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IBM installs first ‘utility scale’ quantum system

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Tech giant IBM (NASDAQ: IBM) has introduced a 127-qubit system processor in Japan designed to push the frontiers of scientific research.

In its official disclosure, IBM said the new processor will be operational in the IBM Quantum System One, a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo (UTokyo), putting Japan in the vanguard of quantum computing. Researchers and institutions taking part in the Quantum Innovation Initiative (QII) Consortium are looking to utilize the state-of-the-art processor in expanding research in areas such as materials science, finance, bioinformatics, and high-energy physics.

IBM describes the 127-qubit system, which runs IBM’s Eagle processor, as Southeast Asia’s first “utility-scale” processor, offering a range of use cases in scientific disciplines. Traditional supercomputers can simulate up to 50 qubits, but placed alongside the 127-qubit processor, the gap in capabilities is staggering.

Hiroaki Aihara, Executive Vice President of the University of Tokyo, described the introduction of the processor as a move designed to bring Japan one step closer to its quantum computing goals.

“For the first time outside North America, a quantum computer with a 127-qubit processor is now available for exclusive use with QII members,” said Aihara. “By promoting research in a wide range of fields and realizing social implementation of quantum-related technologies, we aim to make a broad contribution to a future society with diversity and hope.”

Japan has gained recognition in quantum computing since UTokyo partnered with IBM Quantum Network in 2019 and participated in the QII Consortium the year after, enhancing collaboration between industry key players, government, and academia. Apart from reaping the benefits of improved scientific research, Japan is also eyeing various commercial use cases for quantum computing.

“By equipping UTokyo with a utility-scale IBM Quantum Systems One, we are excited to collaborate with QII Consortium organizations on the problems which we anticipate will push the limits of today’s quantum systems and begin to extract scientific and business value,” said Jay Gambetta, Vice President, IBM Quantum.

In early November, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Canadian-based Photonic Inc. inked a deal to enable quantum communication across long distances in a move touted to “unlock the next stages of quantum networking.

Putting the US and China on their toes

With the quantum computing sector expected to surge to nearly $6 billion by the end of the decade, experts are predicting rapid development outside the U.S. and China, regions with a significant head start.

Europe and Southeast Asia are expected to be the leading hubs for quantum computing, with Belgium, France, and Hong Kong making significant plays.

Not content with playing second fiddle in blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), Europe and Southeast Asia are now throwing their weight behind quantum computing.

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