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NSF, AWS, IBM and Microsoft Collaborate on Quantum Computing Research

The National Science Foundation is coordinating with the leading cloud platform providers to boost academic research and build capacity for the development of quantum computing.

The NSF, an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering, is now working with Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM and Microsoft Quantum to make cloud-based quantum computing platforms available for this research.

The NSF made the announcement in a "Dear Colleagues" letter from Margaret Martonosi, assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), and Anne Kinneyon, assistant director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), on its Web site. The letter announced that the agency "will support supplemental funding requests to enable use of quantum-computing cloud platforms from Amazon Web Services, IBM and Microsoft."

Funding will be provided by the NSF for research in these areas:

  • Quantum algorithms and their experimental realization
  • Quantum compiler and runtime infrastructure design
  • Fault-tolerant computing and other methods to boost the performance of existing quantum computing hardware
  • Benchmarking of architectures, systems, algorithms and scalable error-correction techniques
  • Quantum simulations, optimizations, cryptography and machine learning
  • Demonstrations of feasibility for applications of quantum algorithms

The list of platforms includes:

  • Amazon Braket: This a development environment provided as a service by AWS to help developers and researchers get started with quantum computing. It provides a dev environment that allows them "to explore and design quantum algorithms, test them on simulated quantum computers, and run them on your choice of different quantum hardware technologies," the company says.
  • IBM Quantum: This is IBM's quantum computing group, which is providing a range of tools for quantum research and supporting a growing developer community "to advance foundational quantum computing research that will make real-world impact," the company says.
  • Microsoft Quantum: This is Microsoft's quantum group, which also provides a set of tools and services for quantum developers and researchers, ranging from prebuilt solutions to software and quantum hardware. The company is "providing developers and customers access to some of the most competitive quantum offerings on the market."

Gartner defines quantum computing as a type of "nonclassical" computing that operates on the quantum state of subatomic particles. The particles represent information as qubits. In classical computing, bits represent information as either 0s or 1s; qubits represent both at the same time until they are read, thanks to a quantum state called superposition. Qubits can be linked with other qubits, thanks to another quantum property called entanglement. As Gartner explains it, "Quantum algorithms manipulate linked qubits in their undetermined, entangled state, a process that can address problems with vast combinatorial complexity."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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