World news – Laying of the foundation stone for a quantum roadmap


Earlier this month, IBM unveiled some of its work to advance its goals in creating a 1,000 qubit quantum computer.

Among the work in the quantum computer field that IBM is unveiling is a new technique that researchers are using Test the preliminary results of a quantum algorithm with which the algorithm is continuously developed. This technique makes quantum software much more precise and easier to optimize, which means that quantum programmers will be able to develop ever more sophisticated algorithms.

In 2020, IBM presented a roadmap in which systems with 1,121 qubits for to provide the execution of quantum applications in the natural sciences.

IBM has a complex plan to get the IT world to think about quantum computing. It is a phenomenon that promises so much but is so far removed from what it was before that many struggle to become familiar with the terminology. IBM has released a roadmap that illustrates the path to using the quantum computer.

Jerry Chow, director of quantum hardware systems development at IBM Quantum, said the company is striving to attract a broad quantum computer developer community. « We want development that doesn’t have to be more specialized than classic computing, » he said.

However, from a recent conversation Computer Weekly had with Chow, it emerges that there is a gap in understanding between the level of abstraction of modern classical computing and what it takes to deal with quantum computers.

From the perspective of a software roadmap, Chow said that some of this work involves building the basic base layer to control how the device works, similar to the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that a kernel developer uses for classic computing. In the world of quantum, this means concepts such as rotating qubits and the construction of a seamless network between quantum computing and classical computing.

For the year 2021, the IBM roadmap has reached a milestone to add more functions to Qiskit, its toolkit and its runtime software for low-level quantum computer programming management.

Then there is the idea of ​​pulse control. « Pulse control corresponds to the hardware abstraction layer in an operating system, » said Chow.

In fact, the developer drives pulses that control qubits. Conceptually, Chow describes this as a kind of assembly language programming of a microprocessor, where the assembler allows a programmer to send machine code instructions to the processor to manipulate logical bits on a classic computer.

He said one Quantum switching is analogous to digital gate operations such as the binary logic « And », « Or » and « Nand » operations (Not And) for manipulating zero and one bits in classical arithmetic. In contrast to these simple binary operations, which are effectively encoded as digital circuits in a microprocessor, quantum circuits can perform far more complex operations than can be done with binary logic, Chow said.

The QASM tool in Qiskit effectively does the same Functions like an assembler, but sends instructions to manipulate qubits on a quantum computer instead of sending instructions to manipulate logical bits to a classical computer.

« There are demonstrable gaps where quantum circuits have an advantage over classical circuits » said Chow. By 2022, IBM plans to be able to run dynamic circuits on its quantum computers, and these will expand the variety of quantum algorithms that can be executed.

Up to this point in its quantum computer roadmap, IBM has targeted the kernel developers, the quantum circuits who speak directly to the hardware and algorithm developers who use these circuits in building quantum applications.

According to the roadmap, IBM plans to provide libraries of pre-built quantum circuits in 2023 and increase the level of abstraction with pre-built quantum runtime software. As with an operating system running on a classic computer, this should allow developers to create quantum applications in high level programming languages ​​without having to understand the intricacies and variability of qubits.

One of those quirks is that quantum computers are prone to error. In terms of quantum, they are viewed as noisy. Just as memory chips need bug fixes, work is currently underway to identify and fix errors in quantum computers.

One of the biggest problems with scaling quantum computers is eliminating the errors that naturally occur in a two-qubit gate – the building blocks of a quantum computer. One of the ideas that IBM recently unveiled is a new way to reduce errors that will make it easier to achieve higher quantum volume devices in the years to come.

One example that IBM is trying is, according to Chow a small bug detection scheme that allows code to be developed on a small scale to ensure integrity. He said the company is trying to drive new ideas for running a large error correcting code. « Quantum Inspired » is one of the terms that has coined the industry as an intermediate step towards mainstream quantum computing. Indeed, a computer can be designed to simulate some aspects of the quantum computer. In some cases, such quantum-inspired algorithms can solve problems more efficiently than other approaches that run on a classic computer.

According to Chow, IBM has worked a lot on simulating its Q-System to give developers the ability to test quantum algorithms before they are run on a real machine. It is clear that there is a limit to how complex an algorithm can be simulated on a classical computer, and as error correction evolves it can become increasingly difficult to verify that a quantum computer gives the same results as a simulation, running on a classic computer is the architecture.

Quantum Computing seems to be a radical departure from earlier computer models. However, in recent years the industry has adopted different computing paradigms. Just as the GPU (graphics processing unit) provided software developers with a way to write code that could run across multiple processing cores in parallel, Chow believes quantum computers will ultimately be another computing resource available to them.

« It’s a another model of calculation, « he said. “Some applications can run on high-performance computers in the cloud. others may work on cloud-based quantum computers. “

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