Quantum Computing in 2018: The Age of Quantum Supremacy Ireland EU

Quantum Computing in 2018: The Age of Quantum Supremacy Ireland EU
Quantum Computing in 2018: The Age of Quantum Supremacy

Quantum Computing in 2018: The Age of Quantum Supremacy

Modern technology has developed so fast that it has practically spoiled us. So, no wonder that we expect breakthroughs and revolutionary discoveries every year.

But, 2018 does look promising. And in addition to artificial intelligence, gene therapy, and brain mapping, everyone’s eyes will be fixed on quantum computing as well.

As we have already written, the idea of creating a quantum computer was first proposed by Richard Feynman in 1982. However, it only became plausible during the 2000s. Since then, it has been actively pursued. But, can we go further than we already are during 2018?

Let’s find out!

Where is Quantum Computing Now?

In computational power, the 30-qubit quantum computer matches the power of a 10-teraflop (1012  flops) conventional computer. However, unlike conventional computers, the power of quantum computers increases exponentially.

Therefore, it is expected that a 49-qubit quantum computer will possess power unattainable for conventional computers. In other words, 49-qubit quantum computer should usher us into the era of quantum supremacy.

In October 2017, an MIT Technology Review stated:

So, one way to achieve quantum supremacy is to create a system that can support 49 qubits in a superposition of states. This system doesn’t need to perform any complex calculations—it just needs to be able to explore the entire space of a 49-qubit superposition reliably.”

At the present moment, scientists and developers already have access to a 20-qubit quantum computer through the IBM cloud services. Moreover, IBM has already presented a prototype for an operational 50-qubit processor and has promised to release it very soon.

Google is IBM’s main competitor in the quantum race; the internet giant aims to use quantum computing to speed up the development of AI. And it’s doing pretty well at the moment.

And Microsoft has taken a comparatively different path, developing a new kind of qubit, called the “topological qubit”. Besides, a few months ago, the software heavyweight, released a quantum computing programming language.

Quantum Annealing vs. Universal Gate

Wait a minute, you may say! But, what about D-Wave’s super powerful quantum computers?

More than a legit question.

Because D-Wave Systems were pioneers in the quantum computing field. And because, after all, they produced the first commercially available quantum computer. But, here’s where it gets interesting: that computer used a 128-qubit chipset.

Bearing in mind the fact that we just wrote about corporations like IBM and Google racing toward the checkmark of (at least) 49 qubits, D-Wave’s 128-qubit quantum computer sounds a bit confusing.

The main difference lies in the quantum method employed. Because, unlike the general-purpose quantum computers based on a universal gate, D-Wave’s computers operate on a method called quantum annealing.

Loosely speaking, the latter can be used only in a narrow range of tasks – such as combinatorial optimization problems – and can’t be of any help, for instance, in quantum cryptography.

In quantum annealing, data must be mapped to specific energy sources. The Next Platform neatly describes the rest:

“This map is set in a highly quantum mechanical state as a superposition of all the potential solutions (the landscape). Then the D-Wave machine slowly turns down this quantum state (this is where quantum tunneling, entanglement and superposition all happen) and as the strength subsides as the quantum mechanical wave function that is laid across this landscape of possible solutions is like a water level; it drops a bit, showing the peaks of mountains (the least correct) and as winds down, at the bottom (valleys) are the solution sets that are most correct.”

Although quantum annealing is quite narrow-oriented, it turns out that it’s suitable for such a demanding area as artificial intelligence. That’s exactly why in 2013 NASA, Google and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) united their efforts to build a Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab that is based on D-Wave’s 512-qubit quantum computer.

(Take a look at this video to learn about the difference between universal-gate quantum computers and those based on quantum annealing.)

What Should We Expect from QC in 2018?

Quantum Supremacy

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: quantum supremacy will inevitably happen sometime during 2018. But, what does that mean?

Basically, that the power of quantum computers will surpass that of traditional computers. And the reason why we hope for this moment is due to the rapid pace of further progress it promises.

Three giants in the industry – IBM, Google, and Intel – have promised, almost at the same time, to release (at least) 49-qubit quantum computers by the end of 2018.

IBM’s 50-Qubit Quantum Computer

IBM is widely considered to be the leader in the race. After all, most of its achievements during the past year were quantum related. And in 2018, they are planning to release a full-fledged 50-qubit quantum computer!

And bearing in mind that the prototype has already been announced, this seems all but a certainty. In fact, IBM reported that

“Over the next year, IBM Q scientists will continue to work to improve its devices including the quality of qubits, circuit connectivity, and error rates of operations to increase the depth for running quantum algorithms. For example, within six months, the IBM team was able to extend the coherence times for the 20-qubit processor to be twice that of the publicly available 5 and 16 qubit systems on the IBM Q experience.”

Google’s Quantum Supremacy Demonstration

Google has been working on its own way toward quantum supremacy. During 2018, they are planning to prove that they can keep 49 qubits in a quantum superposition. Such a quantum computer wouldn’t have to handle various complex algorithms (at least in the beginning) but, rather, merely show that superconducting qubits can represent 512 numbers simultaneously.

Microsoft’s Topological Quantum Computers

Microsoft wants to make quantum computing scalable. And they want to achieve this with the help of the aforementioned topological qubits, which are special quasiparticles which bring more stability to the quantum operations.

Nature wrote something about this back in 2016:

“Microsoft, however, is hoping to encode its qubits in a kind of quasiparticle: a particle-like object that emerges from the interactions inside matter. Some physicists are not even sure that the particular quasiparticles Microsoft are working with – called non-abelian anyons – actually exist. But the firm hopes to exploit their topological properties, which make quantum states extremely robust to outside interference, to build what are called topological quantum computers.“

Intel’s Neuromorphic Approach

As recent as January, Intel announced its 49-qubit superconducting quantum test chip. Unlike Google and IBM, Intel uses a so-called “neuromorphic approach,” which mimics the neuro-biological architecture of the nervous system.

This is how Intel’s Newsroom broke the news:

“Intel Labs has developed a neuromorphic research chip, code-named Loihi’ which includes digital circuits that mimic the brain’s basic operation. Loihi combines training and inference on a single chip with the goal of making machine learning more power efficient.”

Intel’s neuromorphic chip combines interference and machine learning, which is basically like saying – AI, here comes QC! In fact, in 2018, Intel plans to share its test neuromorphic chip with institutions working with artificial intelligence.

We’re waiting with eagerness to see what good will come out of this collaboration!


Achieving quantum supremacy in 2018 may not bring a solution to all of humanity’s problems. However, it will certainly open the door to a new era for quantum computing.

This will certainly help fields such as gene therapy and personalized medicine further develop, paving the way for new ecological, power systems, and engineering solutions.

There’s so many things we can expect. Yes – even more than we can predict at the moment!

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