IBM chooses NC State as partner for first IBM Quantum Computing Hub in North America

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Some of the areas people are looking at, he said, include financial services, where it might be used to dynamically balance a portfolio or hedge fund.

Down at the smallest level in a quantum machine, We have qubits sitting next to each other. Theyre very sensitive. Any extra bit of heat or light or radiation can throw off a calculation easily. What also happens is that qubits want to entangle with each other when we want them operating independently to do certain things, but because of quantum mechanics, they want to connect.

The network is a collaboration of Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and national research labs working directly with IBM to advance quantum computing. NC State joins three other already established university hubs worldwide: the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom; Keio University, Japan; and the University of Melbourne, Australia.

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The IBM Quantum Computer. Photo Copyright IBM.

* Quantum computing primer: What makes quantum different?

We know how to work together, Kekas said.

Bob Sutor, Ph.D, IBMs vice president of quantum strategy and ecosystem, tells WRAL Techwire the companys Q Network is its premier program and it makes its best machines available to network partners. Its public program, IBMs Q Experience, gives people access to smaller (5 qubit and 16 qubit) machines on which they can construct quantum programs.

Quantum computers today operate at close to absolute zero temperature, Just a tiny bit above, said Sutor. Inside a quantum computer is one of the coldest places in the universe. Were trying to rule out extra stuff happening you dont want happening.

North Carolina State University will be the first in North America to establish a university-based IBM Quantum Computing hub as part of the global IBM Q Network. The hub is expected to be operational on Raleighs Centennial Campus by October.

Managing risk in constantly fluctuating financial markets.

Think of it as a hub and spoke model, said Sutor.  The goal of the hub network, he said, is to advance quantum computing technology and understand the right paths so that the quantum advantage materializes. Those could be in chemistry, finance, AI.

The hub opens up a lot of horizons for the university for potential funding from the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and other sources, Kekas said. Those fuel the engine at a university and helps us do our training mission.

So, he said, We are developing new architectures where we can put the qubits closer and have a lower error rate and longer use.

Kekas said that in addition to NC State faculty and students, the quantum hub will also seek other partners, large commercial enterprises and other universities. That will come with time, he said. The bulk of it will be commercial.

IBM opened its Education Innovation Center on Centennial Campus in 2016, where NC State faculty and students collaborate with IBM employees to solve complex challenges.

A quantum computing primer: What makes quantum different

That has been very successful, Sutor said. Since it was launched in May 2016, 84,000 users have run over 4 million quantum calculations.

Dennis Kekas, associate vice chancellor for partnerships and economic development at NC State, told WRAL TechWire in an interview that the collaboration with IBM builds on the universitys 30-year relationship with IBM in research, education and advanced technology development. That partnership has led to breakthroughs in cloud computing, advanced analytics, cyber security, renewable energy, advanced networking and healthcare IT.

Quantum computing is very exciting, but its easy to over-hype, Sutor noted. We have to figure out a lot of science, theory and engineering. It requires real collaboration from the ground up. Its completely different from classical computing. It will work together with it, rather than replacing it.

Another main goal of the IBM-NC State hub is education, Sutor points out. I started coding 45 years ago. Think of students taking computer science now. The timing is perfect for them to start using these quantum computers. They dont have 45 years of thinking classically. Theyll have the advantage of classic computing, but also of learning fresh the right way to think about quantum. Theyre getting in at the ground level as quantum computers start becoming available. So the educational aspect is very important.

Creating new medicines and materials.

NC State researchers and students will work directly with IBM scientists, engineers and consultants to pioneer quantum computing in order to solve real-world problems intractable for a classic computer. Quantum computing has the potential to solve large-scale challenges such as molecular modeling, machine learning, physics, materials science, chemical simulations and data discovery.

As far as we know, quantum computing offers significant and clear advantages over classical computing. Thats what were hoping to accelerate. We want to get to the point where we understand how to attack problems and provide applications, he said.

The hub will give industry and research collaborators early access to IBMs commercial quantum computing systems through a port on campus. Hub members have remote IBM Cloud access to its 20-qubit processor system housed at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. IBM expects to provide members with access to a 50-qubit machine within a year.

The partnership between the NC State and IBM aims to advance quantum computing, interdisciplinary research, and student development. The hub, NC State says, Creates a unique opportunity for the university to address its strategic plan of supporting interdisciplinary scholarship and preparing students for the future.

So, there is lots of time to develop and implement new cryptography methods before they are necessary, he added.

Sutor offered as one example, Trying to figure out how to price financial products of different types to limit risk and maximize profit in rapidly changing markets. The sheer number of things you have to consider cant be done quickly enough using a classic computer.

Another area of interest is cryptography. Some have speculated that quantum computing could make current cryptography methods useless. Headlines about this omit a lot of details, Sutor said. In order to break cryptography, well need 30 or 40 years. The machines were talking about now are 5-50 qubits. To break cryptography, youre going to need millions and millions of qubits.

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Dealing with the quantum world requires adjusting your thinking, Sutor said. Even Einstein has trouble wrapping his mind around it. He expected the world to be deterministic, and thats not true in a quantum machine.

Quantum computers use qubits rather than the binary code of 1s and 0s of classic computers.  IBM offers access to the latest and largest quantum computing technology, as indicated by the number of functioning qubits.

1 thought on “IBM chooses NC State as partner for first IBM Quantum Computing Hub in North America

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