Quantum Computing

IBM and the Race to Dominate the Quantum Computing Field

Credit: Photo by Carson Masterson on Unsplash

While quantum computing is still in its infancy, it is no ordinary technology. It is attracting huge research efforts and funding by various companies, organizations and even governments. Quantum computing is designed to solve complex problems that even the world’s most powerful supercomputers cannot solve.

The National Review back in 2017 described its importance: “Let’s make no mistake: The race for a quantum computer is the new arms race.”

Gartner defines quantum computing as “a type of nonclassical computing that operates on the quantum state of subatomic particles.” While standard computers are built on classical bits, every quantum computer has a qubit or quantum bit as its building block. Thus, unlike a classical computer where information is stored as binary 0 or 1 using bits, a quantum computer harnesses the unique ability of subatomic participles in the form of qubit, which can exist in superposition of 0 and 1 at the same time. Thus, by leveraging this feature, quantum computers can achieve higher information density and handle highly complex operations at speeds exponentially higher than conventional computers, while consuming much lesser energy.

IBM (IBM) has done a lot of work around this revolutionary technology. It is considered as one of the pioneers in the field of quantum computing. Here’s an overview its role.  

In 2016, IBM introduced the Quantum Experience and then in 2017, within a year and a half of putting the IBM Q experience prototype 5-qubit machine in the cloud, IBM added a second device with 16 qubits.

In December 2017, IBM announced its collaboration with leading companies, academic institutions and national research labs to accelerate quantum computing. These partnerships were structured as the IBM Q Network and included names such as JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung, JSR Corporation, Barclays, Hitachi Metals, Honda, Nagase, Keio University, Oak Ridge National Lab, Oxford University and the University of Melbourne. In 2018, many startups joined IBM to accelerate the work in quantum computing.

In January 2019, IBM unveiled the IBM Q System One, the world's first integrated universal approximate quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use, outside the confinement of a research lab. In September, it opened the IBM quantum computation center in New York to expand its quantum computing systems for commercial and research activity.

In August 2020, IBM reported that it achieved its highest Quantum Volume to date. The company upgraded one of its newest 27-qubit, clients-deployed systems to achieve a Quantum Volume 64. IBM set itself on a target to double the Quantum Volume of its devices every year.

Quantum Volume is described as "a single number meant to encapsulate the performance of today’s quantum computers,” according to Qiskit. So this is a measure of the power the computer holds to solve problems.

According to a 2021 survey study by IDC, investments in quantum computing are expected to rise in the next 24 months. The number of organizations allocating more than 17% of their annual IT budgets for this technology are expected to increase from 7% in 2021 to an estimated 19% in 2023. The quantum computing market size is expected to reach $1.76 billion by 2026 from $472 million in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.2% during this period.

The industries that can benefit the most from quantum computing, include chemical and petroleum, distribution and logistics and financial services, followed by healthcare and life sciences, manufacturing and automotive. Companies across industries are working on generating solutions. For example, ExxonMobil (XOM) and IBM are exploring quantum algorithms to solve routing formulations.

In February 2021, bp (BPjoined the IBM Q Network to advance the use of quantum computing in the energy industry. The company said it “will work with IBM to explore using quantum computing to solve business and engineering challenges and explore the potential applications for driving efficiencies and reducing carbon emissions.”  

In May, IBM introduced Qiskit Runtime, an open-source framework for quantum computing, making it easier and faster for developers to use the quantum software. The software is hosted in the hybrid cloud. Qiskit boosts the speeds of quantum circuits, the building blocks of quantum algorithms, by 120 times.

Recently in October, IBM and Raytheon Technologies (RTX) entered a strategic collaboration agreement where they plan to jointly develop advanced artificial intelligence (AI), cryptographic, and quantum solutions for the aerospace, defense and intelligence industries, including the federal government. Back in December 2018, the National Quantum Initiative Act was signed into law to ensure the continued leadership of the U.S. in quantum information science (QIS) and its technology applications. In August 2020, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced over $1 billion in reward for the establishment of 12 new AI and QIS research institutes nationwide. 

Quantum computing is a major focus for IBM, and this is reflected in its well laid out hardware and software roadmap for building a quantum ecosystem. IBM has established a leadership in quantum computing patents. It has patents in simplification of mapping quantum molecular simulation on a quantum computer and investigating more accurate and efficient risk analysis calculations on a quantum computer.

IBM believes that “quantum computing is on the verge of sparking a paradigm shift.” 

Disclaimer: The author has no position in any stocks mentioned. Investors should consider the above information not as a de facto recommendation, but as an idea for further consideration. The report has been carefully prepared, and any exclusions or errors in reporting are unintentional. Details on projects based on press releases and information on IBM’s website.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Prableen Bajpai

Prableen Bajpai is the founder of FinFix Research and Analytics which is an all women financial research and wealth management firm. She holds a bachelor (honours) and master’s degree in economics with a major in econometrics and macroeconomics. Prableen is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA, ICFAI) and a CFP®.

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