Race is on to bring quantum computing into mainstream

By IQT News posted 05 Jan 2022

(FT) Many in the field of quantum computing believe a less ambitious milestone than quantum supremacy will be reached within two years, triggering a rush to be the first to bring it into the mainstream. IQT-News summarizes FT’s recent article.
Much of the attention has been fixed on the point at which a quantum system far outstrips today’s “classical” systems — something known as quantum supremacy. Google claimed to have reached this milestone two years ago. Since then, many researchers have shifted their focus to something less ambitious. Known as quantum advantage, this is the point at which a system employs the technology to bring a step-change in solving a practical computing task. The first practical application based on quantum advantage will officially launch the quantum age, predicted Peter Chapman, chief executive of IonQ, which in 2021 became the first quantum computing company to be listed on Wall Street. He compared it to the VisiCalc spreadsheet program, which at a stroke in 1979 “made the PC usable for business” and launched the PC era of computing. The prospect of finding a practical application for the technology has galvanised the industry in recent months and triggered a competition to be first, said Matt Johnson, chief executive of QC Ware, a quantum software company. The industry’s shift in gear has been prompted by improvements to quantum hardware systems that were announced late in 2021, along with projections of the kind of systems that will be available two years from now.
IBM in November released its first system employing 127 qubits and confirmed a road map that it said would see this rise to more than 1,000 qubits in two years’ time. “The ability to demonstrate quantum advantage in the next two years is possible,” said Dario Gil, head of research at IBM. While conceding that “it’s an open question” if the remaining technical challenges can be overcome, he said the hardware advances and improvements in the design of algorithms opened the way to reducing the noise in today’s systems to a level where they are useful.
Ilyas Khan, chief executive of Quantinuum, the company formed by the recent merger of Cambridge Quantum and Honeywell’s quantum computing division. Instead, he and others said much of the attention in the short term had shifted to trying to use quantum systems in tandem with classical computers to improve machine learning, the technique behind much of today’s artificial intelligence. The huge data sets that already exist to support machine learning, together with the scale and complexity of the problems, made this field ripe for a quantum breakthrough, said Rigetti.

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