An IBM patent shows a hexagonal array of qubits in a quantum computer, arranged to minimize problems controlling the finicky data processing elements.
IBM secured 9,130 US patents in 2020, more than any other company as measured by an annual ranking, and this year quantum computing showed up as part of Big Blue's research effort. The company wouldn't disclose how many of the patents were related to quantum computing -- certainly fewer than the 2,300 it received for artificial intelligence work and 3,000 for cloud computing -- but it's clear the company sees them as key to the future of computing.
The IFI Claims patent monitoring service compiles the list annually, and IBM is a fixture at the top. The IBM Research division, with labs around the globe, has for decades invested in projects that are far away from commercialization. Even though the work doesn't always pay dividends, it's produced Nobel prizes and led to entire industries like hard drives, computer memory and database software.
Subscribe to CNET Now for the day's most interesting reviews, news stories and videos.
"A lot of the work we do in R&D really is not just about the number of patents, but a way of thinking," Jerry Chow, director of quantum hardware system development, said in an exclusive interview. "New ideas come out of it."
IFI's US patent list is dominated by computer technology companies. Second place went to Samsung with 6,415 patents, followed by Canon with 3,225, Microsoft with 2,905 and Intel with 2,867. Next on the list are Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., LG, Apple, Huawei and Qualcomm. The first non-computing company is Toyota, in 14th place.
Internationally, IBM ranked second to Samsung in patents for 2020, and industrial companies Bosch and General Electric cracked the top 10. Many patents are duplicative internationally since it's possible to file for a single patent in 153 countries.
Quantum computing holds the potential to tackle computing problems out of reach of conventional computers. During a time when it's getting harder to improve ordinary microprocessors, quantum computers could pioneer new high-tech materials for solar panels and batteries, improve chemical processes, speed up package delivery, make factories more efficient and lower financial risks for investors.
Industrywide, quantum computing is a top research priority, with dozens of companies investing millions of dollars even though most don't expect a payoff for years. The US government is bolstering that effort with a massive multilab research effort. It's even become a headline event at this year's CES, a conference that more typically focuses on new TVs, laptops and other consumer products.
"Tactical and strategic funding is critical" to quantum computing's success, said Hyperion Research analyst Bob Sorensen. That's because, unlike more mature technologies, there's not yet any virtuous cycle where profits from today's quantum computing products and services fund the development of tomorrow's more capable successors.
IBM has taken a strong early position in quantum computing, but it's too early to pick winners in the market, Sorensen added.
The long-term goal is what's called a fault tolerant quantum computer, one that uses error correction to keep calculations humming even when individual qubits, the data processing element at the heart of quantum computers, are perturbed. In the nearer term, some customers like financial services giant JPMorgan Chase, carmaker Daimler and aerospace company Airbus are investing in quantum computing work today with the hope that it'll pay off later.
Quantum computing is complicated to say the least, but a few patents illustrate what's going on in IBM's labs.
Patent No. 10,622,536 governs different lattices in which IBM lays out its qubits. Today's 27-qubit "Falcon" quantum computers use this approach, as do the newer 65-qubit "Hummingbird" machines and the much more powerful 1,121-qubit "Condor" systems due in 2023.
A close-up view of an IBM quantum computer. The processor is in the silver-colored cylinder.
IBM's lattices are designed to minimize "crosstalk," in which a control signal for one qubit ends up influencing others, too. That's key to IBM's ability to manufacture working quantum processors and will become more important as qubit counts increase, letting quantum computers tackle harder problems and incorporate error correction, Chow said.
Patent No. 10,810,665 governs a higher-level quantum computing application for assessing risk -- a key part of financial services companies figuring out how to invest money. The more complex the options being judged, the slower the computation, but the IBM approach still outpaces classical computers.
Patent No. 10,599,989 describes a way of speeding up some molecular simulations, a key potential promise of quantum computers, by finding symmetries in molecules that can reduce computational complexity.
Most customers will tap into the new technology throughquantum computing as a service. Because quantum computers typically must be supercooled to within a hair's breadth of absolute zero to avoid perturbing the qubits, and require spools of complicated wiring, most quantum computing customers are likely to tap into online services from companies like IBM, Google, Amazon and Microsoft that offer access to their own carefully managed machines.
