Another Quantum Computing Milestone Reached?1st November 2019
A few months ago, we wrote an article about the Q System One from IBM, the world’s first standalone quantum computer available for commercial use. Quantum Computers, as we’ve touched on before, are quite simply computers with incomprehensible levels of computing power, especially when compared to the typical PC. So, the first commercially-available quantum computer is a big deal, but Google, not a company to let a chance at milestones pass them by, have potentially outshone IBM by achieving quantum supremacy. What is that and why does it matter? Let’s find out.
What is quantum supremacy?
Quite a grandiose term, isn’t it? Well, it’s a pretty grand achievement. Quantum supremacy means that a quantum computer has performed a calculation that is impossible for a normal computer. To put a figure on it, the calculation was completed 1 billion times faster than a supercomputer would be able to do it, if it could even do it at all. Google’s quantum project, named Sycamore, has reached this milestone, according to a paper published (and then swiftly deleted) on a NASA forum.
Why is it important?
It’s important because quantum computers have the potential to dramatically change the world’s relationship with technology. The world’s top technology companies (including NASA) are spending millions, even billions of dollars on their respective quantum computing developments, but Google are typically shrouding their work in secrecy. These supercomputers have immense potential, particularly in the field of machine learning – this can impact everything from the way we design materials to the way we build and use artificial intelligence. So, this achievement in the world of quantum computing shows that companies are further advancing the technology.
Is Google ‘winning’ at quantum computing, then?
No. Or, rather, we can’t really define ‘winning’ in this context. Google are the first to reach this milestone, but other companies, such as IBM, are focussing on steady progress. While this achievement is certainly impressive, Jim Clarke of Intel Labs urges caution; “Google’s recent update on the achievement of quantum supremacy is a notable mile marker as we continue to advance the potential of quantum computing… we are still at mile one of this marathon.”
As cloud-based services become more widely available for quantum computing, researchers have better access to quantum computers, thus increasing the potential for more progression in the industry.
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