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IBM has come up with a new way of measuring the progress of quantum computers

March 4, 2019

It’s promoting a yardstick called “quantum volume,” which it claims is doubling every year—an equivalent to Moore's Law in conventional computing.

Just chuck more qubits at it: Quantum machines rely on quantum bits, or qubits, to manipulate data. But just adding more qubits might not boost a machine’s performance. That’s because their fragile quantum state can be disrupted by even the tiniest vibrations or changes in temperature—a phenomenon known as “noise.” This causes errors to creep into calculations. (See our explainer here for more background on how quantum computers work.)
 
A new Moore’s Law?: IBM has proposed quantum volume as a more appropriate single measure of progress. This still counts qubits, but also incorporates things like error rates and the quality of connectivity between qubits.

At this week’s meeting of the American Physical Society, IBM is unveiling results that show quantum volume on its machines doubled from 4 in 2017 to 8 in 2018. The company says its recently unveiled Q System One machine has a volume of 16.

So far, this is developing much as Moore’s Law has done for conventional computing. Moore’s Law holds that the number of transistors that can be packed onto a silicon microchip doubles roughly every two years (although there are signs things are slowing down).
 
Quantum PR volume: IBM is a leader in quantum computing and was the first to make its machines available via the computing cloud for others to use. But it faces stiff competition from rivals like Rigetti Computing and Intel.
 
Working out the best way to compare these quantum computers is important, but each company is bound to promote yardsticks that favor its own hardware and software. So here’s another quantum Moore’s Law prediction: the volume of PR devoted to promoting quantum yardsticks is going to double—and perhaps even quadruple—every year...

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