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This measurement tool could help settle the quantum supremacy debate once and for all

Quantum Computer
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Costex)

Assessing the performance and superiority of quantum computers when compared to traditional computers can be quite difficult which is why the IT services firm Atos has introduced Q-score.

The company's Q-score measures how effective a quantum system is at handling the kinds of real-life problems that cannot be solved by today's traditional computers as opposed to simply measuring the theoretical performance of a quantum computer.

Google, IBM, Honeywell and other organizations currently developing quantum computers all have one goal in mind, to achieve quantum supremacy. This concept was originally put forth by Caltech professor John Preskill and in order to reach it, a company would need to demonstrate that a quantum computer could do something that today's classical computers cannot.

Atos CEO Elie Girard explained why the company developed Q-score in a press release, saying:

“Faced with the emergence of a myriad of processor technologies and programming approaches, organizations looking to invest in quantum computing need a reliable metrics to help them choose the most efficient path for them. Being hardware-agnostic, Q-score is an objective, simple and fair metrics which they can rely on. Since the launch of ‘Atos Quantum’ in 2016, the first quantum computing industry program in Europe, our aim has remained the same: advance the development of industry and research applications, and pave the way to quantum superiority.”

Measuring quantum performance with Q-score

The number of qubits (quantum units) found in a quantum computer is the most common figure of merit used today to assess the performance of quantum systems. However, qubits are volatile and vary greatly in quality (speed, stability, connectivity, etc.) from one quantum technology to another which makes them an imperfect benchmark tool.

By focusing on the ability of a quantum computer to solve well-known combinatorial optimization problems, Atos' Q-score will provide research centers, universities and businesses with explicit, reliable, objective and comparable results when solving real-world optimization problems.

The company's Q-score relies on a standard combination optimization problem known as the Max-Cut Problem to provide a frame of reference for comparing performance scores while maintaining uniformity. A quantum system's Q-score is then calculated based on the number of variables within a problem that a quantum technology can optimize. For example if a system can optimize 23 variables, it would receive a Q-score of 23.

Atos will publish an annual list of the most powerful quantum processors in the world based on Q-score and the first report, which will arrive in 2021, will include self-assessments provided by manufacturers. The company will also release a free software kit that enables Q-score to be run on any processor in the first quarter of next year.