The battle to stake a claim in what could be the next revolution in computing escalated on Tuesday, when Honeywell (NYSE:HON) announced that it has made a quantum computing breakthrough. Honeywell plans to release a quantum computer by mid-2020 that the company claims will be twice as powerful as the current alternative.

Honeywell detailed its quantum charge coupled device architecture in a scientific paper available on its website. The company claims this architecture represents major progress that will accelerate quantum computing capability.

A laser going through lenses.

Image source: Honeywell.

Quantum volume

Honeywell's quantum computer will have a quantum volume of at least 64. Quantum volume is a measure that International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) developed to standardize the measurement of a quantum computer's capabilities. The measure takes into account the number of quantum bits in a quantum computer, the error rate for quantum operations, the connectivity of the quantum bits, and a few other factors.

"The larger the quantum volume, the more complex problems you can solve," said Honeywell Quantum Solutions chief scientist Patty Lee. "When our quantum computer is released, we will be able to execute larger quantum circuits better than any other quantum computer available." 

Honeywell believes that its new architecture will allow it to scale up its quantum computers quickly in the coming years. The company expects the quantum volume of its quantum computer to increase by an order of magnitude annually for the next five years.

Honeywell already has some organizations interested in its quantum computing capabilities. JPMorgan Chase has partnered with the company to develop quantum algorithms, and Honeywell's venture capital fund has made investments in start-ups Cambridge Quantum Computing and Zapata Computing.

Big tech players

IBM is another company making noise in the quantum computing industry. The tech giant offers cloud-based access to 15 of its own quantum computers, including one with 53 quantum bits. Earlier this year, the company announced that it had over 100 organizations working with its quantum computers, including Delta Air Lines, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs.

IBM's most powerful system currently has a quantum volume of 32. The company believes it will take an annual doubling of quantum volume to reach the point where a quantum computer canoutperform a classical computer in the next decade.

Alphabet's Google is also in the fray, claiming late last year that its quantum computer had performed a calculation that's beyond the practical capabilities of a traditional computer. The calculation itself isn't useful for real-world applications, but the feat demonstrated that quantum computing can achieve significant performance improvements.

IBM, however, criticized Google's claim, saying the calculation could be completed on a supercomputer using a different method in less than three days.

A long road ahead

While Honeywell's announcement appears to push the quantum computing industry forward, it will probably be many years before the technology is useful for any real-world commercial application. At this point, it's far too early to pick winners and losers.

It's also far too early to predict the impact of quantum computing. The technology could revolutionize industries by vastly speeding up certain calculations, and by making currently impossible calculations possible. But reaching that point may take a very long time.

Honeywell may take the quantum lead this year, but both IBM and Google won't be far behind.