Rigetti Computing unveils quantum computing cloud service

The startup will also run $1 million challenge for users who can prove ‘quantum advantage’

quantum computing

A Californian startup has unveiled a service that enables businesses to access the most powerful quantum computing hardware built to date remotely through the cloud.

Rigetti Computing's Quantum Cloud Services (QCS) is the only quantum-first cloud computing platform, according to the company, integrating classical computing infrastructure with quantum processors.

Users can reserve a Quantum Machine Image (QMI), a virtualised programming and execution environment, through Rigetti's website to gain access to these systems as early as within the next few weeks.

The new service also coincides with the launch of an initiative to reach "quantum advantage" - with a $1 million prize on offer for the user who can demonstrate use of the firm's hardware to solve a mathematical problem faster than a classical computer.

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"Quantum computing is approaching a pivotal milestone called quantum advantage. This is the inflection point where quantum computers first begin to solve practical problems faster, better, or cheaper than otherwise possible," said founder and CEO Chad Rigetti.

"The first demonstration of quantum advantage will be an extraordinary achievement, but it will only be the beginning.

"Ultimately, quantum advantage will be reached over and over again in new markets and new domains, changing the ways in which problems are solved across industries."

Rigetti's QCS is the latest milestone in a slow-burning but promising field that has seen a host of companies, including Google and IBM, race to manufacture the most powerful quantum computer.

The startup announced plans to deploy a 128-qubit quantum processor last month, a significant upgrade on current record-holder Google's 72-qubit processor, with its low-error rate predisposing it to upscaling.

The new service follows the successful deployment of IBM's cloud-based quantum computing experiment last year, dubbed IBM Q, that allowed business users to run algorithms remotely on IBM's quantum hardware via its cloud service.

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The scale of the hardware needed for quantum computers to work (with temperatures of 0.015 Kelvin needed for processors to function) means it's very unlikely these machines ever will, or can, be deployed on a mass scale. More likely is that the technology will be made available to researchers and businesses via cloud services such as Rigetti or IBM's.

However, despite the technology advancing significantly recently, especially over the last 18 months, quantum computers are not yet powerful enough to outperform a classical computer in real-world tasks and at scale.

Rigetti says three factors are needed to achieve "quantum advantage" - including lower error rates, specially-configured computing systems, and environments for software and app developers to flourish.

"We don't know when the first demonstration of quantum advantage will be achieved, or what shape it will take," Rigetti continued, "but one thing is certain: it will dramatically accelerate progress in unlocking the power of quantum computing for everyone.

More details about the $1 million competition will be announced on 30 October.

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