do in business and society. But there are many problems that will never be penetrated by a classical computer. To create knowledge from much greater depths of complexity, we need a quantum computer," says Tom Rosamilia, senior vice-president of IBM Systems.
"We envision IBM Q systems working in concert with our portfolio of classical high-performance systems to address problems that are currently unsolvable, but hold tremendous untapped value."