Quantum progress: How IBM, Microsoft, Google and Intel compare

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Established enterprise leaders like IBM, Microsoft and Google continue to make progress in quantum computing. As a result, quantum computers are getting bigger and achieving  advantages over traditional tech in limited circumstances. 

These vendors are also developing cloud services that allow enterprises to test the waters of quantum algorithms using development tools and simulators running on classic hardware. It’s a complicated field with lots of nuance and subtlety about the significance of qubits, noise, endurance and scalability. 

“The pace of innovation in quantum technologies continues to accelerate where it’s transitioning from scientific exploration to practical reality,” Chirag Dekate, VP analyst at Gartner, told VentureBeat,

Building the quantum ecosystem

A lot of work is required before enterprises start rolling out quantum applications. Dekate said that enterprises are already beginning to plan for the quantum era. He has seen enterprise client engagement around quantum more than double over the last three years. On top of that, Dekate said  enterprises are starting to shift from ideating about quantum to devising and implementing quantum strategies. 

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Leaders like IBM, Microsoft, Google and others are making strides  in quantum hardware such as with quantum error mitigation and dynamic circuits. Governments worldwide are also strategically investing and encouraging quantum research hubs. 

At the same time, quantum is also attracting hype, which a few vendors are leveraging for short-term gain by prematurely promoting quantum technology. Dekate fears this could trigger a quantum winter, like the artificial intelligence (AI) winter that hindered AI research for many years. 

We are starting to see signs of this and are hoping for the best,” he said. 

Here are how four technology leaders are approaching quantum computing

IBM‘s roadmap for quantum

IBM has worked steadily for years to make quantum computing a commercial success. 

Sandeep Pattathil, senior analyst at IT advisory firm, Everest Group, told VentureBeat that IBM has, “… a clear-cut roadmap for achieving large-scale, practical quantum computing with plans to have a 1,000-qubit computer in place by 2023 and have so far met all their milestones.” 

IBM recently unveiled a 433-qubit Osprey processor in November and plans to build a 1,121-qubit Condor in 2023. They also plan to unveil a 1,386-qubit Flamingo in 2024 and a 4,158-qubit Kookaburra in 2025.

Microsoft pioneers topological qubits

Microsoft has also pioneered work on a topological phase of matter, a key milestone for creating topological qubits. Pattathil said these are expected to be faster, smaller and less prone to losing information than other types of qubits currently under development. He also believes this puts Microsoft on a promising path to developing a scalable quantum computer for enterprise customers. 

Google cuts the noise

Google made waves a few years ago by announcing it had achieved quantum supremacy on an arcane mathematical problem. More recently, it decided to focus on mitigating noise in quantum computers with a prototype logical qubit that will be required to scale reliable quantum systems. It has have also made progress on new quantum chips with better qubits, improved packaging for these chips, and developed techniques to calibrate chips with several dozens of cubits simultaneously. 

This progress has allowed the company to reset qubits with high fidelity, making it easier to reuse qubits across multiple quantum computations. Google has also developed techniques for measuring computations in quantum circuits. The combination of these techniques allowed Google researchers to reduce errors by one hundred times while scaling from five to 21 qubits. 

It has collaborated on work with Caltech to develop quantum algorithms that could learn about physical systems with far fewer experiments. Google also pioneered work with Stanford on time crystals, which could unlock new use cases for quantum computers. 

Intel’s spin on quantum

Intel has taken a different approach to scale quantum computers using spin qubit technology, also called quantum dots. In October 2022, Intel demonstrated exceptional yield of quantum dot arrays using transistor fabrication technology. 

“The high yield and uniformity achieved show that fabricating quantum chips on Intel’s well-established transistor process nodes is a sound strategy and is a strong indicator of success as the technologies mature for commercialization,” Pattathil said. 

Paving quantum potholes

The road to the quantum future is not straightforward , and experts believe that the industry will need to collaborate on solving many significant gaps, such as scalable error correction and systems. 

Dekate said more work is needed on improving coherence times (qubit endurance) and gate times (number of gate operations before an error). Researchers must also improve quantum communications for exchanging quantum information and devise classical-quantum interconnect technologies to scale quantum environments.Once the quantum computers are here, new algorithms will be required to solve practical problems. 

“The roadblock in quantum computing is related to algorithmic advances, not speed,” Pattathil said. 

However, he is already seeing promising progress in applying quantum computing to practical industry problems. Mercedes-Benz is exploring using quantum computing to create better batteries for its electric cars. ExxonMobil is using quantum algorithms to discover the most efficient routes. And Mitsubishi Chemical is simulating chemical reactions. 

Pattathil expects to see quantum computers integrated with other cutting-edge tech like AI and blockchain to unravel innovative use cases across financial services, pharmaceutical, bioscience and cybersecurity industries. 

“Based on the trends we are seeing in the market, we feel quantum computing is well on its way to being technologically and commercially viable in the next decade,” Pattathil said.

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