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IBM, Alphabet and well-funded startups in the race for quantum supremacy

GlobalData, the worldwide data analysts, have offered new research that suggests that many companies are joining the race for ‘quantum supremacy’, that is, to be the first to make significant headway with quantum computing.

Quantum computers are a step closer to reality to solve certain real life problems that are beyond the capability of conventional computers, the analysts state.

However, the biggest challenge is that these machines should be able to manipulate several dozens of quantum bits or qubits to achieve impressive computational performance.

As a result, a handful of companies have joined the race to increase the power of qubits and claim quantum supremacy, says GlobalData.

An analysis of GlobalData’s Disruptor Intelligence Center reveals various companies in the race to monetise quantum computing as an everyday tool for business.

IBM's latest quantum computer, accessible via cloud, boasts a 65-qubit Hummingbird chip. It is an advanced version of System Q, its first commercial quantum computer launched in 2019 that has 20 qubits. IBM plans to launch a 1,000-qubit system by the end of 2023.

Alphabet has built a 54-qubit processor Sycamore and demonstrated its quantum supremacy by performing a task of generating a random number in 200 seconds, which it claims would take the most advanced supercomputer 10,000 years to finish the task.

The company also unveiled its newest 72-qubit quantum computer Bristlecone.

Alibaba’s cloud service subsidiary Aliyun and the Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly launched an 11-qubit quantum computing service, which is available to the public on its quantum computing cloud platform.

Alibaba is the second enterprise to offer the service to public after IBM.

However, it’s not only the tech giants that are noteworthy. GlobalData finds that well-funded startups have also targeted the quantum computing space to develop hardware, algorithms and security applications.

Some of them are Rigetti, Xanadu, 1Qbit, IonQ, ISARA, Q-CTRL and QxBranch.

Amazon, unlike the tech companies competing to launch quantum computers, is making quantum products of other companies available to users via Braket.

It currently supports quantum computing services from D-Wave, IonQ and Rigetti.

GlobalData principal disruptive tech analyst Kiran Raj says, “Qubits can allow to create algorithms for the completion of a task with reduced computational complexity that cannot be achieved with traditional bits.

"Given such advantages, quantum computers can solve some of the intractable problems in cybersecurity, drug research, financial modelling, traffic optimisation and batteries to name a few.”

Raj says, “Albeit a far cry from the large-scale mainstream use, quantum computers are gearing up to be a transformative reality. They are highly expensive to build and it is hard to maintain the delicate state of superposition and entanglement of qubits.

"Despite such challenges, quantum computers will continue to progress into the future where companies may rent them to solve everyday problems the way they currently rent cloud services.

"It may not come as a surprise that quantum computing one day replaces artificial intelligence as the mainstream technology to help industries tackle problems they never would have attempted to solve before.”

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