Quick Quantum Quips: Quantum algorithms and infrastructure reach milestones

Welcome to TBR’s monthly newsletter on the quantum computing market: Quick Quantum Quips (Q3). This market changes rapidly, and the hype can often distract from the realities of the actual technological developments. This newsletter will keep the community up to date on recent announcements while stripping away the hype around developments.

For more details, reach out to Stephanie Long or Geoff Woollacott to set up a time to chat.

August 2020 Developments

Like IBM did with its Selectric typewriters in the 1960s, the company is successfully weaving its quantum computing thread through myriad aspects of the greater quantum ecosystem, underpinned by strategic sponsorships and the inclusion of partners in the IBM Quantum Experience. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is pushing back on this approach by offering a vendor-agnostic view of quantum cloud computing. Academia has also thrown its hat into the ring with ongoing innovation and advancements in quantum computing. The competitive landscape of quantum computing has begun to take on the look and feel of the early classical computing world; however, the modern industry has addressed the mistakes made with classical computing, and therefore progress can be more formulaic and swift. August 2020 developments are starting to tie pieces of investments together to show a glimpse of when the post-quantum world may come, and as advancements continue the future state appears closer on the horizon than previously thought.

  1. AWS swiftly increased its presence in the quantum computing space by making its quantum computing cloud service, Braket, generally available. Underpinned by hardware from IonQ, D-Wave and Rigetti, Braket has been in testing mode for about eight months, during which time academic institutions and hand-picked customers, including Fidelity, were able to access and test the system. AWS intentionally selected the hardware vendors it partnered with because they all are underpinned by different quantum technology. AWS Braket comes to market to take on IBM and Microsoft, both of which have invested in quantum cloud services. However, a key difference is that IBM and Microsoft are also investing in their own quantum computing hardware while AWS has no current plans to do so.
  2. IBM continues to reach its targeted quantum computing goals, including successfully doubling last year’s quantum volume attainment of 32 to 64 in August. A 27-qubit system achieved this quantum volume milestone, and a mixture of hardware enhancements and software were drivers behind its success. While on its own this is not a particularly notable achievement in terms of commercial applicability, IBM’s ability to double quantum volume annually makes it clear that commercial applications are just around the corner in the quantum space, especially if the applications are leveraged in conjunction with high-performance computing. In total, IBM now has 28 quantum computers available through the IBM Quantum Experience.
  3. MIT led a weeklong summer camp for high school students on quantum computing called Qubit by Qubit. This is significant in the quantum computing realm because the pool of qualified personnel in quantum computing is so limited and the technology is still such a long game that many high school students are unaware of the career opportunities in the space. However, the quantum space needs to develop a pipeline of students who eventually major in a quantum-related field for the technology to succeed long-term. It cannot scale commercially with just a few thousand qualified personnel in the world to work with it. While COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many aspects of everyday life, access to information has never been easier as experts are offering lectures and other activities online, providing eager learners with far more opportunities to gain knowledge. The summer camp was paired with a yearlong course if students chose to pursue it, and both programs were created in partnership with The Coding School. The summer camp was an online program that included live instruction sessions. TBR believes the summer camp focused on superconducting quantum computing because Amir Karamlou is focused on the topic as an MIT alumnus and graduate research fellow and because camp sponsor IBM conducts its own research on superconducting quantum computing. IBM was one of the technology sponsors of the program.
  4. The University of Sydney is working on developing an algorithm that can predict the noise impacting qubits in a given environment. While the project is still in the developmental phase, the researchers were able to map the noise of qubits in an experiment and believe the technology will be scalable and will enable users of quantum systems to leverage their algorithms to adapt a system to overcome the impacts of the noise. The test was done on a 14-qubit IBM system accessed through the IBM Quantum Experience.
  5. Rigetti raised $79 million in a round of Series C funding in August. The round of funding was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, which added members of its team to Rigetti’s board of directors as a result. TBR notes that Rigetti faces an uphill battle as hardware innovation is the most expensive aspect of quantum innovation and the majority of its quantum hardware competitors are major, better capitalized corporations with a division devoted to quantum hardware. Rigetti continues to raise funds through funding rounds, which increases the risk that investors will become anxious to see ROI and forgo further investment or seek faster repayment.

If you would like more detailed information around the quantum computing market, please inquire about TBR’s Quantum Computing Market Landscape, a semiannual deep dive into the quantum computing market. Our most recent version, which focused on services, was released in June. Look for our next iteration in December, focused on middleware.

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