Intel has developed a 17-qubit processor that is its first major step into the Quantum computing game. In late 2015, Intel made a $50-million investment in QuTech, a quantum research institute in the Netherlands and the new processor is a fruit of their collaboration. The chip was developed over the past 18 months and will be shipped to QuTech for research and testing.

While Intel is only just beginning to wet its feet in quantum computing, it has for decades been the industry leader in computer processor manufacturing. It had no choice, however, as transistors begin to approach such small sizes.

This gives Intel and its investors hope that its manufacturing experience will allow it to catch up to the other giants in the field.

Quantum computing players

Google will have a 49-qubit chip ready by the end of 2017. They currently have a 20-qubit processor that is 99.7 percent accurate.

Microsoft has taken a different approach from all the other major players. Two decades ago, they contracted Michael Freedman, a math genius who had won the Fields Medal, to work on topology, his area of expertise.

With his help, Microsoft has developed a topological qubit that is more precise than other quantum computing systems. They’ve even developed a programming language for it. Microsoft is progressing well in the quantum space.

IBM has a 17-qubit processor that has run 300,000 quantum experiments including the most complex molecule simulation yet, deriving the lowest energy state of a beryllium hydride.

What can quantum computing do?

Earlier in the year, Volkswagen (in dire need of a reputation resurrection) used a D-Wave computer, an enormous black refrigerator that cools a 128-qubit processor, to calculate the most efficient way for 10,000 taxis in Beijing to move simultaneously. This is quite difficult because traffic is volatile and routes are ever-changing but the D-Wave performed its calculations in seconds when a modern-day supercomputer would take half an hour given the same data.

With the beryllium hydride molecule, quantum computing will be able to model structures and that will help us search for novel medicines and understand how chemicals react. Also, the AI industry will receive a strong push. Matching the relatively new field of deep learning with a quantum processor could have unfathomable consequences. It will be straight from a science fiction novel.