Launching Open Source Initiatives Is the Next Battleground In Quantum Computing

At a time when tech giants are ploughing millions of dollars in quantum computing and are striving ahead with breakthroughs, Google, Microsoft and IBM seem to be locked in an intense battle of quantum supremacy. Mountain View search giant announced Cirq — an open-source framework for NISQ computers. Cirq is an open-source initiative that allows developers to create algorithms that can run on a number of machines without having a full background in quantum physics.

The Google blog notes that once installed —  Cirq enables researchers to write quantum algorithms for specific quantum processors. “Cirq gives users fine-tuned control over quantum circuits, specifying gate behaviour using native gates, placing these gates appropriately on the device, and scheduling the timing of these gates within the constraints of the quantum hardware,” the blog notes. Cirq supports running these algorithms locally on a simulator and is designed to easily integrate with future quantum hardware or larger simulators via the cloud.

Now, as companies prepare for the big leap in quantum computing, the hype around quantum computing has also grown and companies are trying hard to find practical applications. The benefits of breakthroughs in quantum computing can revolutionize drug discovery, finance, materials science and can also transform healthcare. News reports hint that recent innovations are quickly taking real form in the form of open source initiatives.

For example, Microsoft developed a brand-new language Q# and open sourced its libraries to help developers build quantum applications. You can access the Microsoft Development Kit, which goes with C# and F# here. Microsoft Q# — is a brand-new quantum-focused programming language and is at the heart of its quantum computing strategy. Q# features rich integration with Visual Studio and VS Code and interoperability with the Python programming language. The enterprise-grade development tools give you the fastest path to quantum programming on Windows, macOS, or Linux. A report in Next Platform indicates that for a company to launch a quantum-focused language is quite a bold move.

It is here that Google one-ups its quantum competitors. The company is moving quicker in quantum development since it unveiled Bristlecone chip — the 72 qubit Bristlecone that bested IBM’s efforts, IBM 50 qubit processor by holding the record number of qubits. The Mountain View giant quickly claimed that if a quantum processor can be operated with low enough error, it would be able to outperform a classical supercomputer on a well-defined computer science problem, an achievement known as quantum supremacy. It is Google’s open-source initiative that has made it immensely popular among startups. For example, Harvard spinoff Zapata Computing that develops software for quantum computers is one of the first users of Cirq,

Google’s new open-source software framework for quantum computing

Just like Microsoft’s Q#, Cirq will drive the developer community to Google’s cloud computing business. Like Q# that serves as a software interface to build quantum algorithms, Cirq the open source quantum computing framework allows developers and quantum programmers to specify and run quantum circuits by serving as the official interface to Google’s prospective quantum computing cloud services, a press note from QC Ware stated. This Palo Alto-based startup enables enterprises to explore the use of quantum computing on multiple quantum hardware systems from a single software platform.

Upside of open source initiatives in quantum computing

According to experts, quantum computing is at a nascent stage and open source framework will help developers share code and foster a stronger developer community. Microsoft’s Jeff Henshaw stressed the importance of open source initiatives in a Microsoft blog, “So, we want to have people trained in quantum concepts, able to develop algorithms and applications that are appropriate for quantum computers. And we needed to start that yesterday, because to really be effective at that, we need great tools for industry and great programs in academic institutions”. Open source frameworks and development kits do the heavy lifting by providing libraries and easy access to functionality. Interestingly, Redmond giant Microsoft is also working on building textbooks, industrial references and textbooks in a bid to grow resources for quantum developers.

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Richa Bhatia
Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.

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