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  1. Hardware
November 8, 2017

Who owns the future of quantum computing?

Quantum computing could drastically change the game for many industries - from healthcare to business.

By Tom Ball

Quantum computing could be the key to a brighter future for humanity, taking the meaning of information processing to a whole new level.

The nascent technology differs from the kind of computing our minds jump to when we hear or read the word. Quantum computing is rooted in the laws of nature, drawing upon their designs and processes and using quantum particles instead of transistors used to govern electronic signals.

It is thought that if humanity could make a breakthrough in this area of technology, computing power could be multiplied on a grand scale, creating systems capable of processing unimaginable masses of data.

Progress in this area could be a catalyst for breakthroughs in a range of important areas, a principle example being in the development of new drugs that could fight diseases that still cast a dark cloud over our existence. The technology could also accelerate our progress in other areas of technology, including machine learning and AI.

Rest assured, the golden future that this technology could contribute to is being pursued by a number of tech industry titans, with a great deal of research being channelled toward progress. The question is who owns the future of quantum computing?

 

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Microsoft

Leaving no top tech trend stone unturned, Microsoft is deeply immersed in the development of its quantum computing capabilities, taking its own approach to achieving progress in the space.

Microsoft is working on what it is calling a topological approach, using topological qubits for the purpose of conducting computations. According to the company, this method has enhanced both rates of longevity in computations, and in terms of efficiency.

Where technology progress is being made, especially in a relatively unexplored area, investment is always vital, and Microsoft has been spending money on assembling a global team specifically for working on quantum computing. So far Microsoft has been capable of simulating up to 40 qubits of computational power.

Pushing their quantum agenda at this year’s Ignite show, Nick McQuire from CCS Insight commented: “Ignite was Microsoft’s first public push into quantum computing, putting it squarely against key rivals Google and IBM in cloud computing’s next big arms race.

“Although wide scale quantum-based solutions won’t arrive for another decade, Microsoft is now showcasing its new tools that put a marker down on the next shift in computing and cloud services. Along with artificial intelligence, this is the next frontier of competition amongst the major cloud providers,” McQuire said.

Interestingly, Microsoft is keen not to just leave developments in the lab, waiting until a major step forward is taken. The company has made a full-stack solution available, working within the current trend of collaboration to bring people who are enthusiastic on board to learn and even provide insight and ideas.

IBM

IBM claims to be the provider of an industry-first scheme for making quantum computing widely available for commercial use, with the programme dubbed IBM Q.

Proving a fast moving competitor in the pioneering race toward the future of quantum computing, IBM has expressed ambitions to achieve between 50 and 100 qubits of computational power within the next decade – 50 is enough to outgun even the most powerful supercomputers.

Underpinning Big Blue’s supercomputer may be IBM’s recently announced prototype commercial processor – which the firm claims to be its most powerful quantum processor ever.

Boasting 17 qubits and engineered to be at least twice as powerful as what is available today to the public on the IBM Cloud, the processor will be he basis for the first IBM Q early-access commercial systems.·

“The significant engineering improvements announced today will allow IBM to scale future processors to include 50 or more qubits, and demonstrate computational capabilities beyond today’s classical computing systems,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research and Hybrid Cloud.

“These powerful upgrades to our quantum systems, delivered via the IBM Cloud, allow us to imagine new applications and new frontiers for discovery that are virtually unattainable using classical computers alone.”

This year IBM unveiled its plan to make the IBM Q programme widely available, aiming to generate further progress in the space. As part of this, the company announced an API and a simulator for the IBM Quantum Experience, fuelling a major education drive regarding the technology.

 

Intel

Intel is not about to let its name be forgotten in the quantum computing future, and it is taking the fight to the likes of Microsoft and IBM.

Racing alongside those at the front of the pack, Intel made the October 2017 announcement that it had created a 17-quantum bit computing chip. This innovation was on par in terms of size with IBM’s top offering, which is so far the biggest to have been created.

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To maintain this type of chip, conditions that are 250 times colder than deep space are required for it to be maintained, placing Intel among a small group capable of driving progress in this specific area.

After the chip was built, Intel placed it in the hands of a research firm in the Netherlands called QuTech, marking Intel’s intentions to remain a main central contender in quantum computing development.

 

Google

Unsurprisingly, Google has been at the forefront of quantum computing, mainly flanked by IBM alone, and while others are entering the frame, Google remains a major player in the nascent space.

Google has been working with some formidable partners in the pursuit of quantum computing research and progress, with NASA being the stand out name. This partnership has been focussed on the Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, focussing on the development of technologies including machine learning.

The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) has also been working with Google, and together this team may be drawing close to a major breakthrough. Recently the partners presented a proof-of-principle quantum computer, with a plan to create a 49 qubit system, just shy of the 50 qubits that is thought to be enough to be more powerful than any other supercomputer so far known to man.

Having showcased its capabilities, Google is at the forefront of the quantum computing pack, poised to lead the future into the future of the exciting technology. Making this achievement would potentially rapidly accelerate automation progress in areas such as AI.

 

Top 5 pioneers of the quantum computing futureD-Wave

Claiming to be the first quantum computing company the world has ever seen, D-Wave has also made the claim that it offers the single most powerful quantum computer.

The D-Wave 2000Q is the quantum computer that the company believes has earned the leading title, and it works by harnessing a superconducting processor that works by using quantum mechanics.

D-Wave says it is the only commercial supplier of quantum computing systems, and like the others on this list, D-Wave is working to make quantum computing worldwide in the future. Some spaces D-Wave believes could gain great benefit from include national defence, as well as technical and scientific challenges.

So far the computer has been successful in optimisation tasks, working in areas such as machine learning, cybersecurity, financial analysis, Bioinformatics, and image analysis. D-Wave has 140 U.S. patents that have been approved and granted, and the company has contributed greatly to research and development by providing a substantial 90 scientific papers that specifically focus on the technology.

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