IBM has announced it will offer the opportunity to use the services of its quantum computer to the public. This will be done through the IBM Quantum Experience, a quantum platform provided by IBM cloud on regular desktop computers but also on mobile devices.
To test the IBM Quantum Experience, the company built a system based on a quantum processor with five qubits. This number doesn’t exactly give the impression of a very powerful system but at least on paper quantum computers can solve problems much faster than traditional systems. Actually it’s still difficult to make comparisons.
Everything comes from the fact that classic binary systems are based on information bits that can have 0 or 1 as their value while qubits can have both values at once because of the superposition principle. IBM is exploring the possibilities of quantum processors but those are certainly not the systems we could see in our homes because they are based on superconducting circuits cooled to temperatures very close to absolute zero.
IBM’s five-qubit system is physically located at the T.J. Watson Research Center in New York and through IBM Cloud can provide services wherever there’s an Internet connection. This is the first service of its kind, a result that’s already high level because quantum systems are quite delicate. Now we assume that a system can work without problems via the Internet but with a quantum system the fact that the tests gave the same result each time indicates a progress.
IBM’s aim is to create a universal quantum computer. There has been controversy about the D-Wave quantum systems, which are much faster than classical systems only in solving certain types of problems. The IBM system should be able to outperform classical systems with any type of algorithm.
Opening the use of its quantum system to the public will allow IBM to achieve faster progress. Quantum computers are still new but thanks to IBM many researchers will look for new ways to use one of them. Therefore there are potential advantages for both IBM and users.
IBM opened a section of its website dedicated to IBM Quantum Experience where you can find various information about quantum computers and get an invitation to use the IBM system. In this phase of the tests you can’t expect stunning performances but for many researchers this might be a really interesting opportunity to test a quantum computer.