Familiar names like IBM and Google were among the first to break ground in the field of commercial quantum computing, but Honeywell is claiming for itself today. After a few months of teasing, the company has finally shed more light on its new System Model H1 quantum computer, a machine it claims offers the highest “quantum volume” in the industry.
Quantum volume is a metric created by IBM that takes into account “number of qubits, connectivity, and gate and measurement errors,” along with underlying system improvements. In other words, it’s a number that attempts to offer more context about a quantum computer’s sheer problem-solving power than you’d get from the number of qubits that computer uses. The higher the quantum volume, the more capable the quantum computer is at tackling difficult problems.
That focus on overall quantum performance is what lets Honeywell claim the edge. Despite building the System Model H1 to relies on just 10 connected qubits -- far fewer qubits than its rivals -- Honeywell is claiming a quantum volume of 128. For reference, IBM announced over the summer that it had achieved a then industry-leading quantum volume of 64 using a system built around 27 cubits. Meanwhile, companies like Google don’t talk about quantum volume at all; it instead tends to talk up how many qubits it’s able to squeeze into its Sycamore quantum processors.
Honeywell seems all too aware of how quickly the goalposts move in this field, so it designed the System Model H1 to be rapidly improved upon over its lifetime, a process that will include adding more qubits for even more compute power.
“Imagine if the streaming service to which you subscribed became twice as good in a few weeks, ten times as good in a few months and thousands of times better in a few quarters,” said Tony Uttley, President of Honeywell Quantum Solutions.
While the debate around who actually has the best quantum computer won’t be settled anytime soon, Honeywell is taking a page out of IBM’s book and letting commercial customers decide. Companies like Merck, Accenture and JP Morgan have already started testing the System Model H1 through the cloud, and are seemingly optimistic about the idea of using this computer power to tackle new issues in pharmaceutical research and financial fraud. Building the most powerful quantum computer is one thing — the more pressing challenge might be building the first quantum computer that the world’s industries come to rely on.