IBM has announced the launch of its latest quantum processor, the 133-qubit Heron, marking a step forward in achieving “utility scale” in quantum processing. Enhancing competitive edge, the Heron processor boasts not just a higher qubit count than its predecessor, the 127-qubit Eagle, but also presents a fivefold reduction in error rates, which is crucial given the sensitivity of qubits to information corruption.
Strategic Focus on Circuit Size
IBM's quantum advancement isn't merely measured by qubit quantity. Instead, the company is strategically prioritizing the size of quantum circuits, aiming for a substantial execution capability of 5,000 operations within a single quantum circuit by the end of 2024. With its focus on circuit size over qubit count, IBM underlines the significance of coherence and qubit quality as fundamental factors in enhancing a quantum machine's capabilities.
System Two: IBM's Modular Quantum Future
Propelling forward, IBM's Quantum System Two compute cluster is designed as a modular system – standing 15 feet tall and requiring cryogenic cooling – that encapsulates quantum, classical, and qubit control electronics. Initially showcasing in Yorktown Heights, New York, the system is equipped with three Heron processors, summing up to 399 available qubits. However, consistent with IBM's roadmap, qubit count will not dramatically increase from 2025 to 2028, emphasizing improved qubit efficiency.
In the subsequent years, IBM plans to launch four generations of its 156-qubit Flamingo chips, incrementally uplifting the maximum number of gates from 5,000 to 15,000 by 2028, and expanding cluster configurations up to seven QPUs, aggregating 1,092 qubits. Projected developments stretch into the 2030s, with the 200-qubit Starling processor being capable of leveraging 100 million gates and the Blue Jay QPU promising to manage 2,000 qubits while executing circuits with a billion gates.
Supporting Quantum Research and Development
To buttress further quantum algorithm research, IBM is making the Heron QPUs accessible through its public cloud portal. Aligning with technological innovations, a version 1.0 of the Qiskit quantum development kit has also been released, streamlining the process for developers to construct and refine code suitable for quantum computing. Moreover, IBM is integrating AI into this pioneering field utilizing its WatsonX platform, including the foundational model of an AI code assistant, reminiscent of Copilot by GitHub, which is specific to applications.