Google and IBM move forward in systems capable of performing in second operations that would take thousands of years to a supercomputer.
The recent achievements in quantum computing announced through an involuntary filtration of Google and the commissioning of an IBM computer with 53 qubits on October 15 (until now it had 20 qubits models, or quantum bits) have returned the focus on a career in which other companies such as Microsoft, Honeywell, Rigetti Computing, IonQ, Intel and NTT also participate. “But we are still far. Right now, a quantum personal computer is not viable because there is neither technological capacity nor the objective of this technology, ”warns José Luis Salmerón, Professor of Information Systems and Computer Management at the Pablo de Olavide University.
Salmerón agrees that the advances of Google and IBM are milestones of this race “to make quantum computing viable in a production environment”, although it is not yet possible to speak of fully operational quantum computing. However, computers can be simulated that bring us closer to this model that will allow, according to the Google document published and removed, in 200 seconds operations that would require 10,000 years on a conventional computer.
This path has started in the New Digital Business of BBVA, in which Salmerón also collaborates as a lead data scientist . These quantum algorithms are being used in the processing of financial information. But there is also a huge way to go in the fields of medicine, pharmacy, materials, genetics, engineering, biochemistry, artificial intelligence, robotics and any discipline that requires a huge amount of data with which Solve more problems and more complex.
“It’s not about doing the same thing in less time,” warns Salmerón, who believes that the quantum computer is far from reaching the average user because, among other things, it is unnecessary for everyday work. “But the user will benefit because many services he uses will use it, not counting the scientific research that may be advanced by having a more powerful tool than any existing supercomputer,” he says in reference to this potential called “quantum supremacy.”
This race is international: the United States, China, France, Germany, Japan and Russia have their own national supercomputing programs.
What has been achieved?
The Quantum Supremacy report using a programmable superconducting processor was published and removed almost immediately, but it came to The Financial Times , which published a copy of it . In this experiment the Sycamore quantum processor was used to demonstrate that the figures created by a random number generator were truly random. The results compared them with the time that would be used by the world’s largest supercomputer, known as Summit, to perform the same calculations and determined that it would have taken 10,000 years.
The key is that the computing used by Google uses a “quantum gate”, the equivalent of the logic gates that conventional computers use, but with infinite more capacity. Among other properties, it allows the information to be processed not with the binary system of 1 and 0, but with a simultaneous combination of both and reversibly or with mutual influence, a phenomenon known as entanglement. Salmerón tries to simplify it to the maximum to make it understandable. “With a conventional computer we get a black and white photograph. With the quantum, we have a huge amount of gray scale. ” The result is an exponential increase in processing capacity.
“The achievement of Google is an initial milestone, but combined with other strategies can be very important, ” warns Professor Pablo de Olavide. Among the challenges that quantum computing finds are from the merely physical – the process can be altered by vibrations or temperature changes – to those of programming itself.
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IBM announced this September the next opening of its New York Quantum Computing Center for commercial and research activities. As of this month, the multinational will have 14 systems, including a new 53 qubits computer, something that the company considers “the largest quantum system available for external access to date.”
The new system can be accessed by 150,000 users from 80 commercial clients, academic institutions and research laboratories that have generated more than 200 scientific articles and 14 million experiments since 2016.
“Our strategy, since we put the first quantum computer in the cloud in 2016, was to move quantum computing beyond isolated laboratory experiments performed by a handful of organizations and put it in the hands of tens of thousands of users,” explains Dario Gil, director of IBM Research.