IBM announced that it had doubled last year’s quantum volume 32 to a quantum volume of 64 using one of its newest 27-qubit Falcon processors.
Quantum volume is a metric that indicates the relative computational power of a gate-based quantum computer. IBM had doubled its systems’ quantum volume every year since 2017 when it first developed the measurement. That year it demonstrated a quantum volume of 4 with its five-qubit computer called Tenerife.
There is no current standard performance benchmark for quantum computers. I believe quantum volume is an appropriate way to measure the power of gate-based quantum computers in the interim. There are several reasons for my opinion:
- Quantum volume is hardware-agnostic
- It reflects the number of qubits, connectivity, and gate and measurement errors.
- Interpreting quantum volume is simple – the higher the QV, the broader and deeper a computation can be run.
- Perhaps as equally important as technical reasons, quantum volume’s numerical simplicity makes quantum computing more understandable to the general public, corporate management, and investors.
Moving quantum computing into the future
The achievement of quantum volume 64 is another data point on IBM’s multi-year technological roadmap. It represents an additional step toward a future industry benchmark called quantum advantage.
Quantum advantage means that programmable quantum gate-based computers can solve some, but not necessarily all, real-world problems. Some problems may be difficult for classical computers to solve or may require too much time to solve.
There are still many technical obstacles to overcome before quantum computing transitions from its current experimental stage to real usefulness. That will likely take us another ten to fifteen years.
“IBM is committed to providing clients with quantum computing breakthroughs they need to eventually solve problems impossible to tackle today,” said Jay Gambetta, Vice President, IBM Quantum. “With advancements across software and hardware, IBM’s full-stack approach delivers the most powerful quantum systems in the industry to our users.”
According to a research paper published by IBM, the increased quantum volume was made possible by developments and quality improvements in four key technical areas. The paper also reinforces the need for circuit benchmarks like quantum volume.
IBM’s quantum cloud cranks up more power
IBM has been busy. A few weeks before its quantum volume announcement, IBM upgraded eight cloud computers to quantum volume 32. It also added several more quantum computers to the IBM Cloud, bringing the total to 28.
It is a big quantum cloud network with many users. According to IBM, 250,000 registered users of the network run over a staggering one billion hardware circuits a day. Researchers have used IBM’s quantum system to publish more than 250 papers.
- IBM announced QV 64 a few months after Honeywell announced their QV 64 achievement. However, in keeping with IBM’s goal of doubling its QV every year, its announcement was on schedule and according to plan. It does not appear to be a response to Honeywell’s announcement.
- IBM uses superconducting qubits, and Honeywell’s quantum computer uses trapped-ion technology. We are fortunate to have two strong companies pushing the development of leading quantum technologies. It can only benefit the entire quantum computing ecosystem and shorten the time to reach quantum advantage.
- Honeywell and IBM are the only two companies I know of that publish ongoing quantum volumes as a matter of routine. It is not because other companies don’t know their quantum volume. I am sure almost all gate-based machines have run it.