IBM hits quantum computing milestone

IBM unveiled a quantum computer prototype Nov. 10 — the first operational quantum hardware with a 50 qubit processor, company officials said.

The prototype handles 50 units of quantum information, known as qubits, and boasts being the "most sophisticated quantum computer yet," according to the MIT Technology Review. Tech giants like IBM, Google and Intel are all competing to build working quantum computing systems.

Quantum computing is meant to help researchers investigate problems that are too complex for classical computing systems. One application, for example, is chemistry, since even simple molecules have too many quantum states for conventional computing memory and processing power.

While a landmark for the computing industry — the processor builds on IBM's existing 20 qubit architecture — the amount of time available to perform quantum computations on IBM's prototype is 90 microseconds, too short for many common uses, according to the MIT Technology Review.

The company plans to make the 50 qubit processor, which is still in development, available in its next generation of IBM Q systems. IBM Q is delivered on the company's cloud platform to provide clients with an online quantum computing system for business and science applications.

More than 60,000 clients have run 1.7 million-plus quantum experiments on previous generations of IBM Q since its launch in May 2016.

"The ability to reliably operate several working quantum systems and putting them online was not possible just a few years ago," said Dario Gil, vice president of artificial intelligence and IBM Q at IBM Research. "These latest advances show that we are quickly making quantum systems and tools available that could offer an advantage for tackling problems outside the realm of classical machines."

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