Quantum computing is no longer a futuristic concept. The world has entered the Quantum Decade – an era when companies are starting to see the business value of quantum computing. This year’s unprecedented advances in hardware, software development and services validate the technology’s momentum, creating an ecosystem that paves the way for further advancements and helps prepare the market for the adoption of this revolutionary technology.
Today, there are quantum computing projects underway globally, across multiple industries, as organizations look to prepare for the day when this technology can help them solve complex problems that classical computing alone cannot solve. In Brazil, for example, organizations are exploring the potential of quantum computing to help discover new materials and chemical compounds that are critically important for the development of new drugs and next-generation battery technology. From chemistry and materials science to financial and logistics optimization, the potential benefits of quantum computing are significant.
How does quantum computing work?
Quantum computing is an exciting evolution in computing. Whereas classical computers calculate in bits that represent 0 and 1, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, to take advantage of quantum mechanical phenomena like superposition, entanglement, and interference to compute — with the potential to solve problems that are fundamentally, and currently, , no resolution for classical computers.
Millions of classic bits work together to process and display information – the “speed” everyone is familiar with on smartphones, laptops and cloud servers. Alternatively, quantum computer qubits can be in a combination of states that are between 0 and 1, which represents several computing options. Increasing computational space refers to options that can be explored by a properly designed algorithm, whereas qubits cannot run multiple algorithms at the same time. But the number options for exploration grow exponentially as the number of qubits increases.
To put this in perspective, if we wanted to try to simulate the 127-qubit Eagle processor — IBM’s first quantum computing processor with more than 100 qubits — the number of classical bits you would need would be more than the number of atoms contained in all of them. the more than 7.5 billion people on Earth. For reference, just one adult is made up of more than 7 octillion atoms (one octillion equals 1 followed by 27 zeros).
However, innovation alone cannot unlock the full potential of quantum computing. That’s why ecosystem-wide collaboration is critical.
IBM has been working on the foundations of quantum computing for decades, and progress in 2022 has allowed it to expand its roadmap and set it on a path towards the development of more than 4,000 qubit processors with both quantum and classical communication. In just two years, every goal set has been delivered and it is now possible to see the path to practical quantum computing more clearly than ever before. That’s why its roadmap has been extended to 2025, detailing a clear path to scalable, practical, and hassle-free quantum computing.
But let’s go by parts. You don’t get to 1000 qubits without first getting to 100 qubits. Classical computers can simulate similar results from quantum circuits to some extent, but each additional qubit doubles the complexity of this task. With 127 qubits, Eagle takes us beyond territory accessible to classic computers. By 2025, IBM will not only increase the number of qubits in single processors, it will successfully connect the processors, creating systems with tens of thousands of qubits over the next few years.
The value of the ecosystem
The challenge of quantum computing is too big for anyone. As quantum moves from the lab to the real world, ecosystems are forming to support collaborative innovation and open source development. Potential ecosystems likely include a quantum computing technology partner, quantum computing developers, and academic partners.
“IBM believes collaboration accelerates discovery, which is why we partner with customers, academic institutions, startups and developers to drive quantum computing forward. Today, the IBM Quantum team and customers are researching and exploring how quantum computing will help a variety of industries and disciplines,” explains Ana Paula Appel, Client Engineering Senior Data Scientist and IBM Latin America Quantum Ambassador.
For example, the IBM Quantum Network has more than 190 customers globally, including ExxonMobil, HSBC, LG Electronics, Mercedes-Benz and other Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions and research labs that work with IBM Quantum technology to advance the quantum computing and explore practical applications.
Furthermore, developer communities – not just traditional developers but also chemists, electrical engineers and mathematicians – are training today to apply quantum concepts as they prepare for tomorrow. In this regard, it is possible to mention, for example, Qiskit, an open source community around the software development kit to build tools and code development libraries necessary for quantum developers. The community also provides skills development and education opportunities for thousands of quantum computing students around the world, including Brazil.
It’s really exciting to see how quantum technology is evolving. In the financial sector, for example, HSBC is working with IBM to accelerate the readiness of quantum computing. The institution foresees the application of quantum resources to priorities such as pricing and portfolio optimization, sustainability, risk and fraud. The bank will also empower the ecosystem in quantum technology through in-house training programs, as well as actively recruiting quantum computing research scientists to build dedicated capacity within its innovation team.
There is no doubt that there will be more advances in hardware and software. Appel provides more details on the IBM Quantum roadmap:
“Our goal is to build quantum supercomputers that will incorporate quantum processors, classical processors, quantum communication networks and classical networks, all working together to completely transform the way we compute. To do that, we need to solve the challenge of scaling quantum processors, develop a runtime environment to deliver quantum computations with greater speed and quality, and introduce a serverless programming model to allow quantum and classical processors to work together without conflict.”
One thing is clear: the end of the Quantum Decade will be nothing like the beginning. We will work with quantum processors with thousands of qubits; we will have an entire workforce with years of quantum experience and companies will have seen the quantum payoff.