New computer takes a quantum leap in processing power

Algorithmic Warfare: New Computer Takes a Quantum Leap in Processing Power

433-qubit IBM Osprey chip

ibm photo

New York, New York – As the world grapples with how to harness emerging quantum computing technologies, IBM recently unveiled its most advanced computer ever, breaking its own world record in the process.

Unveiled at the annual IBM Quantum Summit in New York, the Osprey computer has more than three times the computing power of the previous model. While advances in quantum are expected to affect all industries, the technology could have unique implications for how nations fight back, researchers said at the recent summit.

Quantum computers use basic units known as qubits instead of the 1’s and 0’s used by traditional computers. Computing power arises from the potential for each qubit to be 1 and 0 simultaneously, rather than being restricted to one or the other.

At 433 qubits, IBM’s Osprey is the world’s largest quantum computer, surpassing the world’s previous largest system, IBM’s 127-qubit Eagle computer.

“We live in a time when computing with a capital C, as I like to call it, is going through one of the most exciting times since the advent of digital computers in the 1940s,” said Dario Gil, senior vice president and director of research at IBM.

“There is an undeniable amount of technical progress that is taking place, and the pace is only accelerating,” he said during the summit.

The creation of larger quantum computers increases the computer’s ability to solve complex problems. But chaining more qubits together creates more “noise,” a term meaning interference with the state of the bits in the computer that affects the outcome of the computations running on it.

As the number of error-free bits increases, the closer the quantum computer comes to reaching its full potential. In addition to the bug issues, current quantum computers are prohibitively large, and researchers continue to work to increase processing power and reduce size.

Part of the progress in quantum computers comes from new hardware developed by IBM, including new wiring that helps control temperature, said Jerry Chow, manager of IBM’s experimental quantum computing division.

This new hardware will enable the next expansion of computers in the coming years, he said. IBM’s Condor with 1,121 qubits is expected to show up next year, and its Flamingo the following year with 1,386 qubits.

Although quantum computing has not reached its full potential, it still has implications for national security today.

For example, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is using IBM’s Qiskit quantum computing software, said Travis Campbell, director of the lab’s Quantum Computing Institute. The lab oversees national security scientific areas such as nuclear nonproliferation and cyber intelligence and resistance, running more than 1 million executions per month on the system.

“Quantum computing is one of those emerging technologies where we see tremendous value, whether it’s doing chemistry calculations, materials science, modeling, new types of catalysts, or developing new types of superconductors,” he said during the summit.

Also, as quantum technology advances, new threats to national security could emerge, said Ray Harishankar, QuantumSafe Fellow at IBM.

Most of the encryption is based on complicated algorithms. The encryption is secure because it would take too long for hackers to guess the key using a traditional computer. But if a hacker harnesses the processing power of quantum technology, it makes the key much easier to understand, bypassing encryption and gaining access to protected communications.

Several companies, including IBM, are developing encryption that will protect sensitive information from adversaries who might gain access to quantum computing in the future, Harishankar said.

While he noted that organizations like the World Economic Forum and the National Security Administration envision a “danger zone” for quantum cryptography in the early 2030s, he said it can take several years to protect critical infrastructure even with an algorithm.

“You have to realize that you need to put them on the production line several years in advance. You cannot think today and implement tomorrow,” he added.

But the technology still has a ways to go before it is widely applicable in any field. Corporate quantum researchers who attended the annual quantum summit were encouraged to be quantum advocates in their workplaces.

The field is still waiting for the moment of “quantum advantage,” said Campbell, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“That demonstration is emerging that we can use quantum computing to advance scientific discovery or innovation or whatever your personal goals are,” he said. “But getting to the point of demonstrating that experimentally, that for us is a clear priority for what follows.”

IBM believes it can achieve that progress by collaborating with partner organizations through its quantum computing network, Gil said. The company’s network has grown to more than 200 partners, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing, according to IBM.

“When you see the energy and enthusiasm that we all witness in the world of quantum, how much appetite there is to learn, to contribute, to change careers into this new area, you know we are on something really big together,” Gil said.

Topics: Infotechnology, Emerging technologies, cybernetic

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