IBM has progressed further along the path to quantum computing, having built and tested two new devices far in advance of its previous best 5-qubit processor.
First is a freely-accessible 16-qubit processor, which can be reached through the IBM Cloud; while the second, a prototype commercial 17-qubit processor, is ‘at least' twice as powerful as what is available to the public on the IBM Cloud today. This 17-qubit processor will form the core of the first IBM Q early-access systems.
IBM Q is the company's move to build commercially-available universal quantum computing systems, for business and science applications. Systems and services will be delivered via the IBM Cloud, which the public have been using to access IBM's quantum processors for more than a year; to date, they have run more than 300,000 quantum experiments using the platform.
Quantum computers can achieve much greater computational power than classical computers. Instead of bits made of ones and zeroes, qubits (quantum bits) can act as both a one and a zero at the same time (known as ‘superposition'). Another difference from classic computing is ‘entanglement', which can tell an observer how one qubit will act by observing another. Superposition and entanglement are responsible for much of the extra processing power that quantum computers can achieve.
Beta access to the 16-qubit processor is available through Github.
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