Photo of Lev Bishop and Andrew Cross
Lev Bishop and Andrew Cross hard at work on the IBM Open Quantum SDK
Lev Bishop and Andrew Cross are IBM Researchers with the Theory of Quantum Computing Group at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, USA, and contributors to the QISKit open source project. They are co-authors of this post.

The QISKit open source project and IBM Q have been officially announced, and for the first time developers have the opportunity to interact with the IBM Quantum Experience through an API and SDK. We’re excited to share a little more about the work that went into building these components and some of the advances that developers will soon see in the IBM Quantum Experience.

We’ve now introduced sample scripts to interact with quantum computers and simulators in the form of Jupyter Notebooks. We chose Jupyter Notebooks because they give us a flexible way to combine technical documentation, Python code, and graphical output. It’s an ideal combination for exploratory research.

A quantum upgrade

The QISKit project is a major upgrade to the IBM Quantum Experience. It enables a much more powerful way to interact with unique IBM hardware. The initial release of the IBM Quantum Experience last year was great for educating people about the capabilities of the hardware. But once people master the GUI capabilities, they tend to get a little frustrated by the inability to interact with the quantum hardware through more conventional programming.

We’re really fired up to be making the IBM Quantum Experience more open and usable. It’s already been adopted both for research and teaching, and at least 15 papers have been published based on Quantum Experience work.

The current set of upgrades makes it possible for the community to interact directly through a web API using Python and Jupyter Notebooks. This extension enables new types of experiments involving collections of quantum circuits. It marks a first step toward a full, robust open source software development kit for the Quantum Experience.

Jupyter Notebooks screen of IBM Quantum Experience

As soon as we get the foundations in place for interfacing with the quantum hardware from Jupyter Notebooks and build some libraries and tools for working with quantum circuits, we’ll start work on circuit optimizations and algorithm performance on the quantum hardware. We’re also going to develop tools for benchmarking the performance of the hardware. We’ll work closely with the team to ensure that our hardware helps users explore the cutting edge of quantum computing. And that’s about as cutting edge as you can get!

World’s first complete quantum computing toolchain

This is an incredible time for quantum computing. We’ll soon have hardware that advances beyond what classical computers can do, even in principle. Now we have to develop the entire software stack for a totally new model of computation, from the bits and gates all the way up to the high-level languages we’ll need in order to take advantage of our new computing capability.

Using the API and SDK available in the QISKit project, we want to extend the Quantum Experience out to external development, experimentation, and validation. As small quantum computers continue to mature, community involvement is more essential than ever. We need the community to validate, to explore, to think beyond classical algorithms and simulations. And we need their help in solving questions like the degree to which error-correction is necessary for practically significant quantum algorithms. It’s all on the table.

The Quantum Experience is possible because of community contributions, day in, day out. QISKit changes the game. It pulls together the work of researchers, developers, and engineers across quantum computing disciplines and enables the community of researchers worldwide.

Collaborative and open

We’re committed to growing an open community around quantum computing technology, where we build higher layers of the software stack together. IBM has a lot of expertise in this area, but defining and developing the whole stack is not something that any one organization can do alone. We’ve been looking to engage the wider community since we started down the road of building the Quantum Experience, and now the QISKit open source project. Users and academic researchers have been clamoring for it.

The time is now. The power of an open community is limitless. We can’t wait to work with you to build the world’s first complete toolchain for quantum computing. Let’s do it together!

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