The rest is here:
Quantum computing research helps IBM win top spot in patent race - CNET
- Error Protected Quantum Bits Entangled: A Milestone in the Development of Fault-Tolerant Quantum Computers - SciTechDaily - January 14th, 2021
- You can find a $180K solar-powered car, qubit controls, and breathing tips at the NL Tech Pavilion at CES 2021 - TechRepublic - January 14th, 2021
- NSA Cites DoD Crypto Work in First-Ever Cybersecurity Year-End Report - MeriTalk - January 14th, 2021
- 'Magic' angle graphene and the creation of unexpected topological quantum states - Princeton University - December 15th, 2020
- Bringing Your Mainframe Into the Cloud Age - CMSWire - December 15th, 2020
- ASC20-21 Student Supercomputer Challenge Kickoff: Quantum Computing Simulations, AI Language Exam and Pulsar Searching with FAST - Business Wire - November 26th, 2020
- Virtual ICM Seminar with Hiroaki Kitano, 'Nobel Turing Challenge-Creating the Engine of Scientific Discovery' to Be Held Nov 26 - HPCwire - November 26th, 2020
- The Trillion-Transistor Chip That Just Left a Supercomputer in the Dust - Singularity Hub - November 26th, 2020
- Imperfections Lower the Simulation Cost of Quantum Computers - Physics - November 24th, 2020
- Is the blockchain vulnerable to hacking by quantum computers? - Moneyweb.co.za - November 24th, 2020
- Can a Computer Devise a Theory of Everything? - The New York Times - November 24th, 2020
- Cracking the Secrets of an Emerging Branch of Physics: Exotic Properties to Power Real-World Applications - SciTechDaily - November 24th, 2020
- Inside the Competition That Will Save Bitcoin From Quantum Computers - Decrypt - November 22nd, 2020
- Foreign policy expert: China is 'outstripping us' in technologies of the future - Brainerd Dispatch - November 22nd, 2020
- Cracking the secrets of an emerging branch of physics - MIT News - November 22nd, 2020
- #SpaceWatchGL Opinion: Quantum Technology and Impact of the Global Space Security - SpaceWatch.Global - November 22nd, 2020
- A Scoville Heat Scale For Measuring The Progress Of Emerging Technologies In 2021 - Forbes - November 22nd, 2020
- Democracies must team up to take on China in the technosphere - The Economist - November 22nd, 2020
- Honeywell fires up the H1, its second-generation quantum computer - CNET - November 2nd, 2020
- Quantum computers could soon reveal all of our secrets. The race is on to stop that happening - ZDNet - November 2nd, 2020
- Quantum Computing Expert Warns Governments May Be First to Crack Algorithms Keeping Bitcoin and the Internet Secure - The Daily Hodl - November 2nd, 2020
- Australia's Archer and its plan for quantum world domination - ZDNet - November 2nd, 2020
- Quantum Computing Is Bigger Than Donald Trump - WIRED - November 2nd, 2020
- Will Quantum Mechanics Produce the True Thinking Computer? - Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence - November 2nd, 2020
- Strategic Partnership will aid smooth work in the event of regional crisis: Australia High Commissioner - The Hindu - November 2nd, 2020
- Valuation of quantum computer maker D-Wave slashed by more than half after company struggles to raise financing - The Globe and Mail - October 27th, 2020
- 60-year-old limit to lasers overturned by quantum researchers - Griffith News - October 27th, 2020
- A Measured Approach to Regulating Fast-Changing Tech - Harvard Business Review - October 27th, 2020
- The Importance of Funding Quantum Physics, Even in a Pandemic - Inside Philanthropy - October 23rd, 2020
- Material found in paint may hold the key to a technological revolution - Advanced Science News - October 23rd, 2020
- What is Quantum Computing, and How does it Help Us? - Analytics Insight - October 13th, 2020
- QCE20: Here's what you can expect from Intel's new quantum computing research this week - Neowin - October 13th, 2020
- Canadian quantum computing firms partner to spread the technology - IT World Canada - October 13th, 2020
- Ten-year Forecasts for Quantum Networking Opportunities and Deployments Over the Coming Decade - WFMZ Allentown - October 13th, 2020
- Berkeley Lab Technologies Honored With 7 R&D 100 Awards - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - October 5th, 2020
- IBM Partners With HBCUs to Diversify Quantum Computing Workforce - Diverse: Issues in Higher Education - September 25th, 2020
- IBM, Alphabet and well-funded startups in the race for quantum supremacy - IT Brief Australia - September 25th, 2020
- How This Bangalore Based Startup Is Driving Innovation With Quantum Technology-Based Products - Analytics India Magazine - September 25th, 2020
- New faculty add to Yale's strength in applied mathematics - Yale News - September 25th, 2020
- NU receives $115 million federal grant to research and develop beyond state-of-the-art quantum computer - Daily Northwestern - September 24th, 2020
