Rigetti, a quantum computing startup, is expected to release a 128-qubit computing system at some point in 2019, a major advancement in the quantum arena putting the field one step closer to achieving quantum advantage and supremacy.
Quantum advantage refers to the moment when a quantum computer can compute hundreds or thousands of times faster than a classical computer, while quantum supremacy is achieved once quantum computers are powerful enough to complete calculations that classical supercomputers can’t perform at all. Building computing systems with higher qubits is the backbone of how quantum computing will achieve both end goals. The field is moving rapidly. In 1998, researchers at IBM, Oxford, Berkeley, Stanford, and MIT produced a 2-qubit computing system. By 2018 Google confirmed that it was able to produce a 72-qubit computing system. Rigetti announced it would be going further than that, releasing a 128-qubit system within the year.
For the layperson, quantum computing still isn’t a household term. Quantum computing is a fairly new technology, first introduced in 1982. The fundamental difference between the computers and computing systems we interact with daily and quantum computing is the way information is processed on the backend. A traditional computer relies on a binary system, meaning the computer processes information using 0’s and 1’s. A bit is the smallest unit of data in a computer, and all data—the applications that are run, the images that appear—are translated into bits for the computer to understand and process.
A qubit takes the idea of a bit of information, which can only exist in one state or another and can only be processed one bit at a time and complicates it by making it two-dimensional. Qubits can be processed simultaneously and exist in multiple states at the same time. That idea is called superposition and it means that qubits can hold a zero, a one, or any combination of both zero and one at the same time, giving them the potential to be exponentially faster and more efficient than binary systems.