Get set for the next stage of computing. 

Research giant IBM Corp. (IBM) announced today that it was enabling access to its quantum bit computers from regular computers. “The IBM Quantum Experience enables anyone to connect to IBM’s quantum processor via the IBM Cloud, to run algorithms and experiments, work with the individual quantum bits, and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing,” the company announced in a press release. (See also: Quantum Is Coming). 

IBM had opened up its 5-qubit (quantum bits) computer as a cloud computing service to select partners last year. The release of today’s API (Application Programming Interface or the program used to access an application or technology) to a wider audience will enable developers to access the processor and perform complex calculations and tasks. In an interview with tech publication TechCrunch, Jerry Chow, manager of the experimental quantum computing group at IBM, said the company wanted to “figure out what quantum computing looks like in the future when we have a larger number of qubits.” 

IBM also announced the launch of IBM Q, an industry-wide initiative to build commercially-available universal quantum computer systems, today. This represents a first step to make powerful quantum computers, that will be able to crunch massive amounts of data and perform a wide variety of tasks in short times, available to lay people. (See also: Intel Bets Big On Quantum Computing). 

For the uninitiated, quantum computing is an evolution of computing, which uses 1s and 0s to store and process data. Quantum computing uses intermediate states between the two bits, also known as superposition, to enable complex and faster processing and larger storage. It will become a necessity in the future as the trove of data gathered through online transactions increases exponentially. With Moore’s law coming to an end, quantum computers are an elegant solution to the data deluge problem facing humanity in the future. 

In its press release today, IBM has pointed out a couple of use cases relating to quantum computing. For example, the company has zeroed in on chemistry as one of the first areas of application for the technology. Commercial IBM Q systems with more than 50 qubits processing capacity will enable IBM to “collaborate with key industry partners to develop applications that exploit the quantum speedup of such systems.” Drug development and discovery is one of the areas that could benefit from this approach. 

But, quantum computing is "still very far away," according to Scott Crowder from IBM's Systems Group. In the meanwhile, the Armonk-based company still has to contend with 19 straight quarters of reporting losses on its balance sheet due to changes in its business. (See also: IBM: Slow But Steady In 2017).