The ultimate goal of quantum computing is a fault tolerant universal system that automatically fixes errors and has unlimited coherence. “The holy grail is fault-tolerant universal quantum computing. Today, we are creating approximate universal, meaning it can perform arbitrary operations and programs, but it’s approximating so that I have to live with errors and a [limited] window of time to perform the operations,” Gil explained.
He sees this is an incremental process and today’s announcement is a step along the path, but he believes that even what they can do today is quite powerful. With today’s release and the improvements that IBM made to the QISKit, a software development kit (SDK) to help companies understand how to program quantum computers, they can continue to advance the technology. It’s not going to happen overnight, but companies, governments, universities and interested parties are undertaking research to see how this can work in practical application. (And of course, IBM isn’t the only company working on this problem.)
IBM sees applications for quantum computing in areas like medicine, drug discovery and materials science as this technology advances and becomes better understood. It is also trying to anticipate possible negative consequences of an advanced technology such as the ability to eventually be able to break encryption. Gil says they are working with standards bodies to try and develop post-quantum computing encryption algorithms, and while they are a long way from achieving that, they certainly seem to understand the magnitude of the issues and are trying to mitigate them.https://www.nature.com/subjects/qubits