IBMs newest 28-qubit quantum computer, Raleigh, achieved the company’s goal of doubling its Quantum Volume. Quantum Volume (QV) is a hardware-agnostic metric that IBM defined to measure the performance of a real quantum computer.
The higher the Quantum Volume, the more real-world, complex problems quantum computers can potentially solve, such as those explored by IBM's quantum network organizations. Raleigh draws on an improved hexagonal lattice connectivity structure developed in Intel’s 53-qubit quantum computer, and features improved coherence aspects. According to IBM, the lattice connectivity had an impact on reduced gate errors and exposure to crosstalk. IBM says the achievement of QV 32 is significant, not just because it is another point on the curve, but because it confirms that quantum systems have matured into a new phase in which developmental improvements will drive better and better experimental quantum computing platforms to enable serious research, and bridge toward Quantum Advantage. IBM deployed the first system with five qubits in 2016, the company has progressed to a family of 16-qubit systems, 20-qubit systems, and (most recently) the first 53-qubit system.
- IBM -
Each system we develop brings us along a path where complex problems will be more efficiently addressed by quantum computing; therefore, the need for system benchmarks is crucial, and simply counting qubits is not enough. As we have discussed in the past, Quantum Volume takes into account the number of qubits, connectivity, and gate and measurement errors. Material improvements to underlying physical hardware, such as increases in coherence times, reduction of device crosstalk, and software circuit compiler efficiency, can point to measurable progress in Quantum Volume, as long as all improvements happen at a similar pace.
Our achievement of QV 32 is significant, not just because it is another point on the curve, but because it confirms that quantum systems have matured into a new phase in which developmental improvements will drive better and better experimental quantum computing platforms to enable serious research, and bridge toward Quantum Advantage. The past year marked a number of remarkable achievements where we, as a community, solidly emerged into a new phase where quantum computing as a commercial business is not so far-fetched.
Although there is still a long way to go, in 2019 we saw:
- Multiple traditional cloud providers working towards quantum computing services
- Multiple 50-qubit systems that push the limits of what can be simulated
- Multiple physical backend systems, including trapped-ions and superconducting qubits
- Published quantum research from leading-edge Fortune 500 previously ‘non-quantum’ companies
Alongside this progress, it is also time for us to demonstrate a commensurate maturation out of a purely exploratory quantum research phase, and measure our progress within a roadmap culture for real systems. In the spirit of technological readiness, we must start thinking about quantum research and quantum systems development separately, but in sync with one another. Through a well-defined roadmap, we can observe and track generational progress in usable systems, and escape the myopia of trying to measure progress through isolated qubit experiments or lab demonstrations for glossy journals. While we were excited to see the improvements of our previous quantum systems along the roadmap, the path of our latest system reflects a new level of maturity.