IBM has announced a milestone in its race against Google and other big tech firms to build a powerful quantum computer.
Dario Gil, who leads IBM’s quantum computing and artificial intelligence research division, said Friday that the company’s scientists have successfully built and measured a processor prototype with 50 quantum bits, known as ‘qubits.’
Gil says it’s the first time any company has built a quantum computer at this scale.
Quantum computing, a technology that’s still in its early phases, uses the quirks of quantum physics to perform calculations at far higher speeds than current computers.
IBM sees applications for quantum computing in areas like medicine, drug discovery and materials science as this technology advances and becomes better understood. It is also trying to anticipate possible negative consequences of an advanced technology such as the ability to eventually be able to break encryption. Gil says they are working with standards bodies to try and develop post-quantum computing encryption algorithms, and while they are a long way from achieving that, they certainly seem to understand the magnitude of the issues and are trying to mitigate them.
Seth Lloyd, an MIT mechanical engineering professor not involved in IBM’s research, says it’s likely that IBM still has glitches to work out but the 50-qubit announcement is a sign of significant progress.