IBM has Unveiled a Brand-New Quantum Computer

Thousands of miles away from the company’s quantum computation center in Poughkeepsie, New York, IBM is bringing quantum technologies out of Big Blue’s labs and directly to partners around the world. A Quantum System One, IBM‘s flagship integrated superconducting quantum computer, is now available on-premises in the Kawasaki Business Incubation Center in Kawasaki City, for Japanese researchers to run their quantum experiments in fields ranging from chemistry to finance.

Most customers to date can only access IBM‘s System One over the cloud, by connecting to the company’s quantum computation center in Poughkeepsie. Recently, the company unveiled the very first quantum computer that was physically built outside of the computation center’s data centers, when the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany acquired a System One. The system that has now been deployed to Japan is therefore IBM‘s second quantum computer that is located outside of the US.

The announcement comes as part of a long-standing relationship with Japanese organizations. In 2019, IBM and the University of Tokyo inaugurated the Japan-IBM Quantum Partnership, a national agreement inviting universities and businesses across the country to engage in quantum research. It was agreed then that a Quantum System One would eventually be installed at an IBM facility in Japan.

Building on the partnership, Big Blue and the University of Tokyo launched the Quantum Innovation Initiative Consortium last year to further bring together organizations working in the field of quantum. With this, the Japanese government has made it clear that it is keen to be at the forefront of the promising developments that quantum technologies are expected to bring about.

Leveraging some physical properties that are specific to quantum mechanics, quantum computers could one day be capable of carrying out calculations that are impossible to run on the devices that are used today, known as a classical computers.


New Powerful Quantum Computer

Honeywell, a company best known for making control systems for homes, businesses and planes, claims to have built the most powerful quantum computer ever. Other researchers are sceptical about its power, but for the company, it is a step towards integrating quantum computing into its everyday operationsHoneywell measured its computer’s capabilities using a metric invented by IBM called quantum volume. It takes into account the number of quantum bits – or qubits – the computer has, their error rate, how long the system can spend calculating before the qubits stop working and a few other key properties.

Measuring quantum volume involves running about 220 different algorithms on the computer”, says Tony Uttley, the president of Honeywell Quantum Solutions. Honeywell’s quantum computer has a volume of 64, twice as high as the next highest quantum volume to be recorded, which was measured in an IBM quantum computer.

Like other quantum computers, this one may eventually be useful for calculations that deal with huge amounts of data. “There are three classes of problems that we are focused on right now: optimization, machine learning, and chemistry and material science,” says Uttley. “We can do those problems shrunk down to a size that fits our quantum computer today and then, as we increase the quantum volume, we’ll be able to do those problems on bigger scales.” However, this quantum computer isn’t yet able to perform calculations that would give a classical computer trouble, a feat called quantum supremacy, which was first claimed by Google in October. “While it’s cool that the company that made my thermostat is now building quantum computers, claiming it’s the most powerful one isn’t really substantiated,” says Ciarán Gilligan-Lee at University College London.

“Google’s Sycamore quantum computer used 53 qubits to achieve quantum supremacy, while Honeywell’s machine only has six qubits so far. “We know that anything less than around 50 or 60 qubits can be simulated on a classical computer relatively easily,” says Gilligan-Lee. “A six-qubit quantum computer can probably be simulated by your laptop, and a supercomputer could definitely do it.” Having the highest quantum volume may mean that Honeywell’s qubits are remarkably accurate and can calculate for a long time, but it doesn’t necessarily make it the most powerful quantum computer out there, he says.

Scott Aaronson at the University of Texas at Austin  agrees. “Quantum volume is not the worst measure, but what I personally care about, much more than that or any other invented measure, is what you can actually do with the device that’s hard for a classical computer to simulate,” he says. “By the latter measure, the Honeywell device is not even close to the best out there.”


Absolutely Unbreakable Encryption Chip

The trouble with encryption is that everyone needs it, and every threat actor wants to break it. Thankfully, current cryptographic techniques are still at least one step ahead of the cracking curve. That could, scientists say, all change in the not too distant future as quantum computers enter the encryption battlefield. But what if there were a method of enabling data to be sent using an “absolutely unbreakable” one-time communication technique? What if that technique could achieve perfect secrecy cryptography via correlated mixing of chaotic waves in an irreversible time-varying silicon chip?

A team of scientists claims that’s exactly what it has done, developing a prototype silicon chip that uses the laws of nature, including chaos theory. With no software or code to manipulate, traditional methods of cracking computer encryption are irrelevant, the scientists claim. What’s more, it is also claimed to overcome the threat of quantum computers and can do so using existing communication networks.

An international collaboration of researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy at University of St Andrews, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) has today published a paper to demonstrate perfect secrecy cryptography in classical optical channels.

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With the advent of more powerful and quantum computers, all current encryptions will be broken in a very short time,” Dr. Andrea Fratalocchi, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at KAUST and leader of the study, said, “exposing the privacy of our present and, more importantly, past communications.”

The prototype chip the scientists have developed uses the classical laws of physics, including chaos theory and the second law of thermodynamics, to achieve “perfect secrecy.” The cryptographic keys generated by the chip, which are used to unlock each message, are never stored and are not communicated with the message. It exploits correlated chaotic wavepackets, mixed in inexpensive and CMOS compatible silicon chips. All of which start life as digital human fingerprint images that are transformed into a “chaotic microresonator.” It is claimed that even facing an attacker with “unlimited” technological power, even if they could access the system and copy the chips, would be unable to break the encryption because it is protected by the second law of thermodynamics and the “exponential sensitivity of chaos.

This system is the practical solution the cybersecurity sector has been waiting for since the perfect secrecy theoretical proof in 1917 by Gilbert Vernam,” Dr. Al Cruz, founder of the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) in California, and co-author of the study said.