Posts Tagged ‘IBM Q experience’

IBM Pushes Quantum for Business

June 20, 2019

Other major system providers pursuing quantum computing initiatives, but none are pursuing it as methodically or persistently as IBM. In a recent announcement:  IBM’s Institute for Business Value introduced a five-step roadmap to bring quantum computing to your organization.

Into IBM Q computation center: dilution refrigerators with microwave electronics (middle) that provide Q Network cloud access to 20-qubit processor. (Credit: Connie Zhou)

Start by familiarizing yourself with superposition and entanglement, which enable quantum computers to solve problems intractable for today’s conventional computers:

Superposition. A conventional computer uses binary bits that can only depict either 1 or 0. Instead, quantum computers use qubits that can depict a 1 or 0, or any combination by superposition of the qubits’ possible states. This supplies quantum computers with an exponential set of states they can explore to solve certain types of problems better than conventional computers.

Entanglement. In the quantum world, two qubits located even light-years apart can still act in ways that are strongly correlated. Quantum computing takes advantage of this entanglement to encode problems that exploit this correlation between qubits.

The quantum properties of superposition and entanglement enable quantum computers to rapidly explore an enormous set of possibilities to identify an optimal answer that could maximize business value. As future quantum computers can calculate certain answers exponentially faster than today’s conventional machines, they will enable tackling business problems that are exponentially more complex.

Despite conventional computers’ limitations, quantum computers are not expected to replace them in the foreseeable future. Instead, hybrid quantum-conventional architectures are expected to emerge that, in effect, outsource portions of difficult problems to a quantum computer.

Already Quantum computing appears ripe to transform certain industries. For instance, current computational chemistry methods rely heavily on approximation because the exact equations cannot be solved by conventional computers. Similarly, quantum algorithms are expected to deliver accurate simulations of molecules over longer timescales, currently impossible to model precisely. This could enable life-saving drug discoveries and significantly shorten the number of years required to develop complex pharmaceuticals.

Additionally, quantum computing’s anticipated ability to solve today’s impossibly complex logistics problems could produce considerable cost savings and carbon footprint reduction. For example, consider improving the global routes of the trillion-dollar shipping industry (see Dancing Dinosaur’s recent piece on blockchain gaining traction). If quantum computing could improve container utilization and shipping volumes by even a small fraction, this could save shippers hundreds of millions of dollars. To profit from quantum computing’s advantages ahead of competitors, notes IBM, some businesses are developing expertise now to explore which use cases may benefit their own industries as soon as the technology matures.

To stimulate this type of thinking, IBM’s Institute of Business Value has come up with 5 steps to get you started:

  1. Identify your quantum champions. Assign this staff to learn more about the prospective benefits of quantum computing. Just designate some of your leading professionals as quantum champions and charge them with understanding quantum computing, its potential impact on your industry, your competitors’ response, and how your business might benefit. Have these champions report periodically to senior management to educate the organization and align progress to strategic objectives.
  2. Begin identifying quantum computing use cases and associated value propositions. Have your champions identify specific areas where quantum computing could propel your organization ahead of competitors. Have these champions monitor progress in quantum application development to track which use cases may be commercialized sooner. Finally, ensure your quantum exploration links to business results. Then select the most promising quantum computing applications, such as creating breakthrough products and services or new ways to optimize the supply chain.
  3. Experiment with real quantum systems. Demystify quantum computing by trying out a real quantum computer (IBM’s Q Experience). Have your champions get a sense for how quantum computing may solve your business problems and interface with your existing tools. A quantum solution may not be a fit for every business issue. Your champions will need to focus on solutions to address your highest priority use cases, ones that conventional computers can’t practically solve.
  4. Chart your quantum course. This entails constructing a quantum computing roadmap with viable next steps for the purpose of pursuing problems that could create formidable competitive barriers or enable sustainable business advantage. To accelerate your organization’s quantum readiness, consider joining an emerging quantum community. This can help you gain better access to technical infrastructure, evolving industry applications, and expertise that can enhance your development of specific quantum applications.
  5. Lastly, be flexible about your quantum future. Quantum computing is rapidly evolving. Seek out technologies and development toolkits that are becoming the industry standard, those around which ecosystems are coalescing. Realize that new breakthroughs may cause you to adjust your approach to your quantum development process, including changing your ecosystem partners. Similarly, your own quantum computing needs may evolve over time, particularly as you improve your understanding of which business issues can benefit most from quantum solutions.

