IBM opened the first Q Network Hub in Asia Thursday, at Keio University in Tokyo. IBM's Q Network was announced last December as a cloud-based access method of utilizing the company's Q range of quantum computers, which currently have a computing capacity of 20 qubits, with 5- and 16-qubit models also in existence. The Q systems are housed at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York.
As a Q Network Hub, Keio University will act as a local source of knowledge for helping businesses explore the potential of quantum computing, as well as build algorithms that more effectively utilize the potential of quantum computing hardware. Because of the differences between programming for traditional computers and quantum computers—and in a more abstract sense, the differences between traditional mathematics and quantum physics—understanding the necessary differences in approach is vital to utilizing the benefits quantum computers provide over traditional, general-purpose systems.
In turn, Keio University announced four new corporate memberships to their newly-founded Q Network Hub: Chemicals company JSR, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Mizuho Financial Group, and Mitsubishi Chemical. Working in cooperation with IBM and Keio University, the participating companies will work to find ways to utilize quantum computers in their business operations. In a statement, Mitsubishi Chemical president and representative director Masayuki Waga indicated that the company will "try to develop new materials and establish new research methods that will contribute to realizing a sustainable society."
SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of quantum computing (Tech Pro Research)
Keio University has been researching quantum computers for 20 years. Professor Kohei Itoh, the Dean of Faculty of Science and Technology, indicated that IBM Q "allows problems previously not possible to compute" to be solved. The University has developed a curriculum around quantum computing, which they characterize as "teaching 'Quantum Native' students, opening new frontiers in computing."
At the opening ceremony, Keio University was characterized as being the first fully operational hub in the world. Other IBM Q Network hubs include Oxford University, University of Melbourne, North Carolina State University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
IBM announced last year that the company has developed a 50 qubit prototype processor. While this is not yet available—pressed on whether or not it would debut this year, IBM Q Strategy and Ecosystem vice president Bob Sutor said "It is still only May, so we will see"—that will be made available first to Q Network members. Sutor also emphasized that "there is not just one 20-qubit machine. Early 20-qubit machines were similar to 16-qubit machines, but improvements in the lab are changing quantum volume."
Quantum volume is IBM's measurement for the computational capabilities of a quantum computer, which combines the number of qubits, the connectivity of the qubits in the computer, the error rate of calculations, and the extent to which operations can be run in parallel.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- IBM Q Network providers members access to a 20-qubit quantum computer via the cloud, with a future 50-qubit system planned for the future.
- As a Q Network Hub, Keio University will work with companies in adopting quantum computers in their business operations.
- How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Australia and France strike quantum deal (ZDNet)
- Quantum computing: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- IBM's big quantum push: Samsung, Daimler sign up for 20-qubit test drive (ZDNet)
- Fujitsu 'quantum inspired' computer handles complex business calculations in the cloud (TechRepublic)
James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.