The democratization of quantum technologies: IBM Quantum and the Qiskit open-source community

22.04.2021 – 13.20 – Quantum computing is on the verge of triggering a paradigm shift; software based on this emerging technology, rooted in the physical laws of nature, may soon revolutionize computing forever.
Will we be able to incorporate the last fifty years of learning from classical computing to accelerate the integration of quantum systems in order to democratize access to this new technology as quickly as possible? 
What is certain, is that this technological revolution will find support from the power of the open-source community and in the ability to mobilize developers around the world, combined with cloud-native technologies that allow us to access quantum computers.

Figure 1

With this in mind, IBM has provided a website (Figure 1) where everyone has the opportunity to register for free and begin their own experience with quantum computing, with direct access to various chips (Figure 2) and tutorials.
The heart of this program is called Qiskit: an open-source software development kit for quantum computers, which today represents the largest quantum computing community in the world, with over 15,000 scientists and developers actively working in the field using the IBM platform and over 300,000 people using Qiskit resources to learn the fundamentals of quantum computing; the first certification as a Quantum Developer was then introduced.


Figure 2

Qiskit has also served as a support for researchers, helping them to unravel some of the most important questions using quantum computing, publishing numerous scientific papers. There is therefore now a need and opportunity to develop an inclusive quantum workforce to bring career and educational opportunities to everyone who can be reached.

Specifically, this software has a modular, application-oriented structure and is written in python (the most popular programming language to date). This allows access to different functions: from the calibration of the chip, to the study of measurement errors, up to the implementation of algorithms in a transparent and modular way. Among the main areas of application are finance, chemistry, machine learning (Figure 3) and optimization.

Figure 3

Not only that: the last released component is called Qiskit Metal (figure 4): the first electronic design automation (EDA) tool specifically for quantum computers, intended for those who need quick access to a custom quantum processor to run different quantum experiments.
The goal is to increase the variety of circuits and the ability of our systems to run multiple circuits more quickly, while developing a platform where quantum developers can work while taking advantage of hybrid cloud architectures.

Figure 4

As part of this, there are numerous initiatives, both on a global and local scale, through which IBM is leading this community, promoting and organizing hackathons, meetups and training schools. In July, for example, more than 4,000 students from all over the world, including several from the University of Trieste, met virtually to attend the two-week Quantum Computing Summer School.
Finally, in this context – in the work on quantum technologies – a close collaboration and synergy between university expertise, the involvement of the industry and political farsightedness is indispensable: in fact, it could reposition the digital leadership of the countries that will be the first to seize the challenge and the consequent opportunities.

by Michele Grossi 

[Michele Grossi: PhD in High Energy Physics, he works as Quantum Technical Ambassador for IBM Italy focusing on the integration of the quantum computing paradigm in the current cloud architecture and on the development and dissemination of quantum algorithms. He is co-author of several scientific publications, lecturer at conferences and university courses. In his current role, Michele collaborates with customers to support technology adoption, ranging from machine learning to quantum computing, and with research institutions, including IBM Research and CERN].