Finally, actually have people in your organization try a quantum computer, such as through IBM’s Q program and Qiskit, a free development tool. Q provides a free 16-qubit quantum computer you don’t have to configure or keep cool and stable. That’s IBM’s headache.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at technologywriter.com.

IBM Rides Quantum Volume  to Quantum Advantage

March 19, 2019

Recently IBM announced achieving its’ highest quantum volume to date. Of course, nobody else knows what Quantum Volume is.  Quantum volume is both a measurement and a procedure developed, no surprise here, by IBM to determine how powerful a quantum computer is. Read the May 4 announcement here.

Quantum volume is not just about the number of qubits, although that is one part of it. It also includes both gate and measurement errors, device cross talk, as well as device connectivity and circuit compiler efficiency. According to IBM, the company has doubled the power of its quantum computers annually since 2017.

The upgraded processor will be available for use by developers, researchers, and programmers to explore quantum computing using a real quantum processor at no cost via the IBM Cloud. This offer has been out in various forms since May 2016 as IBM’s Q Experience.

Also announced was a new prototype of a commercial processor, which will be the core for the first IBM Q early-access commercial systems.  Dates have only been hinted at.

IBM’s recently unveiled IBM Q System One quantum computer, with a fourth-generation 20-qubit processor, which has resulted in a Quantum Volume of 16, roughly double that of the current IBM Q 20-qubit device, which have a Quantum Volume of 8.

The Q volume math goes something like this: a variety of factors determine Quantum Volume, including the number of qubits, connectivity, and coherence time, plus accounting for gate and measurement errors, device cross talk, and circuit software compiler efficiency.

In addition to producing the highest Quantum Volume to date, IBM Q System One’s performance reflects some of the lowest error rates IBM has ever measured, with an average 2-qubit gate error less than 2 percent, and its best gate achieving less than a 1 percent error rate. To build a fully-functional, large-scale, universal, fault-tolerant quantum computer, long coherence times and low error rates are required. Otherwise how could you ever be sure of the results?

Quantum Volume is a fundamental performance metric that measures progress in the pursuit of Quantum Advantage, the Quantum Holy Grail—the point at which quantum applications deliver a significant, practical benefit beyond what classical computers alone are capable. To achieve Quantum Advantage in the next decade, IBM believes that the industry will need to continue to double Quantum Volume every year.

Sounds like Moore’s Law all over again. IBM doesn’t deny the comparison. It writes: in 1965, Gordon Moore postulated that the number of components per integrated function would grow exponentially for classical computers. Jump to the new quantum era and IBM notes its Q system progress since 2017 presents a similar early growth pattern, supporting the premise that Quantum Volume will need to double every year and presenting a clear roadmap toward achieving Quantum Advantage.

IBM’s recently unveiled IBM Q System One quantum computer, with a fourth-generation 20-qubit processor, which has produced a Quantum Volume of 16, roughly double that of the current IBM Q 20-qubit IBM Q Network device, which has a Quantum Volume of 8.

Potential use cases, such as precisely simulating battery-cell chemistry for electric vehicles, speeding quadratic derivative models, and many others are already being investigated by IBM Q Network partners. To achieve Quantum Advantage in the 2020s, IBM believes the industry will need to continue doubling Quantum Volume every year.

In time AI should play a role expediting quantum computing.  For that, researchers will need to develop more effective AI that can identify patterns in data otherwise invisible to classical computers.

Until then how should most data centers proceed? IBM researchers suggest 3 initial steps:

  1. Develop quantum algorithms that demonstrate how quantum computers can improve AI classification accuracy.
  1. Improve feature mapping to a scale beyond the reach of the most powerful classical computers
  2. Classify data through the use of short depth circuits, allowing AI applications in the NISQ (noisy intermediate scale quantum) regime and a path forward to achieve quantum advantage for machine learning.