- IBM Just Committed to Having a Functioning 1,000 Qubit Quantum Computer by 2023 - ScienceAlert - September 24th, 2020
- IBM plans to build a 1121 qubit system. What does this technology mean? - The Hindu - September 24th, 2020
- Extending the life of the qubit | Temple Now - Temple University News - September 24th, 2020
- OSTP, NSF, DoE, and IBM make major push to strengthen research in AI and quantum - BlackEngineer.com - September 24th, 2020
- Heres why quantum computing is a cat among the pigeons - BusinessLine - September 12th, 2020
- The Hyperion-insideHPC Interviews: ORNL Distinguished Scientist Travis Humble on Coupling Classical and Quantum Computing - insideHPC - September 12th, 2020
- Oxford Instruments Partners With The 10 Million Consortium, To Launch The First Commercial Quantum Computer In UK - AZoNano - September 10th, 2020
- Combinations of new technologies will upend finance - The Australian Financial Review - September 10th, 2020
- Quantum Computing Market Analysis by Growth, segmentation, performance, Competitive Strategies and Forecast to 2026 - Galus Australis - September 10th, 2020
- The Quantum Dream: Are We There Yet? - Toolbox - September 7th, 2020
- 17 extremely useful productivity tips from this years 40 Under 40 - Yahoo Finance UK - September 7th, 2020
- How Amazon Quietly Powers The Internet - Forbes - September 7th, 2020
- Study Expands Types of Physics, Engineering Problems That Can Be Solved by Quantum Computers - HPCwire - September 4th, 2020
- New evidence that the quantum world is even stranger than we thought - Purdue News Service - September 4th, 2020
- How Andersen Cheng plans to defend against the quantum computer - The Independent - September 4th, 2020
- Quantum computer to be hosted in Abingdon - ClickLancashire - September 4th, 2020
- Assistant director of NSFs Computer and Information Science and Engineering to give virtual talk Sept. 11 - Vanderbilt University News - September 4th, 2020
- Fermilab to lead $115 million National Quantum Information Science Research Center to build revolutionary quantum computer with Rigetti Computing,... - August 29th, 2020
- I confess, I'm scared of the next generation of supercomputers - TechRadar - August 29th, 2020
- Q-NEXT collaboration awarded National Quantum Initiative funding - University of Wisconsin-Madison - August 29th, 2020
- UArizona Scientists to Build What Einstein Wrote off as Science Fiction - UANews - August 29th, 2020
- Quantum leap? US plans for unhackable internet may not fructify within a decade, but India is far behind - The Financial Express - August 4th, 2020
- Google distinguished scientist Hartmut Neven is one of Fast Company's - Fast Company - August 4th, 2020
- Quantum physicists say time travelers don't have to worry about the butterfly effect - The Next Web - August 2nd, 2020
- Week in review: BootHole, RCEs in industrial VPNs, the cybersecurity profession crisis - Help Net Security - August 2nd, 2020
- New UC-led institute awarded $25M to explore potential of quantum computing and train a future workforce - University of California - July 31st, 2020
- The future of encryption: Getting ready for the quantum computer attack - TechRepublic - July 31st, 2020
- IBM and University of Tokyo team up for Quantum Innovation Initiative Consortium - SmartPlanet.com - July 31st, 2020
- 'Butterfly effect' is wrong and reality can 'heal itself', quantum scientists find in time travel experiment - The Independent - July 31st, 2020
- Research: the butterfly effect does not exist in the quantum model - FREE NEWS - July 31st, 2020
- Solving problems by working together: Could quantum computing hold the key to Covid-19? - ITProPortal - July 2nd, 2020
- Spain Introduces the World's First Quantum Phase Battery - News - All About Circuits - July 2nd, 2020
- Professor tackles one more mystery about quantum mechanics and times flow - GeekWire - July 2nd, 2020
- This Week's Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through June 27) - Singularity Hub - June 29th, 2020
- Kudos: Read about faculty, staff and student awards, appointments and achievements - Vanderbilt University News - June 29th, 2020
- This Is the First Universal Language for Quantum Computers - Popular Mechanics - June 21st, 2020
- Universal Quantum raises $4.5 million to build a large-scale quantum computer - VentureBeat - June 17th, 2020
- Ethereum (ETH) Might Not have Quantum Resistance on its Roadmap, the QRL Team Reveals - Crowdfund Insider - June 17th, 2020
- Craig Knoblock Named Michael Keston Executive Director of the USC Information Sciences Institute - USC Viterbi School of Engineering - June 17th, 2020
- European quantum computing startup takes its funding to 32M with fresh raise - TechCrunch - June 11th, 2020