Quantum progress: Comparing IBM, Microsoft, Google and Intel

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Established business leaders such as IBM, Microsoft and Google continue to make advances in quantum computing. As a result, quantum computers are getting bigger and gaining advantages over traditional technology in limited circumstances.

These vendors are also developing cloud services that allow companies to test the waters of quantum algorithms using development tools and simulators running on classical hardware. It’s a complicated field with a lot of nuances and subtleties about what qubits, noise, endurance, and scalability mean.

“The pace of innovation in quantum technologies continues to accelerate where it is moving from scientific exploration to practical reality,” Gartner vice president analyst Chirag Dekate told VentureBeat.

Building the quantum ecosystem

A lot of work is needed before companies start implementing quantum applications. Dekate said businesses are already starting to plan for the quantum age. She’s seen enterprise customer engagement around quantum more than double in the past three years. Beyond that, Dekate said enterprises are starting to move from devising quantum to devising and implementing quantum strategies.

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Leaders such as IBM, Microsoft, Google and others are making great strides in quantum hardware, such as with quantum error mitigation and dynamic circuits. Governments around the world are also strategically investing in and encouraging quantum research centers.

At the same time, quantum is also attracting buzz, which some vendors are leveraging for short-term gain by promoting quantum technology prematurely. Dekate fears this could trigger a quantum winter, like the artificial intelligence (AI) winter that has hampered AI research for many years.

We’re starting to see signs of this and hope for the best,” he said.

Here’s how four tech leaders are approaching quantum computing

IBMThe Quantum Roadmap

IBM has worked steadily for years to make quantum computing a commercial success.

Sandeep Pattathil, a senior analyst at IT consultancy, Everest Group, told VentureBeat that IBM has “…a clear roadmap to achieving practical quantum computing at scale with plans to have a 1,000 qubit computer within 2023 and have so far with all their milestones.

IBM recently unveiled a 433-qubit Osprey processor in November and plans to build a 1,121-qubit Condor in 2023. They also plan to unveil a 1,386-qubit Flamingo in 2024 and a 4,158-qubit Kookaburra in 2025.

Microsoft leads the way in topological qubits

Microsoft has also pioneered work on a topological phase of matter, a key milestone in the creation of topological qubits. Pattathil said these should be faster, smaller and less prone to leaking information than other types of qubits currently under development. He also believes this puts Microsoft on a promising path to developing a scalable quantum computer for enterprise customers.

Google cuts the noise

Google made waves a few years ago by announcing that it had achieved quantum supremacy over an arcane mathematical problem. More recently, it has decided to focus on mitigating noise in quantum computers with a prototype logic qubit that will be needed to scale reliable quantum systems. He also made progress on new quantum chips with better qubits, improved packaging for these chips, and developed techniques for calibrating chips several dozen cubits in size at once.

This advance has allowed the company to reset qubits with high fidelity, making it easier to reuse qubits in multiple quantum computations. Google has also developed techniques for measuring computations in quantum circuits. The combination of these techniques allowed Google researchers to reduce errors by a hundredfold, from five to 21 qubits.

He has collaborated on work with Caltech to develop quantum algorithms that could learn about physical systems with far fewer experiments. Google has also pioneered work with Stanford on time crystals, which could unlock new use cases for quantum computers.

Intel’s breakthrough on quantum

Intel has taken a different approach to scaling quantum computers using spin qubit technology, also called quantum dots. In October 2022, Intel demonstrated outstanding performance of quantum dot arrays using transistor fabrication technology.

“The high throughput and consistency achieved demonstrates that fabricating quantum chips on Intel’s established transistor process nodes is a sound strategy and is a strong indicator of success as the technologies mature for commercialization,” he said. Pattathil.

Paving quantum holes

The road to the quantum future is not easy, and experts believe that industry will need to work together to solve many significant gaps, such as error correction and scalable systems.

Dekate said more work is needed to improve consistency times (resistance of qubits) and gate times (number of gate operations before a failure). Researchers also need to improve quantum communications for quantum information exchange and devise classical quantum interconnect technologies to scale quantum environments. Once quantum computers are here, new algorithms will be needed to solve practical problems.

“The hurdle in quantum computing is related to algorithmic advances, not speed,” Pattathil said.

However, it is already seeing promising progress in applying quantum computing to practical problems in the field. Mercedes-Benz is exploring the use of quantum computing to create better batteries for its electric cars. ExxonMobil uses quantum algorithms to discover the most efficient routes. And Mitsubishi Chemical is simulating chemical reactions.

Pattathil expects to see quantum computers integrated with other cutting-edge technologies such as AI and blockchain to unveil innovative use cases in the financial services, pharmaceutical, life sciences and cybersecurity industries.

“Based on the trends we’re seeing in the market, we believe quantum computing is on track to be technologically and commercially viable over the next decade,” said Pattathil.

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