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Quick Quantum Quips: The quantum industry introduces its first public company

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 keeps the community up to date on recent announcements while stripping away the hype around developments.

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

March 2021 Developments:

Quantum developments this month saw IBM score its first on-premises quantum computer deal, Honeywell push the ball forward by achieving a record quantum volume (QV), more newcomers join the IBM Quantum Network, and the first pure-play quantum computing startup to sign a deal to go public.

IBM: IBM announced a partnership with Cleveland Clinic, dubbed Discovery Accelerator, to utilize quantum computing for scientific research and discovery. What makes this partnership particularly unique is that IBM will supply Cleveland Clinic with a quantum machine on premises — a major milestone as the first order for an on-premises quantum installation. Other quantum engagements up to this point have utilized quantum computing through cloud infrastructure providers such as IBM, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Despite the nascency of quantum applications in real-world scenarios, the IBM-Cleveland Clinic partnership makes sense for multiple reasons. For starters, “wet labs” for scientific and novel drug discovery are one of the hypothesized earliest use cases as healthcare organizations have the means to purchase and house the popular superconducting quantum computer architectures, which require extremely cool environments, much like the Pfizer vaccine does, albeit at considerably lower temperatures. Additionally, the practical compatibility of early quantum applications for optimization problems creates large incentives such as increased scientific discovery efficiency, which reduces time & materials and labor costs. Moreover, the sharp increase of investments into the healthcare and quantum industry, catalyzed by COVID-19, put the two industries on a collision course.

IonQ: IonQ officially announced a deal to became the first pure play quantum computing company to go public, via a merger with dMY Technology Group III, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The entity has an estimated combined market cap valuation of $2 billion. It is a significant milestone for the still-nascent quantum computing industry. Notably, however, IonQ did not choose the IPO route in going public, which may indicate wariness to test the public appetite for not-yet-commercially-ready quantum. Additionally, merging with a SPAC has several advantages, including bypassing the arduous IPO process, securing a prequantifiable cash infusion and gaining experienced guidance from leadership of the SPAC.

Honeywell: On the hardware system side, Honeywell achieved a QV of 512, a new record in the industry, on its latest form factor, System Model H1. QV is a metric developed by IBM in the pursuit of a better way to measure quantum computing performance, in place of the less-than-objective measure through qubit count. This achievement by Honeywell’s System Model H1 is notable as it debuted in September with a QV of 128.

On the commercial side, BMW announced a dual partnership with Honeywell and Entropica Labs to run a quantum proof-of-concept for BMW’s supply chain. The presumed role of Honeywell is as the supply-side quantum hardware vendor, while Entropica Labs provides the demand-side algorithms required for BMW to reap the benefits of quantum computing tied to the automaker’s bespoke problem set.

Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC): On the scientific discovery side of the quantum industry, CQC published a paper demonstrating that quantum machines can employ machine learning (ML) techniques to “learn to infer hidden information from broad probabilistic reasoning models. The implications of these findings open the door to quantum applications in previously unconfirmed use-case scenarios. The biggest near-term beneficiaries are expected to be quantum hardware and software developers as well as ML scientists.

Phasecraft: This U.K.-based quantum software company joined the IBM Quantum Network, a global consortium of hundreds of quantum computing companies, startups, academic institutions and research organizations in the name of wholistically advancing quantum development from physical systems to algorithms and applications. Phasecraft currently develops algorithms aimed at optimizing and utilizing near-term quantum computers.

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 latest edition, published in December, focuses on the software layer of quantum systems.

Note to readers: As of the March edition of Q3, Stephanie Long, the creator of this blog, has moved on from TBR Inc. and bestowed this series to me, Jacob Fong. TBR and I would like to thank Stephanie for all her phenomenal work and analysis at the company and through this blog series on the ever-fascinating industry that is quantum computing.

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.

IBM makes major strides in quantum with Volume and AI

  • IBM Quantum Volume creates a new way to assess a quantum computer’s capabilities as a whole system, rather than just based on its number of qubits.
  • IBM unveils research into the intersection between quantum computing and machine learning.

IBM, ever present in the development of cutting-edge technology, is a leader in the quantum computing space and brought its IBM Q System One to market in January. This came after the company provided access to three of its quantum systems through the cloud. TBR notes that providing access to actual quantum systems, and not simply quantum simulators via the cloud, differentiates IBM’s capabilities from those of peers. Currently, a key purpose of providing access to these quantum systems through the cloud is education. IBM is learning from past challenges by getting out ahead of innovation and making internal and external learning and development a priority. This will ensure that trained internal personnel are in place once IBM Q achieves commercial application and research viability as well as help accelerate the rise of IBM Q by educating those outside IBM who might be involved in developing technological advancements, at least at the algorithmic level.

Quantum Volume assesses quantum capability of a whole quantum system

IBM unveiled Quantum Volume, which is a way to measure the capabilities of an entire quantum system, including qubits, software and overall functionality. IBM aptly demonstrated the value in measuring the functionality of a quantum system by more than just the number of qubits. Qubits are very complex, and factors including the quality of the qubit and the impact of unwelcome external stimuli need to be assessed as qubits are highly sensitive to environmental influences.

Aspects such as gates, connectivity, algorithm errors and compilers are all assessed by Quantum Volume. The capability of the computer is then determined, and it is categorized with a number, which serves as a rating of sorts. This rating is a key to the entire quantum computing market, TBR believes, because it provides a relatively unbiased way to measure the capability of a quantum computer. The current process, in which the number of qubits is used to measure capability, omits essential factors.

More significantly, IBM contends it has discovered a metric for quantum advancements comparable to Moore’s Law for classical computing advancements. Given quantum computing will be adopted essentially algorithm by algorithm, this new metric could help guide the broader user community about when a given algorithm will be ready to move to quantum computing based on the advancements in the technology and the complexities of the algorithm in question. This information can then be used to optimize the deployment layer based on mapping the algorithm to the known performance of the different qubits within the systems.

IBM evaluates the parallels between quantum computing and machine learning

IBM published some of its research, in which it evaluated the applications of quantum computing in conjunction with AI and machine learning to address additional emerging demands. Further details regarding this research can be found in an article published in Nature titled, Supervised learning with quantum—enhanced feature spaces. At its core, AI is simply the evaluation and analysis of massive data volumes that help train a system. In classical computing this process can be time-consuming, but when digital transformation is added to market offerings such as connected cars, time is of the essence and cannot be squandered performing these types of tasks. Quantum computing would not only reduce time to insight but also improve the accuracy of the insights gathered.

Quantum computers can analyze and evaluate data much faster than a classical computer and can also process more complex data sets. These increased levels of speed and complexity will enable machine learning to be more insightful and, therefore, more applicable to more complicated use cases. Key use cases that IBM highlighted for these capabilities initially are model training, pattern recognition and fraud detection. These use cases are fundamental to a connected world, where bad actors would have the potential to cause great harm if they tamper with systems, as would machine malfunctions. If data can be evaluated and extrapolated into real-time applications faster, the potential dangers of an increasingly connected world can be mitigated more quickly.

The market implications of quantum developments are vast and will be rapid

Although individually these announcements may seem small in the scheme of quantum computing, when combined with IBM’s existing breakthroughs in the technology, they demonstrate the breadth of the market IBM’s quantum capabilities will be able to impact once quantum advantage is achieved. Quantum Volume enables IBM to determine use-case efficiencies for quantum computers once commercial availability is attainable. The ability to combine the capabilities of quantum computing with AI will accelerate digital transformation dramatically and launch society into the next technological revolution much faster, as more rapid time to insight will open new avenues of exploration.