It’s fashionable among quantum skeptics, but also some policy makers, to talk about the quantum era as if it were a technological world in the distant future – if it ever comes to fruition. . Trying to control a large number of entangled qubits for computational purposes is too difficult, they say; it will take years or decades to go from 53 qubits with Google
In fact, a series of large and midsize quantum computing companies are proving the naysayers wrong. The quantum revolution is here, thanks to the development of hybrid systems that integrate both the advantages of quantum computing in solving very complex problems, and classical computing with its flexibility and accessibility. Like our next IAQ
A hybrid quantum computing system is a system that combines elements of quantum computing, specifically the use of quantum bits or qubits for processing, and classical computers as we know them and they already exist. By working together, quantum and classical can perform functions that are difficult or impossible for a classical computer, even supercomputers, to do alone, while allowing users to read the results of quantum computation through their classical systems.
A typical model is where the classical computing platform includes high-level application programming and HMI functions located at one end of the system, and the qubits of the quantum computer sitting at the other. Between the two, the control processors provide the vital link making hybridization possible, one operating at room temperature to link to the conventional computer and the other at cryogenic temperatures to monitor the qubits.
While the quantum computer handles the hard problems, classical systems take care of everything else – from getting user data and communicating with servers to displaying results.
These hybrids are going to be the means by which non-quantum users will gain access to quantum capability, primarily through the cloud. Building and designing systems that facilitate this interface are therefore not temporary solutions. They are fundamental to the future of quantum technology adoption and offer businesses and users, including government, the best of both worlds.
The first company to recognize this possibility was the Canadian company D-Wave Systems, Inc. Founded in 1999, it was in 2011 that D-Wave announced D-Wave One as “the first commercially available quantum computer”, which used a 128-qubit chipset to perform the calculations, then used a classical system to read the results generated by the qubits in their lowest energy states, unlike large-scale quantum computers like Google or Microsoft
At first, quantum purists ridiculed the D-Wave approach. But over the past decade, D-Wave has gone from strength to strength, solving a range of optimization and modeling challenges for manufacturing, logistics and pharmaceutical customers around the world. while increasing the number of qubits in play from the D-Wave 2000Q. released in January 2017 with 2048 qubits, to the advantage in 2020 with 5640 qubits. Last year, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline
No worries, now IBM is getting into hybrid enterprise, with Microsoft. They recognize that hybrid systems using hybrid quantum-classical algorithms will be the best way to get their regular customers to rely on their quantum computing business, now and in the future.
Another company that has discovered this truth is IonQ, which uses a different model for its quantum computing – using ions of atomic particles to store qubits in an electromagnetic field – and is branching out into the hybrid algorithm business in a big way.
According to Matthew Keesan, vice president of product development at IonQ, “There are many things that classical computers are better or faster at, especially with our current generations of hardware. Letting the quantum computer do what it’s good and the classic computer doing what it’s good for, you can get the best of both.
The company that pioneered the architecture of systems to support hybrid computing is Rigetti Computing. Because quantum algorithms require quantum and classical computers to work closely together, the interface between the two must be efficient and fast. Rigetti’s system architecture maximizes the compute performance of combined systems while making them available on the cloud. The company recently announced he planned to integrate Rigetti quantum processing units (QPUs) with Ampere Altra Max cloud-based processors to create a hybrid computing environment that could be integrated with machine learning applications. “Our partnership with Ampere will build on years of pioneering innovation in quantum-classical hybrid computing at Rigetti,” said founder Chad Rigetti. “Together, we’re focused on building the most powerful cloud computers and enabling customers to solve many of the world’s biggest and most pressing problems.”
So, as companies like Rigetti, D-Wave and IonQ have long recognized the reality of quantum hybrid systems – and with the arrival of IBM and Microsoft as well – it is also imperative that this reality guides our national quantum policy.
Instead of treating hybridization as a temporary phase or “bridge” to large-scale quantum computing and related uses of quantum technology, it’s time to consider it a key factor in the development and deployment of quantum information science in general. Hybridization will be a key factor in accelerating the advent of the quantum era, for both creators and users, including in the use of quantum computers for national security purposes.
Classic digital computers will never go away. Quantum computers will never realize their full potential without them either. It is time to consider the quantum era as the hybrid era and adjust our national quantum strategy accordingly.