20 January 2021

Quantum Computing Research helps IBM win Top Spot in Patent Race


Quantum Computing Research helps IBM win Top Spot in Patent Race

These exotic, radical new machines have matured enough to secure a place at CES 2021.

IBM secured 9,130 US patents in 2020, more than any other company as measured by an annual ranking, and this year quantum computing showed up as part of Big Blue's research effort. The company wouldn't disclose how many of the patents were related to quantum computing -- certainly fewer than the 2,300 it received for artificial intelligence work and 3,000 for cloud computing -- but it's clear the company sees them as key to the future of computing.

The IFI Claims patent monitoring service compiles the list annually, and IBM is a fixture at the top. The IBM Research division, with labs around the globe, has for decades invested in projects that are far away from commercialization. Even though the work doesn't always pay dividends, it's produced Nobel prizes and led to entire industries like hard drives, computer memory and database software.

"A lot of the work we do in R&D really is not just about the number of patents, but a way of thinking," Jerry Chow, director of quantum hardware system development, said in an exclusive interview. "New ideas come out of it."

IFI's US patent list is dominated by computer technology companies. Second place went to Samsung with 6,415 patents, followed by Canon with 3,225, Microsoft with 2,905 and Intel with 2,867. Next on the list are Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., LG, Apple, Huawei and Qualcomm. The first non-computing company is Toyota, in 14th place.

Quantum Computing Fundamentals

Internationally, IBM ranked second to Samsung in patents for 2020, and industrial companies Bosch and General Electric cracked the top 10. Many patents are duplicative internationally since it's possible to file for a single patent in 153 countries.

The quantum computing priority

Quantum computing holds the potential to tackle computing problems out of reach of conventional computers. During a time when it's getting harder to improve ordinary microprocessors, quantum computers could pioneer new high-tech materials for solar panels and batteries, improve chemical processes, speed up package delivery, make factories more efficient and lower financial risks for investors.

What's Next: The Future of Quantum Computing

Industrywide, quantum computing is a top research priority, with dozens of companies investing millions of dollars even though most don't expect a payoff for years. The US government is bolstering that effort with a massive multilab research effort. It's even become a headline event at this year's CES, a conference that more typically focuses on new TVs, laptops and other consumer products.

"Tactical and strategic funding is critical" to quantum computing's success, said Hyperion Research analyst Bob Sorensen. That's because, unlike more mature technologies, there's not yet any virtuous cycle where profits from today's quantum computing products and services fund the development of tomorrow's more capable successors.

European Quantum Leadership - Session 1: Quantum Computing

IBM has taken a strong early position in quantum computing, but it's too early to pick winners in the market, Sorensen added.

The long-term goal is what's called a fault tolerant quantum computer, one that uses error correction to keep calculations humming even when individual qubits, the data processing element at the heart of quantum computers, are perturbed. In the nearer term, some customers like financial services giant JPMorgan Chase, carmaker Daimler and aerospace company Airbus are investing in quantum computing work today with the hope that it'll pay off later.

IBM quantum computing patents

Quantum computing is complicated to say the least, but a few patents illustrate what's going on in IBM's labs.

Patent No. 10,622,536 governs different lattices in which IBM lays out its qubits. Today's 27-qubit "Falcon" quantum computers use this approach, as do the newer 65-qubit "Hummingbird" machines and the much more powerful 1,121-qubit "Condor" systems due in 2023.

What to do with a near-term quantum computer?

IBM's lattices are designed to minimize "crosstalk," in which a control signal for one qubit ends up influencing others, too. That's key to IBM's ability to manufacture working quantum processors and will become more important as qubit counts increase, letting quantum computers tackle harder problems and incorporate error correction, Chow said.

Patent No. 10,810,665 governs a higher-level quantum computing application for assessing risk -- a key part of financial services companies figuring out how to invest money. The more complex the options being judged, the slower the computation, but the IBM approach still outpaces classical computers.

Patent No. 10,599,989 describes a way of speeding up some molecular simulations, a key potential promise of quantum computers, by finding symmetries in molecules that can reduce computational complexity.

