Next four years will determine if noisy quantum computers can beat current computers

From November 2017 to March 2018 there was the announcement of IBM 50 qubit prototype, Intel’s 49 qubit test chip and Google 72 qubit processor. These processors had 10% to as low as 1% error rates. In 2017, D-Wave systems had commercial availability of its 2000 qubit quantum annealing system.

Each of these companies will be doubling the number of qubits every 7 to 16 months. They will also be working to reduce the error rates to 1 in 1000 or 1 in ten thousand.

The peak of this age of noisy quantum computers could be quantum computers with 1000 qubits and two qubit errors rates less than 1 in 1000. This is Google’s near-term goal, which might be reached in 2020.

There could be utility in pushing to 10,000 qubits with two-qubit error rates less than 1 in 10000. This could arrive around 2022.

Rough Timeline of noisy quantum computers

100-150 qubit quantum computers in second half of 2018
200-300 qubit computers in first half of 2019
400-600 qubit computers late in 2019
800-1600 qubit computers in 2020
1600-4000 qubit computers in 2021
3000-10000 qubit computers in 2022

D-Wave could get funding to convert their 5000 qubit quantum annealing system to low error rate qubits. They would try to get this working in 2020-2021 if the funding is provided.

The noisy quantum computers might be better than classical computers for quantum simulation, quantum chemistry or machine learning.

In 2025-2030, there will be the fully error-corrected quantum computers with 100,000 to millions of overall qubits but only 1 in 1000 will be used for calculations. The rest will be needed for error-correction.

Error rates and usefulness of quantum computers

In January 2018, Intel revealed a 49 qubit test chip.
In March 2018, Google Quantum AI Lab announced a 72 qubit processor called Bristlecone.
Rigetti Computing indicated that they would have a 128 qubit processor working and available by August 2019.


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