Technology giant IBM is planning to bring its 20-qubit quantum computing technology to the commericial market by the end of 2017, by offering it as a service in the cloud.
The company is looking to target businesses that want to make the most of super-fast computing technology, but that can't afford the cost of outright purchase of such hardware. Instead, companies will be able to sign up to a cloud-based service.
According to IBM, customers will be able to access quantum algorithms in around 90 micro-seconds. Its new 50-qubit systems will be rolled out next year as well.
The company said these are "significant quantum processor upgrades", and they'll be integrated into its IBM Q early-access commercial systems over the next few months.
With the 20 qubit processor services, there are improvements in superconducting qubit design, connectivity and packaging. Coherence times have been increased, too.
IBM has also built and tested an operational prototype 50 qubit processor, which offers similar performance. It'll be made available next year.
It's focusing on making its advanced, scalable quantum computing technologies available to clients looking to explore and develop practical applications.
Over the last few years, IBM has claimed a plethora of advancements in quantum computing. In May 2016, it launched a working quantum computer for free access, and now it is developing an entire ecosystem.
Quantum computing relies on quantum-mechanical theories, such as superposition and entanglement, to transform the management of datasets.
Dario Gil, vice president of AI and IBM Q at IBM Research, said: "We are, and always have been, focused on building technology with the potential to create value for our clients and the world.
"The ability to reliably operate several working quantum systems and putting them online was not possible just a few years ago. Now, we can scale IBM processors up to 50 qubits due to tremendous feats of science and engineering.
"These latest advances show that we are quickly making quantum systems and tools available that could offer an advantage for tackling problems outside the realm of classical machines."
Scientists at the company will continue to refine this technology, including the quality of qubits, circuit connectivity and error rates of operations.
Andrew Houck, professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University, said: "I use the IBM Q experience and QISKit as an integral part of my classroom teaching on quantum computing, and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is.
"In prior years, the course was interesting theoretically, but felt like it described some far-off future. Thanks to this incredible resource that IBM offers, I have students run actual quantum algorithms on a real quantum computer as part of their assignments.
"This drives home the point that this is a real technology, not just a pipe dream. What once seemed like an impossible future is now something they can use from their dorm rooms. Now, our enrolments are sky-rocketing, drawing excitement from top students from a very wide range of disciplines."
Matt Johnson, CEO of QC Ware, added: "Being able to work on IBM's quantum hardware and have access through an open-source platform like QISKit has been crucial in helping us to understand what algorithms - and real-world use cases - might be viable to run on near-term processors.
"Simulators don't currently capture the nuances of the actual quantum hardware platforms, and nothing is more convincing for a proof-of-concept than results obtained from an actual quantum processor."
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