Honeywell claims to surpass IBM with the world's fastest quantum computer

The new device boasts a quantum volume of 64, double that of the industry alternative, the company says.

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Inside Honeywell quantum computer chamber.

Image: Honeywell

Honeywell declared on Thursday that it has the world's highest-performing quantum computer. Touting a quantum volume of 64—the metric used to convey the effectiveness of a quantum computer—the device is twice as powerful as IBM's supercomputer, which was the former industry leader. 

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The industrial giant pledged in March to have the most powerful quantum computer by the middle of 2020, fulfilling that promise only three months later. 

The company also said in March that it would improve the performance of its quantum computers by a factor of 10 every year for the next five years, which means the computer could be 100,000 faster in 2025

"What makes our quantum computers so powerful is having the highest quality qubits, with the lowest error rates," said Tony Uttley, president of Honeywell Quantum Solutions, in a press release. "This is a combination of using identical, fully connected qubits and precision control." 

Honeywell was once known as one of the top producers of massive mainframes, but it sold that business and instead gathered more than 100 scientists, engineers, and software developers to develop quantum computers.

What a quantum computer looks like 

The systems begin with an ultra-high vacuum chamber, a stainless steel sphere with portals that let in laser light, and from which air has been pumped out so that it holds a vacuum of five times less particles than outer space, according to the release.

That chamber is then cooled with liquid helium, bringing the temperature of the ion trap chip to 10 degrees above absolute zero. Within the space, electric fields levitate individual atoms 0.1 mm above an ion trap, which is a silicon chip coated in gold. Scientists then shine lasers at the positively charged atoms to execute quantum operations. 

As for the equipment to control a quantum computer, control systems are put in place to precisely manipulate hundreds of electrical signals necessary to move the ions (qubits) in the specific manner used for quantum information algorithms, per the release. 

What quantum computers can solve 

Quantum computers are powerful because they are able to investigate a bevy of potential outcomes at the same time, according to the release. 

"Quantum computing relies on the superimposed state of particles (a qubit). This allows the superimposed particle to have a value of 1 and 0 simultaneously, opposed to traditional computing where a bit may only have 1 value of 0 or 1," said Fausto Oliveira, principal security architect at Acceptto, a Portland, Oregon-based provider of Continuous Behavioral Authentication. 

"Multiple superimposed particles then generate a matrix of states that can be used to solve computational complex problems such as equations delaying with large numbers of primes, that is the main advantage," Oliveira said.  

This means that extremely complex computations that are unable to be done on the highest performing supercomputers will one day be possible on a quantum computer. 

Honeywell has partnered with JPMorgan Chase, Cambridge Quantum Computing, and Zapata  Computing to further the quantum computing journey. 

In the future, the company said it is also partnering with Microsoft as part of the Azure Quantum offering, which means end users will be able to use Azure classical computing resources while also accessing Honeywell's quantum computer, per the release.  

While Honeywell is clearly making strides in the quantum computing world, the road to full-fledged use of these devices is far off, according to Oliveira. 

"We are still at the inception stages of this industry," Oliveira said. "It will take a few more years before it becomes mainstream. We should wait and see the evolution of quantum computing over the next couple of years and wait for more maturity in the market before it becomes a concern." 

For more, check out Quantum computing analytics: Put this on your IT roadmap on TechRepublic.

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