IBM (IBM) just hit a major computing milestone. One that puts it on track to have the fastest quantum computer in the world.
You might have missed this news. After all, most of us won't need a system that can solve the world's most complex mathematical problems.
Besides, the use of quantum mechanics to build more powerful computers doesn't move markets. Not materially, anyway. And, at least, not yet.
Here at Reality Check, however, we believe that whoever owns this early-stage technology wins. And wins big…
To be clear, IBM has not won the race to quantum supremacy. In fact, several other formidable frontrunners are working on the technology that future generations will wonder how we lived without.
Winning by Bits and Qubits
Last year, Alphabet (GOOGL) said it built a quantum computer that took 200 seconds to solve a problem that would have otherwise taken a supercomputer 10,000 years to crack.
And IBM said, "Game on."
Well, someone there probably said that. Here's what we know they did…
Last week, IBM announced that it had expanded the computational power of its cloud-accessible quantum computers.
Through a series of new hardware and software upgrades, one of its 27-qubit systems achieved a Quantum Volume 64.
The more qubits involved in the process, the more complex the problem that the computer can solve. The qubit is what makes quantum computing so different from classical computing.
Classical computing uses bits to make a series of 0s and 1s. This binary logic performs the operations following a code with the parameters: If this is true, then do this.
With classical computing, you pose a question and it spits out an answer. Quantum processing has the capability to take all the parameters that you set and come up with 1 or many optimal solutions.
What We Can Do with All That Power
As the legendary physicist Richard Feynman said in 1981, “Nature isn’t classical… and if you want to make a simulation of Nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical.”
Just remember that quantum computing is completely different from classical computing. It has the ability to perform complex problem-solving simulations that classical computing doesn’t.
But in the end, it will only be able to perform certain tasks faster. It is not a replacement for classical computing.
Those tasks include things like weather forecasting… powering artificial intelligence… financial modeling… developing life-saving treatments and therapies… and so much more.
And plenty of companies are relying on these quantum leaps to take their own businesses into the future.
With a Little Help from IBM's Friends…
IBM has made a total of 28 quantum computers available on its IBM Q Network. The network is a community of Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions, startups, and national research labs.
There are more than 250,000 registered users of the IBM quantum experience.
You’ll recognize some of the partners on that list. We’re talking about Samsung (SSNLF), ExxonMobil (XOM), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and Boeing (BA)… just to name a few.
The IBM Q Network is all about fostering a community ecosystem that will advance the field of quantum computing. That’s why IBM Q Network members receive support and training from industry-leading experts.
Millions of experiments have already been performed over the cloud using IBM's quantum computer.
And just like every piece of technology before it, we know that the more applications it’s used for, the more data that can be collected.
That data leads to improvements until the technology is perfected.
How IBM's Q Network Will Make QC Work
When partners use the IBM cloud quantum computer, they enter instructions and parameters on an interface on a classical computer. That is then transmitted via the cloud to a quantum computer at IBM.
The quantum computer turns those instructions into microwave pulses. These microwave pulses travel through cables in which they are cooled to negative 459 degrees Fahrenheit to then interact with the qubits.
The cooling of the microwaves mitigates the quantum effects of heat. This whole process takes only 0.001 seconds.
The microwave pulses change the quantum state of the qubits. All the interactions are then analyzed and sent back to the classical computer.
Is It Time to Invest in QC?
IBM’s announcement tells me this is the perfect time to introduce quantum computing as a trend the Reality Check research team is watching closely.
Quantum computing is already being used to reinvent aspects of cybersecurity. The ability to break codes and encrypt electronic communications is extremely useful as cybersecurity mutates to fit an ever-changing computing environment.
And really, who knows what else we will need quantum computing for in the future. Quantum computing is designed to make calculations that we can only dream of today… and surely some that we can’t even fathom yet.
Companies like Lockheed Martin (LMT) and government outfits like NASA have actually purchased their own quantum computers. And with multiple startups and giants working on quantum solutions, it’s only a matter of time before more companies jump on the bandwagon of having one in house.
IBM is working hard to be that leader, and this most recent achievement puts it on the tail of Honeywell International (HON).
Honeywell achieved a quantum volume of 64 back in June. At the time, IBM could only tout a volume of 32, but now it has caught up.
Honeywell is in the race because it wants to discover new kinds of materials. This would involve working out how different molecules interact to form materials with the right properties.
One specific example is trying to identify a refrigerant that is more effective and better for the environment. Honeywell says it will use QC to identify better refrigerants.
Now, the two are neck and neck. So, we’ll be watching to see what the next improvement is. As well as taking a deeper dive and looking for the startups and disruptors in the field.
Both Honeywell and IBM are technology giants and solid dividend payers.
I’m not saying that either one is your next triple-bagger. But they sure are two of the leaders in this field.
If you have a legacy section of your portfolio, you should have one or both of these names in it.