Most customers will tap into the new technology through quantum computing as a service. Because quantum computers typically must be supercooled to within a hair's breadth of absolute zero to avoid perturbing the qubits, and require spools of complicated wiring, most quantum computing customers are likely to tap into online services from companies like IBM, Google, Amazon and Microsoft that offer access to their own carefully managed machines.

One of the best sources for initial education on the basics of Quantum Computing is Quantum Computing for the Determined by Michael Nielsen. This consists of 22 short videos that discusses The Basics, Superdense Coding, Quantum Teleportation, and The Postulates of Quantum Mechanics. Highly recommended.

QBN Webinar: Quantum Computing for Material Science & Pharma

Michael Nielsen and Andy Matuschak are developing a new online course  called Quantum computing for the very curious using a new experimental mnemonic medium designed to make it almost effortless to remember what you read.  The first episode has just been posted with additional ones coming soon.

IBM is providing an online, open-source textbook called  Learn Quantum Computation Using Qiskit that will connect theory with practice and help students explore practical problem sets that can run on real quantum systems. IBM has dozens of different videos available on IBM’s YouTube Qiskit channel.  A number of different playlists are available covering topics including Coding with Qiskit, 1 Minute Qiskit, Quantum Fundamentals, Circuit Sessions, Quantum Information Science Seminar Series and others.

Q-CTRL has provided a serious of education videos, technical seminars, and tutorials that you can find on Q-CTRL’s YouTube channel here.

Toptica Photonics has developed a Quantum Quiz app where players can test and improve their knowledge about quantum technologies.  It is available for both Apple iOS and Android smartphones. The quiz has three increasingly difficult levels of play and can be used in either Solo or Multiplayer mode. 

FutureLearn in association with Keio University is offering a free online course called Understanding Quantum Computers.  This is a four week course requiring an estimated five hours per week of study that will discuss the motivation for building quantum computers, cover the important principles in quantum computing, take a look at some of the important quantum computing algorithms and provide a brief look at quantum computing hardware and the budding quantum information technology industry. It is meant for high school students, college students, and computer professionals interested in developing a qualitative understanding of quantum computing.

Impact of Ionizing Radiation on Superconducting Qubit Coherence - Antti Vepsäläinen

A blog post that lists Quantum Computing Resources for High School Students is available on the Unitary Fund website. It was written as a guest posting by Jack Ceroni and describes both programs and educational resources that may be of interest to a quantum-curious high school student.

David Deutsch has posted six video Lectures on Quantum Computation designed as an introduction to the quantum theory of computation.

The Perimeter Institute has posted a series of 14 hour long lectures by Daniel Gottesman called the Quantum Information Review.  This lecture series was recorded relatively recently in 2015 and they can be downloaded in multiple formats (MP4, MP3, and PDF).

Overview of Qiskit Ignis - Struggle with errors

Microsoft and Brilliant.org have teamed to create an online course on Quantum Computing.  It is a 33 chapter course that teaches quantum computing concepts and some well-known algorithms using Microsoft’s Q# language with Python. The first two chapters of the course are free but there is a fee to access the remaining chapters.

Programming Existing Quantum Computers

Microsoft has created a series of tutorials called the Quantum Katas.  These tutorials are an open source project that contains a series of programming exercises using the Q# programming language that allow users to learn at their own pace.  They are used with the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit and consists of a sequence of quantum computing tasks that require a user to fill in some code.  The katas use simple learning principles including active learning, incremental complexity growth, and feedback.  For more information you can read the Microsoft blog description here and download the code and instructions on how to install it at GitHub here.

Pengfei Zhang – An obstacle to sub-AdS holography for SYK-like models

QuTech has available online the QuTech Academy which currently includes four courses on edX.org.  These include:

  • Quantum internet & quantum computers: how will they change the world? – an introduction to the various potential applications of a quantum computer and a quantum internet.
  • Building blocks of a quantum computer – part 1: what does a quantum computer look like, what components will it have and how does a quantum computer operate? Part 1 focusses on the layers of the qubit.
  • Building blocks of a quantum computer – part 2: as a continuation of part 1, part 2 will explain the other layers of a quantum computer, ranging from the electronics, to hardware, software and algorithms needed to operate a quantum computer.
  • Quantum Cryptography: this course dives deeper into the quantum protocols and how this will lead to secure communication.

