UK consortium to standardise quantum computer API

September 22, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
UK consortium to standardise quantum computer API
A standard Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) for the most popular quantum computer technologies is being developed by a UK consortium including ARM, Hitachi and Riverlane

A consortium in the UK has developed a hardware abstraction layer specification that can allow an operating system to run on quantum computers built from different types of technology.

One major obstacle hindering the development of quantum operating systems is that the industry has not yet consolidated around one type of technology, whether that is trapped ions, superconducting qubits, silicon qubits or photons. While many approaches are showing signs of promise, it’s too early to say which will overcome the major challenges of scalability and error reduction says operating system developer Riverlane

Today, most hardware companies are using their own distinct architecture, which means developers have to optimise applications for a single quantum hardware, increasing costs and throttling collaboration.

The consortium, backed by £7.6m funding, has launched an open-source hardware abstraction layer (HAL) that will allow high-level quantum computer users, such as application developers, platform and system software engineers, and cross-platform software architects, to write programs that will be interoperable with multiple kinds of quantum hardware.

The HAL was developed by Riverlane with the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and processor designer ARM, as well as SeeQC, Hitachi Europe, Universal Quantum, Duality Quantum Photonics, Oxford Ionics, and Oxford Quantum Circuits.

The HAL is publicly available on Github to allow users  to run applications on several different qubit technologies and adapt to the intricacies of each hardware approach.

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The aim of the consortium is to define a multi-level HAL that makes software portable across platforms but not at the cost of performance. The HAL levels are categorised by the types of applications that they enable, from the general HAL architecture, HAL features (e.g. which commands need to be implemented) to the HAL specification format.

The document does not define the HAL implementation or how to compile/transpile between the different levels.

An operating system for quantum computers, called Deltaflow.OS, will be developed within the ISCF NISQ.OS project based on this open HAL specification.

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