Sounds simple, right? Let DancingDinosaur know how you are progressing.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at technologywriter.com.

IBM Q Network Promises to Commercialize Quantum

December 14, 2017

The dash to quantum computing is well underway and IBM is preparing to be one of the leaders. When IBM gets there it will find plenty of company. HPE, Dell/EMC, Microsoft and more are staking out quantum claims. In response IBM is speeding the build-out of its quantum ecosystem, the IBM Q Network, which it announced today.

IBM’s 50 qubit system prototype

Already IBM introduced its third generation of quantum computers in Nov., a prototype 50 qubit system. IBM promises online access to the IBM Q systems by the end of 2017, with a series of planned upgrades during 2018. IBM is focused on making available advanced, scalable universal quantum computing systems to clients to explore practical applications.

Further speeding the process, IBM is building a quantum computing ecosystem of big companies and research institutions. The result, dubbed IBM Q Network, will consist of a worldwide network of individuals and organizations, including scientists, engineers, business leaders, and forward thinking companies, academic institutions, and national research labs enabled by IBM Q. Its mission: advancing quantum computing and launching the first commercial applications.

Two particular goals stand out: Engage industry leaders to combine quantum computing expertise with industry-oriented, problem-specific expertise to accelerate development of early commercial uses. The second: expand and train the ecosystem of users, developers, and application specialists that will be essential to the adoption and scaling of quantum computing.

The key to getting this rolling is the groundwork IBM laid with the IBM Q Experience, which IBM initially introduced in May of 2016 as a 5 cubit system. The Q Experience (free) upgrade followed with a 16-qubit upgrade in May, 2017. The IBM effort to make available a commercial universal quantum computer for business and science applications has increased with each successive rev until today with a prototype 50 cubit system delivered via the IBM Cloud platform.

IBM opened public access to its quantum processors over a year ago  to serve as an enablement tool for scientific research, a resource for university classrooms, and a catalyst for enthusiasm. Since then, participants have run more than 1.7M quantum experiments on the IBM Cloud.

To date IBM was pretty easy going about access to the quantum computers but now that they have a 20 cubit system and 50 cubit system coming the company has become a little more restrictive about who can use them. Participation in the IBM Q Network is the only way to access these advanced systems, which involves a commitment of money, intellectual property, and agreement to share and cooperate, although IBM implied at any early briefing that it could be flexible about what was shared and what could remain an organization’s proprietary IP.

Another reason to participate in the Quantum Experience is QISKit, an open source quantum computing SDK anyone can access. Most DancingDinosaur readers, if they want to participate in IBM’s Q Network will do so as either partners or members. Another option, a Hub, is really targeted for bigger, more ambitious early adopters. Hubs, as IBM puts it, provide access to IBM Q systems, technical support, educational and training resources, community workshops and events, and opportunities for joint work.

The Q Network has already attracted some significant interest for organizations at every level and across a variety of industry segments. These include automotive, financial, electronics, chemical, and materials players from across the globe. Initial participants include JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung, JSR Corporation, Barclays, Hitachi Metals, Honda, Nagase, Keio University, Oak Ridge National Lab, Oxford University, and University of Melbourne.

As noted at the top, other major players are staking out their quantum claims, but none seem as far along or as comprehensive as IBM:

  • Dell/EMC is aiming to solve complex, life-impacting analytic problems like autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and precision medicine.
  • HPE appears to be focusing its initial quantum efforts on encryption.
  • Microsoft, not surprisingly, expects to release a new programming language and computing simulator designed for quantum computing.

As you would expect, IBM also is rolling out IBM Q Consulting to help organizations envision new business value through the application of quantum computing technology and provide customized roadmaps to help enterprises become quantum-ready.

Will quantum computing actually happen? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. I first heard about quantum physics in high school 40-odd years ago. It was baffling but intriguing then. Today it appears more real but still nothing is assured. If you’re willing to burn some time and resources to try it, go right ahead. Please tell DancingDinosaur what you find.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.


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