Quantum computing is going to be worth USD 3,7B by 2030, in other words: the giants of tech are in a new “space race” but for quantum supremacy. How is this affecting the innovation landscape, and more importantly, who is doing what?
IBM, Microsoft and Google are taking the lead with astonishing developments, but there are a few cool startups out there such as Isara Corporation working on cyber security and safe cryptography or Rigetti, who raised its series C last year (August 2020) totalling USD 200M for the manufacture of quantum chips.
Laws of Thermodynamics. Undeniable?
The news broke in mid-2021. Google innovating against Newton? The first one claims to have developed a Time Crystal in one of their quantum computers. Time crystals are like regular crystals in that they are based on structures of atoms that repeat. However, rather than repeating across space, time crystals repeat patterns over time. This implies that a new phase of matter exists.
Researchers from Princeton and Stanford (among other universities) in collaboration with Google have published this finding which questions the second law of thermodynamics (yes, the one about systems tending to disorder and chaos). Time crystals could therefore flip between two configurations with no energy necessary (in an equilibrium). And even more heart-stopping: forever!
Nobel Prize in Physics Frank Wilczek, had already formulated this theory in 2012 but Google scientists have now developed the theory further inside their own quantum computing processor.
After launching a search for “time crystal” using Linknovate, you get over 600 refs, and you can see that besides Google’s discovery, most work in the field is done by universities and research labs.
Who sets the standard?
In the race for quantum supremacy, it is a matter of United States (e.g. Google, IBM) versus China (e.g. Baidu Research, Huawei, Chinese Academy of Science and Technology, China University of Science and Technology).
They both pursue the creation of physical systems that transport and manipulate the theoretical qubits. The US approach (mainly) is superconducting qubits; Chinese organizations deal with an optical circuit of boson sampling.
And what about Europe? IBM’s collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute to use its quantum computers for R&D brings the continent closer to the powerhouses.
The challenges of Quantum Computing
The use of quantum computing is expected to change the rules of computing. Processing speed will increase dramatically, but so will the potential threats. Its deciphering potential impacts directly on post-quantum cryptography. A resistance to attacks from the future.
Indeed, the topic is growing in activity. Results in Linknovate for “postquantum cryptography” are:
Other security alternatives may appear, such as the European Union’s OPENQKD initiative to combine fiber optics and satellites to create a secure communication network with QKD (Quantum Key Distribution) for 13 countries.
However, a combined search for “qkd” or “quantum key distribution“, shows that China also leads by far in number of publications and patents.
In such a changing market, it is always advisable to pay attention to new terms and keywords emerging in the topic of interest. It is a way to enhance the discovery process and stay up to date.
The list of associated terms in Linknovate, shows for example the increasing importance of ”Public Key Encryption” and “Digital Signature”, besides the main keyphrase: ”Quantum Algorithms”.
Public key encryption is an algorithm that encrypts data using two different keys instead of just one shared key.
This technology is applied in digital signatures where users have the private key and receivers can verify information in the public key.
Another of the main problems of quantum computing is the construction of computers itself. For instance, quantum computing requires hardware that operates in temperatures close to absolute zero. In practice it is like going back to the beginnings of classical computing.
Who is who in the race for quantum computing?
Using Linknovate to search for “quantum algorithm” the most surprising fact is that among the tech giants of the sector you can find a company like Rigetti Computing. This startup is one of the first trying to make quantum computing commercially viable.
Rigetti Computing is a full-stack quantum computing company. The company designs and manufactures quantum chips and builds software to integrate its systems with cloud infrastructure. Founded in 2013, it raised $79 M in its series C in August 2020, reaching almost $200M of overall funding. They have also developed new algorithms for quantum computing applied to computational chemistry and machine learning.
It has partnered with the likes of NASA or MIT Lincoln Laboratory and they provide their services through Amazon Web Services and Strangeworks among others.
Another example of the success of quantum computing is in financial services. The first commercial quantum computer the D-Wave 2000Q, has been implemented by D-Wave, a company backed by Goldman Sachs and Bezos Expeditions. It is a quantum system with 2,000 qubits and advanced function controls.
The systems could be used for complex financial modeling and risk management within the financial industry. Quantum computers will also be able to create, simulate, and model molecular structures. Back at Harvard University in 2012, a quantum computer, D-Wave One, was used to figure out the way some proteins fold.
Although there are success stories such as Rigetti’s or D-Wave, it is common to link quantum computing to larger companies. At a first glance in Linknovate’s summary, we can observe that companies like IBM, Microsoft and Google appear in the top positions for the term “quantum computing”.
IBM is leading the way with “over 20 quantum computers running across the world, running over 1 billion executions a day on the IBM cloud” according to Dr. Jeanette M. García, Senior Manager of Quantum Applications, Algorithms and Theory of IBM.
Next up is Microsoft with Azure Quantum focusing on commercial scale quantum solutions followed by Google with its newly created time crystal.
“We have over 20 quantum computers running across the world, running over 1 billion executions a day on the IBM cloud” says Dr. Jeanette M. García, Senior Manager of Quantum Applications, Algorithms and Theory of IBM.
It is surprising not to see Amazon in the top positions but it wasn’t until 2019 that Amazon broke its silence.
Jeff Bezos’ company, through Amazon Web Services (AWS) signed alliances around quantum computing with different universities.
Amazon will offer Quantum Computing cloud software, which helps companies solve business problems using quantum computing. The list of Amazon Braket providers can be accessed through this link in which D-wave and IonQ stand out in addition to the aforementioned Rigetti.
Amazon has created and simulated a simple circuit which then runs on real hardware (also known as a QPU, or Quantum Processing Unit).
Quantum computing offers the possibility of superimposing probabilities and consulting on incalculable functions where traditional equipment is limited. This could be unvaluable in banking services and fintech as the accuracy and ability to detect or predict financial markets faster is (supposed to be) a money-making machine.
Perhaps new companies and new use cases will emerge in the near future, as industrial applications in automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, biotech and other industries evolve. Stay tuned to find out 😉