Race for Quantum Supremacy – IBM Unveils 127-Qubit Processor, Twice As Powerful as Google’s
Google's response will be expected in the coming months in a sector that is expected to experience strong growth in the future.
The race for quantum supremacy continues between IBM and Google. In this race between the two computer giants, IBM has just taken the lead. In direct competition with Google, but also with Chinese academics, IBM has just unveiled the world's first processor with more than 100 quantum bits (qubits).
A qubit is a unit of measurement characteristic of the power of quantum computers that will revolutionize the analysis of large masses of data in the future.
With exactly 127 qubits, IBM's Eagle processor will be almost twice as powerful as its predecessor Hummingbird, which had 65. Unlike the traditional binary bits (0 or 1), qubits evolve between all values between 0 and 1 to multiply their computing power.
IBM suggests that it has achieved quantum supremacy
In an interview with Axios, Arvind Krishna, the CEO of IBM, welcomed this major achievement for IBM:
“Quantum computing is one of those technologies that people liken to science fiction. I think it's now a feat of engineering.”
Connected to servers that can only be rented by a handful of IBM Cloud Platform customers, and still, in a test mode, the Eagle processor will, according to examples given by IBM, allow chemists to better simulate materials and financial institutions to better assess the risks on their investments. Provided that they get past the challenges of industrialization.
Asserting that it would take a traditional computer larger than the planet Earth to equal IBM's 127 qubits, Arvind Krishna implies, without ever pronouncing the term, that IBM would have reached quantum supremacy. That is to say that its quantum computer would already be more powerful than any traditional supercomputer.
In any case, “Big Blue” does not intend to stop there. Next year, the Armonk-based company plans to reach a 433-qubit processor, before exceeding 1,000 qubits in 2023 with the Condor processor. This symbolic passage above 100 qubits already marks a decisive advance. This new architecture projects IBM into the future, as it will be easier to increase the number of qubits in a quantum processor from now on.
Google's response will be awaited in a sector that is expected to experience strong growth in the future
In addition to the number of qubits, which is the number one criterion, the number two is the quality of the calculation. Very sensitive to interferences, quantum bits nowadays make about one error every 100 operations. This noise is corrected by launching billions of calculations and then going through complex statistical maneuvers.
Eagle inaugurates a new three-dimensional architecture that aims to reduce errors by improving communication with all the qubits. Nevertheless, reaching the 1,000 qubits horizon represents a technical challenge. This is the reason why we continue to specify that this is above all a scientific and research project.
What would have been interesting is if IBM had communicated data concerning the error rate of its Eagle processor or data allowing its processor to be compared to the quantum computers of its competitors in the race for quantum supremacy. If Google had been more daring and had created the controversy fine 2019 by claiming quantum supremacy with its Sycamore processor to 53 qubits, IBM is more cautious as is, while the third competitor in this race, the Chinese Zuchongzhi, caps him at 66 qubits.
Beyond these research leaders, more and more startups are also trying to invent their own quantum computers. Innovations such as those of IBM are good news for the whole sector as they attract the attention of investors. Some are already raising hundreds of thousands of dollars across the Atlantic, while those on the stock market are already worth more than $3 billion.
We will now have to watch Google's reaction in the weeks and months to come. Indeed, it is likely that the Mountain View giant will try to respond quickly to this historic advance by IBM in the race for quantum supremacy.
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