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IBM unveils its ‘next generation’ quantum processor

The new IBM Quantum Heron is the firm’s most performant quantum processor in the world, boasts IBM, offering up to a five-fold improvement in error reduction over IBM Quantum Eagle.

Andrew Wooden

December 5, 2023

3 Min Read
IBM quantum system 2

IBM Quantum Heron will be the first in a series of ‘utility-scale’ quantum processors, and alongside this the tech giant has unveiled IBM Quantum System Two, which is a modular quantum computer and described as a cornerstone of IBM's quantum-centric supercomputing architecture.

The first IBM Quantum System Two, located in Yorktown Heights, New York, has begun operations with three IBM Heron processors humming away inside.

A bunch of researchers, scientists and engineers from IBM and heavyweight international universities have already begun playing around with the Heron 133-qubit processor – or ‘exploring uncharted computational territory’. This appears to build on some work earlier this year which sought to demonstrate quantum computing’s utility in crunching problems in chemistry, physics, and materials ‘beyond brute force classical simulation of quantum mechanics.’

"We are firmly within the era in which quantum computers are being used as a tool to explore new frontiers of science," said Dario Gil, IBM SVP and Director of Research. "As we continue to advance how quantum systems can scale and deliver value through modular architectures, we will further increase the quality of a utility-scale quantum technology stack – and put it into the hands of our users and partners who will push the boundaries of more complex problems."

IBM Quantum System Two combines scalable cryogenic infrastructure and classical runtime servers with modular qubit control electronics. IBM plans for this system to house future generations of quantum processors, which are intended to gradually improve the quality of operations they can run to significantly extend the complexity and size of workloads.

The firm has also announced Qiskit Patterns, which is some software designed to allow quantum developers to more easily create code. Users will be able to build, deploy, and execute workflows integrating classical and quantum computation in different environments, in order to run quantum algorithms more easily, we’re told.

It’s also tinkering with generative AI for quantum code programming through watsonx, IBM's enterprise AI platform. Through this, IBM intends to integrate generative AI to help automate the development of quantum code for Qiskit.

"Generative AI and quantum computing are both reaching an inflection point, presenting us with the opportunity to use the trusted foundation model framework of watsonx to simplify how quantum algorithms can be built for utility-scale exploration," said Jay Gambetta, Vice President and IBM Fellow at IBM. "This is a significant step towards broadening how quantum computing can be accessed and put in the hands of users as an instrument for scientific exploration."

As with a lot of quantum announcements it’s sometimes a little tricky to get past the mind-bending propositions of qubits and what it is all supposed to be good for. Ultimately while the concept of a much faster computational rate via quantum technology has been established, the caveat has always been that it’s not always ‘reliable’.

The key message from this IBM announcement seems to be that scientists can now obtain more reliable results using its latest batch of quantum toys – so the interesting thing will be to see what the boffins go away and do with it now.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins Telecoms.com on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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