July 19, 2017
Google is getting closer to offering quantum computing over the cloud. It’s uncertain if a quantum computer, which is based on “qubits” rather than 1s and 0s, can out-perform a supercomputer, but Google and other companies are betting it will be able to perform certain important tasks millions of times faster. Google and its rivals would be more likely to rent quantum computing over the Internet, since the computers are too bulky and require too much special care to live in most companies’ data centers.
Bloomberg notes that “Google has offered science labs and artificial intelligence researchers early access to its quantum machines over the Internet in recent months,” with the goal of encouraging “development of tools and applications for the technology, and ultimately turn it into a faster, more powerful cloud-computing service.”
Bloomberg News obtained details of Google’s quantum hardware, including a lab dubbed “embryonic quantum data center,” and ProjectQ, “an open-source effort to get developers to write code for quantum computers.”
“They’re pretty open that they’re building quantum hardware and they would, at some point in the future, make it a cloud service,” said Stanford University quantum computing research Peter McMahon.
Other companies working on commercializing quantum computing are Microsoft, D-Wave Systems and IBM, the latter which added “a 17 qubit prototype quantum processor to the still-experimental service.” MIT professor Seth Lloyd says that, “useful applications will arrive when a system has more than 100 qubits.”
Google says it is currently “producing a machine with 49 qubits, although it’s unclear whether this is the computer being offered over the Internet to outside users.” SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund is also “scouting for investments” in quantum computing.
Google began its efforts to develop quantum computers in 2014 and, earlier in 2017, said it planned to conduct “a theoretical test” to prove that its quantum computer performs “on par, or better than, existing supercomputers.” Although other companies are involved in quantum computing, MIT’s Lloyd believes Google’s work is responsible for encouraging the trend of quantum startups “popping up like mushrooms.”