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IBM has found a way to let its open source quantum computing framework, Qiskit, function on hardware that uses ion traps to make quantum calculations. Version 0.13 is therefore the first version of Qiskit that supports more than one type of quantum computing.

The Qiskit framework already supported quantum computing using superconductors to create quantum bits (qubits). By functioning on systems that use ion traps, an important step has been taken towards the use of multiple quantum systems, for the same purpose. Since quite a number of different methods are used, IBM’s innovation increases the relative equality between quantum systems.

Besides superconductors and ion traps, there is an approach based on exotic quasi-particles, which is used by Microsoft. Whether Qiskit will eventually function with this, or with other approaches, is not yet known. In any case, the changes in the code of Qiskit are only minimal when using the ion trap system. IBM’s innovation is, therefore, proof of the fact that the use of different quantum computing methods does not necessarily require major modifications.

Two required components

IBM researchers describe in a blog post that the support of a new qubit platform in Qiskit requires two components. First, the gates used by the new quantum system must be defined. Once that is done, decomposition rules between different types of ports need to be added. This allows the Qiskit transpiler to use an input circuit defined in one system, while actually using two different systems.

The second component is needed to enable a link to the target system. As far as Qiskit is concerned, this means writing a ‘provider’, who handles the API connections and authentication, as well as submitting and retrieving tasks between Qiskit and the backend. The IBM researchers indicated that it only took three days to achieve this for the quantum computer of the University of Innsbruck.