Forget everything you know about quantum volume. Ok, maybe we should explain what quantum volume is before telling you to forget. Classical computers are often compared by the speed with which they are able to perform certain operations. Quantum computers, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated. Quantum computers are typically compared using a measure known as Quantum Volume, which takes into account both the number of physical qubits in the system and the average fidelity of the gates within the system. Fidelity essentially measures how close the outcome of the gates are to the actual, expected outcome. As fidelity and the number of qubits increase, so too does the Quantum Volume.
IonQ made waves back in October for suggesting that its new model could have a quantum volume of over 4 million, as compared to the previous record of only 128. In fact, in December, IonQ said that its systems may be approaching such a high quantum volume that the number would be too large to fit on a screen. Given the increasingly limited usefulness of the quantum volume measure as quantum volumes move toward infinity, IonQ has suggested a new metric: the Algorithmic Qubit. Algorithmic qubits take into account not only the number of physical qubits and the average fidelity of the gates, but also the degree of error correction used by the system.
However, while IonQ may be redefining the game, its patent filings suggest it may not be ready to play. IonQ has shown dedication to increasing the fidelity of quantum gates in such applications as U.S. Patent Pub. Nos. 20200372391 and 20200372389, but filings directed to error correction methods are nowhere to be found. Granted, it’s possible that IonQ has filed patents directed to error correction that have not yet been published, but if what IonQ says about the importance of the Algorithm Qubit is true, then companies such as PsiQuantum, IBM, and Rigetti may possess the upper hand, as each company already has multiple filings directed to error correction methods. If IonQ’s competitors are able to utilize non-trapped ion quantum computers and achieve similar fidelities, they may just be better positioned to dominate phase 2 of the race to a viable quantum computer.
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