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Cloud Quantum: Supercomputing Spreads into the Cloud

Jamie Carter
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By allowing small, simultaneous calculations far beyond what conventional computers can handle, quantum computing in the cloud promises to revolutionize science, medicine and the Internet of Things.

Classical digital computers use transistors to process information in various sequences of zeros and ones, but have a limited ability to carry out calculations. Quantum computers use the laws of quantum mechanics. Because particles such as electrons and photons can be in multiple states—one, zero, or both at the same time—they offer many more calculation possibilities than traditional machines with only two options—on or off. This could allow very complex calculations in areas such as genome modeling, drug research and weather forecasting.

Quantum computers can operate 100 million times faster than traditional computers. A 500 quantum bit (or qubit) computer could perform more calculations in a single step than the number of atoms in the Universe. And it’s in the cloud that quantum computers will typically operate to make massive calculations. Cue quantum internet.

A Quantum Platform in the Cloud

Dr. Matthias Keller is senior lecturer in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics at the University of Sussex. He stated that “a quantum network would basically work similarly to a classical fiber network. But instead of using strong optical signals, the signal is carried by a single photon.” These are the individual particles of light that transmit information between nodes.

IBM has developed the world’s first quantum computing platform at the IBM Watson Research Center in New York. Online since last May, it has a five-qubit quantum processor and is accessible to everyone via the IBM cloud.

Scientists hope that such powerful computers will enable them to model genomes and ecosystems. The human genome could be unraveled to expand drug development, while a model of Earth’s weather systems would make forecasting much more accurate.

Quantum computers also could search massive databases instantaneously, and handle large amounts of data from sensors in industrial plants and on connected machinery. This makes them perfect for the swiftly developing Industrial Internet of Things.

Courtesy of D-Wave Systems
Courtesy of D-Wave Systems

Five qubit processor, Courtesy of IBM

Courtesy of D-Wave

Cryogenic fridge, Courtesy of D-Wave Systems

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