Why qubit count doesn't matter
It's about the noise
Quantum Information Science for executives and investors
Valentine's Day is behind us, Presidents Day is on us, but Quantum Information Science does not know holidays - neither do we. We have a long take on the question of how many qubits does this world need, a short take on a few news items and, of course, the fan favorite SciFi corner.
The UK national quantum program is one of the best funded and coordinated national efforts.
The long take
A hotly debated topic by quantum laymen and experts alike, and thank you Google for declaring supremacy, is when will we finally deliver a quantum computer that is “practical”. Or, in other words, will be able to perform meaningful tasks with a commercial ROI. A lot of the attention with respect to this question is focused on qubit count and many media outlets, consultants, conferences and other experts make daring predictions that we need to reach anywhere between 150 and many millions of qubits to deliver on this promise. Now that’s a ballpark.
The bad news is, this is fundamentally flawed reasoning rooted in poor understanding of the topic. When answering the above question, one needs to consider three important factors.
The first one is a concept called quantum volume coined by IBM. Quantum volume takes into account not just the qubit count, but also the quality of each qubit, the connectivity between each, and the coherence of these qubits, along with other factors. It is a holistic measure of the overall quality and productivity that is vastly more insightful than qubit count in itself. IBM has made a commitment to doubling its own quantum volume with each release and historically we've seen that they have been able to deliver on this promise. If they will be able to continue on this path, we surely will see quantum hardware emerge that can deliver meaningful results within a few years.
Another important concept is a fault tolerant quantum computer or fully error corrected quantum computer. Qubits, as we all know, are famously fickle and highly sensitive to outside vibrations, temperatures, noise and measurement. Error correcting methodologies aim to reduce or eliminate the impact of such outside interference, thus providing us with the ability to compute more complex algorithms and computational results that are much more reliable. Error correction is arguably the most important field in quantum computing today, as existing qubits and notoriously poor in performance and require a lot of TLC to be rendered more stable and usable. Which, as such, is not a scalable, commercial solution. We are seeing an increasing amount of resources being dedicated to tackling this challenge, now that the hardware infrastructure, albeit young and unstable, is established.
Lastly, and this might be the most important and overlooked aspect when it comes to answering the question of ‘when’, is industrializing the production of quantum qubits and quantum hardware systems. Currently, qubits are lovingly manufactured in high-grade labs, a true craft. Recently, however, companies such as Intel have made strides in using their existing infrastructure and know-how in manufacturing quantum hardware solutions akin to chips or wafers. It is this industrial aspect of how we go about designing, manufacturing and integrating quantum hard solutions that will ultimately most impact the timeline. Especially, if a government or large corporation decides to make a significant multi-billion dollar investment focused on this specific manufacturing challenge, a highly sped up timeline to a usable, meaningful quantum computer will see the light of day.
this means that when you're looking to pick a technology partner for your quantum journey make sure that they have full stack capabilities or a full stack ecosystem, meaning that they will be able to deliver on all aspects of scaling quantum systems, not sure the qubit count.
that there is a large financial opportunity along the supply chain that enables these full stack solutions. The qubit handy(wo)men might be getting all the spotlight but there is a sophisticated, well positioned, commercially active supply chain hard at work behind the scenes.
"The Gartner of Quantum" - data sets, market reports and advisory on Quantum Information Science vendors, investors, use cases and applications.
For quantum executives
Government funding for Quantum is growing steadily as significant grants by various departments have been released. The White House is committing at least another half billion to these efforts.
Anthem, a large healthcare provider, has joined the IBM Q hub in Raleigh, further demonstrating the traction QC in general is gaining in the healthcare field.
It is interesting to note that even the CFO community is now taking note, which means that real corporate budgets for Quantum are in the works and it's not a CTO only topic anymore, even though the American heartland is increasingly joining into it as well.
For quantum investors
Last week brought us a whopper (not the sandwich) when IBM invested an undisclosed amount into Cambridge Quantum Computing.
CQC is one of the oldest, most respects CQC ventures in the market and a long time partner of IBM, with whom they recently announced the integration of their IronBridge (quantum safe encryption) solution into the IBM Cloud.
This is certainly a strategic investment by IBM as it extends their QIS reach with new, commercially viable products as well as QC expertise and use cases in Chemistry and ML.
It also brought an onslaughts of really fine reporting on how to invest into quantum - good luck to these savvy folks.
The SciFi corner... just for fun!
Since today is Sunday we thought you should know that you don't exist. Bummer, I know!
In fact all you are is a collapsing wave function that only exists as a probabilistic entity.
You can thank this guy for it.
You, I, everything surrounding us is just a mathematical likelihood of some form of energy being in a certain state at a certain place in a certain moment.
Enjoy your Sunday!
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