Earlier this week, Honeywell announced “a breakthrough in quantum computing that accelerates the capability of quantum computers and will enable the company to release the world’s most powerful quantum computer within the next three months.” There’s rather a lot to unpack right here, however the backside line is that this: Honeywell is making an enormous declare that’s tough to again up. The validity of this declare depends upon two issues: quantum quantity being an accepted measure and time working in Honeywell’s favor.

The fundamental items of knowledge in classical computing are binary digits (bits) which might be at all times in a state of Zero or 1. Quantum bits (qubits) in the meantime may be in a state of 0, 1, or a superposition of the 2. Quantum computing leverages qubits to carry out computations that will be way more tough, or just not possible, for a classical laptop. The ensuing functions embody every part from cryptography and optimization to machine studying and supplies science. In different phrases, any business impacted by computing immediately can be impacted by quantum computing tomorrow.

But tomorrow is a good distance away. Quantum computing continues to be so new that firms haven’t even settled on the equal of classical computing’s transistor. Major gamers are jostling to guide the house, or at the very least set the phrases for what management would possibly appear to be — together with establishing a framework for evaluating quantum computer systems. Because no clear chief has emerged, Honeywell is ready to declare that title.

What is quantum quantity?

IBM invented the phrase “quantum volume” three years in the past. Here’s how the corporate described it in January, when it achieved a quantum quantity of 32:

Quantum Volume (quantum quantity) is a hardware-agnostic metric that we outlined to measure the efficiency of an actual quantum laptop. Each system we develop brings us alongside a path the place complicated issues can be extra effectively addressed by quantum computing; due to this fact, the necessity for system benchmarks is essential, and easily counting qubits shouldn’t be sufficient. As we now have mentioned prior to now, Quantum Volume takes under consideration the variety of qubits, connectivity, and gate and measurement errors. Material enhancements to underlying bodily {hardware}, reminiscent of will increase in coherence instances, discount of gadget crosstalk, and software program circuit compiler effectivity, can level to measurable progress in Quantum Volume, so long as all enhancements occur at an analogous tempo.

Unsurprisingly, Honeywell backs up IBM’s description.

Why Honeywell can’t claim ‘the world’s most powerful quantum computer’

“Quantum volume is currently the fairest metric for demonstrating a quantum computer’s full capabilities,” Honeywell Quantum president Tony Uttley instructed VentureBeat. “It goes beyond simple qubit number to identify the size of the problem that a quantum computer is capable of running. It accounts for error, cross-talk, and qubit connectivity, in addition to the number of qubits.”

Honeywell initiatives that its quantum laptop could have a quantum quantity of 64, or “twice that of the next alternative in the industry.” Hence its declare of “world’s most powerful quantum computer.”

The downside with quantum quantity

The “next alternative in the industry” is IBM, which additionally occurs to be the only various. IBM and Honeywell are the one firms that use quantum quantity as a measuring stick. Minutes after Honeywell’s announcement dropped, IBM emailed us to say it’s “excited to see the wider quantum computing community embrace the quantum volume metric, which IBM first developed in 2017.”

IBM continued:

The metric determines the efficiency of a quantum laptop for any underlying qubit sort, accounting for gate and measurement errors, gadget cross speak, in addition to gadget connectivity and circuit compiler effectivity. This consequence confirms quantum quantity is the very best onerous agnostic benchmark to measure progress of quantum computer systems. The greater the quantum quantity, the extra of the quantum computational house can probably be used for fixing difficult issues on actual near-term {hardware}. IBM has reached a quantum quantity of 32 on a 28-qubit superconducting system, which was introduced in January of this yr — and the corporate expects to proceed to double Quantum Volume yearly. The scaling and doubling of quantum quantity annually we discuss with as Gambetta’s Law. Honeywell’s paper exhibits thrilling new progress in programmable trapped-ion quantum methods.

We reached out to a handful of quantum computing firms about quantum quantity. The response was a collective shrug. D-Wave mentioned quantum quantity doesn’t totally seize the nuances of various approaches to quantum computing and functions. IonQ pointed to the truth that quantum quantity doesn’t take use instances under consideration. And Rigetti mentioned it doesn’t have a powerful stance on quantum quantity as a result of it solely cares about quantum benefit, the inflection level when quantum computer systems start to unravel actual, helpful issues. Of course, the holy grail is quantum supremacy, when a quantum laptop can clear up an issue that classical computer systems virtually can’t.

Three months

But let’s assume IBM actually has discovered yardstick for measuring quantum computer systems. The different concern with Honeywell’s declare is that the corporate hasn’t launched its quantum laptop. Loads can occur in three months.

Just check out the earlier quarter. In November, Microsoft introduced Azure Quantum, a cloud service that can allow you to faucet into quantum {hardware} suppliers Honeywell, IonQ, and QCI. In December, AWS introduced Amazon Braket, a cloud service that can allow you to faucet into quantum {hardware} suppliers D-Wave, IonQ, and Rigetti. In the span of two months, the 2 greatest cloud suppliers determined they had been going to shake up the quantum computing house.

Within the following three months, IBM might launch a quantum laptop with a quantum quantity of 64. Or a 3rd contender that makes use of quantum quantity might enter the race and occur to hit that quantity. Most importantly, even when quantum quantity was the accepted metric, Honeywell can’t declare “the world’s most powerful quantum computer” earlier than its launch.

So why is Honeywell counting its chickens earlier than they hatch? In brief, as a result of quantum quantity is an unused metric. IBM expects to double its quantum quantity yearly — and it already hit 32 this yr. Honeywell is thus betting that IBM gained’t have a breakthrough within the subsequent three months and no one else will hassle with quantum quantity. That’s definitely doable.

Ultimately, companies solely care whether or not quantum computing can convey outcomes. IBM will inform you its prospects are happy, and its opponents will say the identical. We can’t ask Honeywell, in fact, as a result of it doesn’t have any prospects but (JPMorgan Chase would be the first as soon as the quantum laptop really debuts).