IBM Q Lab at the T.J. Watson Research Center, NY where IBM is building universal quantum computing systems
IBM Q Lab at the T.J. Watson Research Center, NY where IBM is building universal quantum computing systems

In May of 2016, IBM’s Quantum Experience gave the world its first peek at real, working quantum bits available in the cloud. But outside of physicists and quantum geeks who understand terms like “superposition” and “entanglement,” quantum computing can be difficult for the computer scientists and software engineers to appreciate. Admired, like fine art, maybe, but only accessible to the few who’ve spent much time comprehending the science. That’s why our team’s intent, even back in 2016 when we set up the Quantum Experience community, has been to offer a quantum API and SDK. These are now available.

Our quantum API and SDK are important for programmability and will enable quantum researchers and algorithm developers to more easily conduct experiments on our hardware. Last year we gave users an interactive tool to program a live 5 qubit quantum computer via the Quantum Experience online. Next up, we created the IBM-defined QASM programming language for direct construction of quantum computing routines. With the API and SDK, users will also be able to access the power of quantum computing via Python scripts.

We developed the lightweight API, with documented Jupyter Notebook examples, to allow connection to the backend of the Quantum Experience, execution of the QASM code, and return of the results, all from Python scripts.

To try this, create a free Quantum Experience account, and download and start using the IBM Quantum SDK.

Oh, the problems we’ll explore

Chemistry problems consume up to 35% of the world’s supercomputer power, as cited by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center’s 2013 Annual Report. These range from developing efficient catalysts, to manufacturing fertilizers, to discovery of new drugs, and many other hard and important challenges. Quantum computers could potentially solve quantum chemistry problems much more efficiently than conventional computers.  As we increase the number of qubits over the next few years, we’ll need programs and algorithms ready to make use of the superior computing capabilities of quantum computers.

The Quantum Experience’s current 5-qubit system can be completely modeled via a classical computer, but it does allow for a testbed and playground to evaluate real business challenges that can map to a more advanced quantum computer that will be available in the near future. As we increase the number of qubits, we will be able to solve certain problems that are impractical to attempt on even the most powerful classical computers. Such problems would require more processing time or computing power than will ever be available from classical computers.


Adopt quantum early

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait for everything to be in place to start thinking about how to map important business problems using technologies like optimization algorithms to quantum computers. Developers, not just theoretical physicists, can explore how to take advantage of quantum computers. There are important computer science challenges such as creating efficient quantum compilers: how do you compile programs so they’ll run efficiently on a quantum computer? How does this change as the number of qubits increase? The SDK enables compiler writers to develop new optimization techniques for the code that will run on quantum computers.

Moore’s Law for classical computers is ending. It’s said so often that it’s almost a cliché, but that does not make it less true. The important question is “what’s next?” We believe it’s a universal quantum computer that, in theory, can perform important computations exponentially faster than a classical computer. Hardware-wise, our progress toward higher-capability, scaled-up quantum processors is critical.

Classical and quantum computers working together will solve problems that would not be possible to solve on classical computers alone. In the near term, quantum computers will be used as co-processors, similar to the way classical computers and GPUs work together. Today is the time to learn about this with a publicly available IBM quantum system, via the cloud.

Get started by logging into the Quantum Experience. You can get more information on the QISKit project components, including API, SDK, GitHub links, and open source quantum tools at the developerWorks Open QISKit project overview.

Learn more about quantum computing at IBM and on developerWorks


11 Comments on "Quantum computing gets an API and SDK"

  1. Quantum computing has come to stay is a door that has no back. Who mastered the programming system in qubits, and developing applications for this new technology could take over first the cognitive computing on the planet. Congratulations to IBM for investing in quantum computing as it is investing in another century of life!

  2. I had imagined a computer system that uses atoms/atmosphere over 5 years ago and now I see in the news they are storing bits on an atom. Super excited to se this development if not just for my own sanity 🙂 I have quantum computational theories in mind I want to develop however I have never had the group of people to discuss these ideas. This API and SDK look very cool and I want to dive into them. I just wish I got paid for diving into this and developing new tech. I get absorb in my responsibilities and never seem to have time. Can anyone recommend an online group I can fall into to start participating?

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