Caltech has online the course material for Physics 219, Quantum Computation. This is a course which has evolved for over 10 years and now has over 400 pages of material online in nine chapters. You can find this course at: http://www.theory.caltech.edu/people/preskill/ph229/

Umesh Vazirani of UC Berkeley has recorded a series of 64 video lectures for a course titled: Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation. The videos are short ranging from 5 to 20 minutes in length and provide a good introduction to basic quantum mechanical principles, qubits, and quantum algorithms.  The videos have been uploaded onto YouTube and you can find them at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1uoz_8dLH0&list=PL74Rel4IAsETUwZS_Se_P-fSEyEVQwni7.

Fabrizio Renzi, Ivano Tavernelli - IBM Q: building the first universal quantum computers 

Daniel Colomer of Quantum Intuition has created a YouTube channel containing several hundred videos covering a broad range of topics related to quantum algorithms and programming quantum computers. The videos are divided into six areas including Project Reviews, Quantum AI/ML, Textbook Algorithms, Useful Primitives, Quantum Error Correction, and Book & Online Course Reviews.  The videos range in length from 2 minutes to 2 hours, but the average is roughly in the 30 minute range.  These videos are a good source for those who want to better understand a particular topic because the videos show online demonstrations using several different software platforms such as Qiskit, Cirq, Pennylane, Quirk and others.  You can view the videos on the Quantum Intuition YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-2knDbf4kzT3uzOeizWo7iTJyw.

MIT offers an xPRO series consisting of two series with two courses in each series. The courses consist of video lectures from MIT professors with associated problem sets and each lasts for four weeks. The Quantum Computing Fundamentals series has two courses. The first is called Introduction to Quantum Computing and the second is called Quantum Computing Algorithms for Cybersecurity, Chemistry, and Optimization. The Quantum Computing Realities series has Practical Realities of Quantum Computation and Quantum Communications as the first course and Requirements for Large-Scale Universal Quantum Computation as the second. Details on these courses and links to enroll in them can be found on the MIT web site at https://learn-xpro.mit.edu/quantum-computing.

Boson Sampling and Quantum Simulations in Circuit QED - Qiskit Seminar Series - Steve Girvin

Quantum Computing UK provides a web site that contains several tutorials that introduces the reader to quantum computing.  In addition, they maintain a code repository that allows someone to run programs on quantum computers and they also perform research and publish papers on quantum computing algorithms.

Dr. James Wootton of the University of Basel has developed a blog site called Decodoku and associated games devoted to the topic of quantum error correction.   The site contains two games called Decodoku and Decodoku Puzzles where are available for download on both IOS and Android.   Playing the games allows one to learn and do research on quantum error correction.    In addition, the blog has a good series of posts that provide a good tutorial on quantum error correction.

Two different companies, Qubitekk and Phase Space Computing, have developed educational toolkits suitable for classroom use that provides students with hands-on experience with quantum phenomena.  The Qubitekk product, called the Quantum Mechanics Lab Kit,  includes all of the equipment and instructions needed to perform seven fundamental experiments in quantum mechanics.  The kit is based on photonic technology and includes a laser, bi-photon source, photon counting module, coincidence counter and various fiber optic components to demonstrate entanglement, superposition and other quantum phenomena.  The Phase Space Computing Toolkits consist of electronic circuit boards that approximate the behavior of quantum gates. They use patent pending, two-complementary pass-transistor logic to similar the behavior of reversible quantum gates. Their toolboxes can demonstrate functions such as quantum key distribution, teleportation, superdense coding, the Deutsch-Jozsa algorithm and Shor’s algorithm.

Quantum Programs

qutools GmbH is offering three different Quantum Physics Education and Science Kits.  These include quED, an entanglement demonstrator, Quantenkoffer, a plug and play quantum science kit with single and entangled photon pairs that provide multiple tokens with different optical abilities give a huge variety of experiments and quNV for investigating quantum sensing using nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers.

There is a concise, yet very understandable brief on quantum annealing written by Brianna Gopaul.  The brief describes how quantum annealing works, what organizations are developing quantum annealers, and applications where they may be used.  You can view this brief at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/quantum-annealers-solving-worlds-optimization-problems-brianna-gopaul/.

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