IBM Evolves a New Computing Type to Beat Google
IBM is about to present to public a quantum computer. The cloud service is aimed mostly toward scientists and students.
A quantum computer is different from today's digital computer. A digital computer thinks in two states: zero and one (or off and on). A quantum computer uses "combinations of zeroes and ones" to creates multiple states. It can be a zero, a one, both at the same time, something in between them, or it can be a mysterious zero/one state that you can't really determine, Chow explains.
These states are called "entanglement" and there are some well known algorithms (mathematical formulas) that use them.
Quantum computers can solve billions of task simultaneously, unlike a digital computer. They are also oriented ti perform tasks like machines.. These computers are expected to help find new medicines, new forms of computer security and become smart computers that can think and reason. Likewise, programming a quantum computer is completely different. The IBM team has created a tutorial to help people learn how to do it.
Quantum computers are also built differently. They use a silicon base, like regular computers, but rely on superconducting metals like niobium and aluminum that must be kept very cold. The low temperature brings out their special quantum mechanical properties. This is the microwave hardware that generates pulses sent to the quantum processor.
The computer behind this cloud service is a five "quantum bits" (qubits) computer, which is powerful (other quantum computers have been 2 qubits), but not so much smarter than a regular supercomputer.
However, the industry is working its way up to a 50 qubits computer which would be so vastly more powerful than any of today's supercomputers. At this stage, it’s not known what kinds of problems a computer that fast and smart could solve.
The IBM and Google are competing to explore in this area. IBM's work is based on research done at Yale through Professor Robert Schoelkopf who has led a PhD and Post-Graduate students to develop it. The other prominent US university working on this is UC Santa Barbara under Professor John Martinis Group, which was backed and absorbed by Google in 2014.