IBM has revealed its ambitions to bring the power of quantum computing to the business world.

The tech firm is making available its IBM Q quantum systems to firms wanting to analyse and explore data that’s too complicated for standard computing.

“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,” said senior vice president of IBM Systems Tom Rosamilia.

“To create knowledge from much greater depths of complexity, we need a quantum computer. 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.”
Future applications of quantum computing could be modelling financial data to better assess risk, optimising logistics and supply chain routes and helping artificial intelligence analyse bigger data sets.

IBM is working on delivering superpowerful quantum computing of 50 qubits (quantum bits) via its cloud services in the coming years. IBM’s Quantum Lab in New York is already home to a five qubit processor, but today it announced this is now capable of 20 qubits.

Developers and programmers will now have access to the five quibt processor via a newly released API, while IBM will soon release a software development kit (SDK) with the 20 qubit processor for building simple quantum applications and software programmes.

“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,” said IBM Research director Arvind Krishna.

“Following Watson and blockchain, we believe that quantum computing will provide the next powerful set of services delivered via the IBM Cloud platorm, and promises to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries.”

While the current power of IBM’s quantum computing is only on a par with the current traditional supercomputers, executives believe progress will be rapid, having already predicted 50-100 qubit processors in the next decade, which would surpass classic computing.

Another firm, D-Wave, announced last year that it has created a 2,000 qubit processor. The Canadian company’s customers include Nasa, Google and Lockheed Martin.

But IBM is opening up its own systems to collaborations with researchers and business. 40,000 users have already run over 275,000 experiments with IBM’s Quantum Experience since last year, and it is now hunting for industrial partners to join its Research Frontiers Institute, which already has Samsung, Honda and Canon among its members.

By Lynsey Barber

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