IBM revealed that, thanks to advances in quantum hardware, it successfully developed an operational prototype 50-qubit processor. It also announced a 20-qubit processor for IBM Q systems, boasting improvements in "superconducting qubit design, connectivity and packaging."
The 50-qubit processor, meanwhile, will become available in the next generation of IBM Q systems. The company said clients will possess online access to the first IBM Q system's computing power by the end of 2017, and further upgrades will come to fruition during 2018.
Dario Gil, vice president of AI and IBM Q, IBM Research said:
"We are, and always have been, focused on building technology with the potential to create value for our clients and the world. The ability to reliably operate several working quantum systems and putting them online was not possible just a few years ago. [...] Now, we can scale IBM processors up to 50 qubits due to tremendous feats of science and engineering. 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."
Following the course of the next year, IBM Q scientists will pursue improving its devices by improving the quality of qubits, circuit connectivity, and error rates of operations that allows it to increase the depth for running quantum algorithms.
IBM also pointed towards its growing quantum computing ecosystem. Some examples mentioned were open-source software tools as well as educational and enablement materials. IBM Q has seen over 60,000 users running over 1.7 million quantum experiments, in addition to producing over 35 third-party research publications.
The technology company’s rapid progress in the field is quite impressive. It had only developed two quantum computers with 16 and 17 qubits in May. Before that announcement, in March, IBM and Google revealed plans to commercialize quantum computing technologies, with the former evidently making greater strides in achieving that.
Quantum computing systems are powerful enough to enable new applications that a conventional PC can't handle. IBM pointed out that quantum computing will have the ability to solve complex problems including chemical simulations and types of optimization. For example, this year the IBM Q team developed a new way to look at chemistry problems through quantum hardware, which they say could eventually "transform the way new drugs and materials are discovered."
IBM, a once-juggernaut in the computing industry, plans to further detail its advances in the space at an IEEE conference taking place today.