IBM has big plans for quantum computing in 2022
IBM has been making headlines in quantum computing innovation over the past year. At the recent 2021 Quantum Summit, IBM declared that 2023 will be the year when its systems deliver quantum advantage and quantum computing takes its early place as a powerful tool in the high-performance computing landscape.
IBM also announced its new 127-qubit ‘Eagle’ processor at the summit, which is a breakthrough in tapping into the massive computing potential of devices based on quantum physics. It heralds the point in hardware development where quantum circuits cannot be reliably simulated exactly on a classical computer.
As such, to understand more about the quantum computing industry in 2022, Dr.Anna Phan, Asia Pacific Quantum Alliance Lead at IBM Quantum, shares her views on the quantum computing industry.
How does IBM foresee the quantum computing industry unfolding in 2022?
Quantum computing is no longer a futuristic concept. The world has entered into the quantum decade — an era when enterprises begin to see quantum computing’s business value. This year’s unprecedented advances in hardware, software development, and services validate the technology’s momentum, creating an ecosystem – from individual developers to institutions and industries – that paves the way for further breakthroughs in 2022 and helps prepare the market for the eventual adoption of this nascent technology.
From a technology innovation perspective, things are moving fast. Certain problems simply can’t be solved with a classical computer due to capacity or processing speed constraints. IBM’s own publicly available quantum roadmap is focused on removing these constraints to deliver quantum advantage – the point where certain information processing tasks can be performed more efficiently or cost-effectively on a quantum computer than on a classical computer. This involves driving performance improvements along three dimensions: scale, quality, and speed.
However, innovation alone can’t unlock the full potential of quantum computing. In 2022, the industry needs to continue preparing for the day quantum computing can help solve tough, classically unsolvable problems, enabling businesses to gain a competitive advantage. As next year unfolds, this will require a focus on developing quantum skills across the quantum ecosystem to ensure industry workforces that are ‘quantum ready’.
As outlined in our “Quantum Decade” report, we estimate that there are only about 3,000 skilled quantum workers in the market today. That base needs to be doubled or quadrupled to exploit the full potential of quantum this decade and ensure businesses aren’t left behind. Across Asia and the rest of the world, through next year IBM will continue investing in quantum developer certification, as well as boot camp-like educational programs and investments in university curricula that empower a diverse workforce and enable quantum computing skills to blossom.
How far are we from seeing real-world quantum computing use cases being adapted by organizations?
Companies already engaging with quantum computing – simply wanting a head start with what might soon become possible. It could help address problems that are too challenging for even today’s most powerful supercomputers, such as figuring out how to make better batteries or sequester carbon emissions.
IBM is currently working with more than 170 organizations around the world, including Asia, on research to apply quantum to real-world problems. For example, Mercedes-Benz is working with us to explore how quantum computing can advance the development of lithium-sulfur batteries for electric vehicles. CERN is using our quantum systems to explore ways to use machine learning to look for new ways of finding patterns in LHC data. And industrial chemists at Mitsubishi Chemical and JSR Corporation, which are members of the IBM Quantum Hub at Keio University in Japan, are using our systems to model and analyze the deep molecular structures of potential new OLED (organic light-emitting diode) materials.
There are many use cases where businesses could put quantum computing to work. One field that could greatly benefit from quantum computing is chemistry where it may help discover new materials, drugs, and fertilizers, among many other potential discoveries. For example, BP is using IBM’s quantum systems to explore applications for driving efficiencies and reducing carbon emissions, while ExxonMobil is exploring possible solutions to the logistical challenge of moving the world’s cleanest-burning fuel LPG across the globe, also using IBM quantum systems.
With growing research from various companies all over the world in quantum computing, is the industry getting more competitive?
The quantum computing challenge is too big for any one organization. As quantum moves from the lab to the real world, ecosystems are forming to support collaborative innovation and open-source development. Potential ecosystems likely include a quantum computing technology partner, quantum computing developers, and academic partners.
IBM has been at the heart of this ecosystem since developing and deploying the first working quantum computer on the cloud in 2016. And now more than 380,000 registered users, and 170 companies, academic institutions, start-ups, and national research labs all over the world are part of IBM’s community. Enabled by IBM’s quantum computers, scientists, engineers, and consultants, they are using our technology, publishing fundamental research, contributing code to the open-source Qiskit software framework, and pursuing real-world use cases. This shows the willingness of individuals and businesses, alike, to get ready for a future with quantum computing.
What can we expect from IBM in the quantum computing field in 2022?
We published our technology roadmap in 2020, which puts us on a course toward million-plus qubit processors by the end of the decade. In 2021, we released our development roadmap, which showcases our integrated vision and timeline for full-stack quantum development, including hardware, software, and applications. It lays out the path toward developer services leveraging 1,000+ qubit systems, via the IBM Cloud, to investigate error correction. It also provides the technical foundations of how we scale and drive the adoption of quantum computing for our clients and ecosystem. Developers exploring quantum computing today will be able to do more, faster, as IBM implements technologies designed on OpenShift to work alongside quantum computers. And more developers from different industries will have more reasons and opportunities to explore quantum computing within their workflows.
Will quantum computing technology be more affordable in the future?
Quantum is an area of incredible promise slated to unlock hundreds of billions of dollars of value for our clients by the end of the decade.
In terms of IBM’s roadmap, Boston Consulting Group and IBM see $3B+ in near-term value creation, with IBM’s 1,121-qubit “Condor” processor being an inflection point in 2023. This milestone marks our ability to implement error correction and scale up our devices, while simultaneously being complex enough to explore potential quantum advantages—problems that we can solve more efficiently on a quantum computer than on the world’s best supercomputers.
Take financial services: According to BCG’s report, quantum capabilities could be in trader workflows by 2025. So too, could these capabilities be in place for powering computational fluid dynamics for aerospace and automotive design.
To accomplish all of this, it will take IBM and an ecosystem to identify the problems, design the right solutions, ensure a quantum ready workforce and quantum ready industries. What quantum roadmap does is it gives business leaders, developers, investors confidence that the “engine to power all of this” is getting stronger. This is key to future value creation.
22 March 2023
22 March 2023