TORONTO — The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA), the global standards-setting body within IEEE, is taking the lead to establish standard definitions for quantum computing.
Dubbed IEEE P7130, the organization's Standard for Quantum Computing Definitions project is pursuing the loft goal of making quantum computing more accessible to a larger group of contributors, including developers of software and hardware, materials scientists, mathematicians, physicists, engineers, climate scientists, biologists and geneticists.
In an interview with EE Times, IEEE Quantum Computing Working Group chair William Hurley said IEEE P7130 will define terms related to the physics of quantum computing, including quantum tunneling, super position, quantum entanglement, as well as other related terms and terminology that will be updated as technological advances are made. As the growth and advancement ramps up in quantum computing, the industry is fragmented and lacks a communications framework, he said.
IEEE P7130 is pulling together players from across the quantum computing space — including IBM, which has more than three decades of working with quantum information under its belt — as well as Canadian startup 1Qbit, which develops general purpose algorithms for quantum computing hardware and works with a variety of classical, quantum and otherwise non-standard processors. Academia is also represented through the Tokyo Institute of Technology, said Hurley, and participants will continue to be added as they express interest.
"We're pulling together startups, legendary people in the industry and large companies," Hurley said. "The idea is for the group is to be very connected in the space, including academia."
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The quantum computing community is small at the moment, but emerging very fast, Hurley added. Morgan Stanley is predicting the high-end computing market will double in size to $10 billion during the next decade because of quantum computers, which will have "far reaching consequences for many sectors." Industries and applications that will be most affected include finance, pharmaceutical, energy, aerospace and defense, artificial Intelligence, and Big Data search in general.
IBM Research Staff Member Katie Pooley examining a cryostat with the new prototype of a commercial quantum processor inside in 2015. (Credit: Andy Aaron, IBM).
Morgan Stanley cited IBM, Google, Microsoft and Nokia Bell Labs as being in the best position to capitalize on quantum computing. Google is testing a 20-qubit processor and is expected to have a working 49-qubit chip by the end of this year. Microsoft doubled down late last year on quantum computing, committing to scientific and engineering efforts to create scalable quantum hardware and software using what is called a topological qubit.
In May, IBM announced it had successfully built and tested its most powerful universal quantum computing processors as part of its IBM Q initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems for business and science applications.
In the meantime, Hurley said, no one has stepped up to lead the definition of quantum computing standards, as there is some risk to be assumed. "The IEEE has a responsibility," Hurley said.
IBM also has a long track record of defining standards that are adopted internationally. The IEEE-SA has a portfolio of more 1,200 active standards and another 650 standards under development.
Hurley said the nomenclature was a good place to start, as marketing in the quantum computing realm has been using the same words but sometimes meaning different things.
"As a customer, it's very confusing," Hurley said. The hope is to have the initial standards done early next year with the understanding they will be “living," he added.
“There will be new discoveries in the space," Hurley said. "This a great stake in the ground."
—Gary Hilson is a general contributing editor with a focus on memory and flash technologies for EE Times.