- On Tuesday, IBM laid out an ambitious roadmap for the future of its quantum computing efforts, pledging to release a 1,000-qubit quantum computer by 2023.
- The announcement is notable, as IBM also said it would aim to double its capabilities every year. Qubits are essentially the building blocks of quantum computing — the more qubits, the stronger the system.
- "The last few doublings are absolutely game changing," IBM Research Director Dario Gil told Business Insider. "That is the absolute key to be able to then run applications that you could not run classically."
- The tech giant also said it built a refrigerated facility could eventually store a million-plus qubit device.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The future of quantum computing could be closer than you think — at least, if IBM has its way.
The technology powerhouse is confident that in just a few years it will cross a significant milestone towards eventually having a full-proof system capable of solving problems currently deemed impossible by today's compute standards.
While complicated, the firm is promising to deliver a 1,000 qubit quantum computer by 2023, per a Tuesday announcement. IBM also said it built a refrigerator dubbed "Goldeneye" that could eventually provide the cooling necessary to meet the demands of storing a million-plus qubit device.
Qubits are effectively the building blocks of quantum. Unlike traditional computers that operate as a function of zero or one, qubits can be both at the same time, permitting the systems to process immensely more complex algorithms.
So essentially, the higher the qubit chip, the more powerful the computer. The company — which says it has over 100 clients using its quantum tech — is also aiming to double its capabilities every year, so crossing the 1,000-qubit benchmark is an inflection point that will spur rapid evolution, according to IBM Research Director Dario Gil.
"The last few doublings are absolutely game changing," he told Business Insider. "That is the absolute key to be able to then run applications that you could not run classically."
The quantum race is on
The timeline is also notable because quantum computing remains a largely academic topic today, with large corporations like IBM, Microsoft, Honeywell, and others all vying to hit the next milestone towards mainstream adoption first.
Last year, Google claimed to be the first to reach "quantum supremacy;" effectively the level at which a specific calculation would no longer be able to run on a classic computer. IBM, however, contested that announcement, saying that Google's declaration of "supremacy" was premature.
SEE MORE: IBM picked a fight with Google over its claims of 'quantum supremacy.' Here's why experts say the feud could shake up the tech industry's balance of powers.
And earlier this year, Honeywell claimed to introduce the world's most powerful quantum computer, but some experts also viewed it with skepticism given the debate over what metrics to use to support such a claim. The company also pledged to "increase its computer's quantum volume by an order of magnitude each year for the next five years" — doubling down on the same measurement that IBM uses that takes into account other factors besides just the number of qubits.
So while it's an ambitious goal for IBM, and one that would likely help to establish the company as the front-runner in the nascent industry, it remains unclear whether competitors are developing their own machines at the same pace.
'It's a signaling mechanism as to what the rate of progress is going to look like'
The quantum race aside, the timeline also helps to enable other partners within the industry to plan their own roadmaps that can coincide with IBM's, according to Gil.
There are providers, for example, that are developing other critical aspects for the systems to function — like circuits, or effectively the connecting tissue between the algorithms and the quantum computers themselves.
"It's a signaling mechanism as to what the rate of progress is going to look like," said Gil.
It's all part of an effort by IBM and others to create a thriving sector around the still-developing tech. Amazon, for example, recently began offering public access to quantum computers from startups D-Wave, Rigetti, and IonQ — which customers like Fidelity said would allow companies to begin to develop internal expertise on the topic.
"The reality of having quantum computers enabled to run use cases and applications with a totally different cost structure or competitive advantage to what you could do classically is going to happen this decade," said Gil. "You've got to got really serious right now on understanding what quantum is going to do for you."
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