IBM Launches New Services for Quantum Computing Education

(Image credit: IBM)

IBM Q today announced a new set of features aimed at the education and democratizing of quantum computing. These include new educational hardware, a textbook and video tutorial series, and even a university hackathon program.

Big Blue launched the IBM Q Experience quantum cloud platform in 2016, making 5-qubit quantum processors and a simulator available online to the public. Since then, IBM has made several additions to the program, such as releasing the Qiskit framework to enable users to more easily write and run code for quantum devices as well as providing a more advanced 16-qubit processor. Tens of millions of experiments and simulations have been conducted to date, IBM says.

Dedicated to making quantum science and computing even more approachable, IBM is investing in quantum education with the goal of creating more students, educators, developers, and domain experts with “quantum ready” skills. (As one caveat though, while these events and services are geared towards creating a larger quantum computing literate community, they are also tailored specifically to IBM’s platform.) This is where today’s announcements come in.

IBM is rolling out a new feature to IBM Q Experience – initially only for members of the IBM Q Network – that will allow users to reserve blocks of uninterrupted time on an IBM Q system. This will allow educators to schedule time for demonstrations in the classroom. Students, meanwhile, can follow along via the web browser, so no installations are required. IBM is also rolling out new IBM Q Experience Systems that are available over the cloud. The new 5-qubit quantum computers are dedicated to educational training and research, but the company did not elaborate if and how the new systems differ from the previous ones.

Furthermore, IBM has released an open-source textbook ‘Learn Quantum Computation Using Qiskit.’ It allows students to learn quantum computation through practical problem sets run on real systems. The co-author of the book says that a strong background in quantum mechanics is not required. It is aimed at both self-learners and educators; for outside the classroom, IBM is also offering a ‘Coding With Qiskit’ video series that in particular focuses on the hardest part of learning a new language, the beginning, IBM says.

Lastly, IBM is offering a series of events for all members of the quantum community:

  • The IBM Q Award Challenges are semester-long competitions on various topics, open to everyone
  • Its University Hackathon Partnership Program lets universities partner with IBM’s global teams to host a hands-on Qiskit experience, where students get to collaborate with IBM Q experts for developing quantum software programs
  • IBM is also hosting international Qiskit Camps in Asia, Africa and Europe for competing in teams

It is not IBM's first quantum computing announcement this year. It showed the IBM Q System One at CES and also announced plans to commercialize a 58-qubit quantum computer within the next several years.