6 Quantum Computing Companies to Watch
One of the many problems we face with quantum computing, aside from getting it to work in the first place, is to prove that it’s actually doing quantum computing. In other words, we’re trying to make quantum computing “work” right now but we don’t know how to tell if it’s done something quantum because we don’t know what that looks like. That’s according to a fascinating article by Quanta Magazine which talks about a student at the University of Berkeley, Urmila Mahadev, who spent 7 years of her life solving this problem. Says the article:
She has come up with an interactive protocol by which users with no quantum powers of their own can nevertheless employ cryptography to put a harness on a quantum computer and drive it wherever they want, with the certainty that the quantum computer is following their orders.
While we may be able to tell if the computer is obeying orders or not, what we can’t tell is how the quantum computer arrived at the answers it gives. The article’s author, Erica Klarreich, talks about how quantum computing is so complex that “writing down a description of the internal state of a computer with just a few hundred quantum bits (or “qubits”) would require a hard drive larger than the entire visible universe.”
And that’s not even the biggest problem which is that you can’t actually observe these quantum bits because when you go to measure them, they suddenly appear as ones or zeroes. While traditional computers use electrical signals that represent a one or a zero, quantum computing uses qbits which have exponentially more possibilities than just a plain old one or zero. It’s all explained in this great diagram by Bloomberg:
We cannot tell how a quantum computer arrived at any given solution, and we can’t prove that what it did was “quantum.” But as we talked about in our article on artificial intelligence and transparency, if these technologies can create exponential improvements in areas like predictive analytics, few business managers will care much about the “how”.
Aside from all these unanswered questions, money has been pouring into quantum computing startups this year. Our last article on this topic looked at “10 Quantum Computing Startups Getting Funded in 2018“, all of which have taken their first round of funding this year. According to CrunchBase, eighteen quantum computing companies have taken in funding during 2018 so far. Let’s look at the remaining ones along with one bonus company.
6 Quantum Computing Companies to Watch
It’s kind of hard to talk about quantum computing without D-Wave Systems coming up. The Canadian firm has now taken in just over $204 million in funding with the latest bit coming in June of this year in the form of a $10 million grant from the Canadian government. Last month, D-Wave announced free real-time access to the D‑Wave Leap Quantum Application Environment (QAE). Not everyone believes that what D-Wave does is “quantum” though, something that was talked about in a Nature article last year. Still, we continue to see loads of interest from investors who are trying to invest in D-Wave.
There’s also interest from the corporate world. Volkswagen is using a D-Wave system for traffic management, though Engadget says “it’s more concept than reality.” Then there’s DENSO Corporation, a leading supplier of advanced automotive technology, systems and components for all the world’s major automakers. They claim to have improved the efficiency of their Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) routing in their factories by 15% using a D-Wave 2000Q system instead of conventional computers. Real-world use cases are one way to show you have something that works, quantum or not.
Staying within the borders of Canada, 1QBit is a company we’ve discussed before that claims to be the world’s first “pure play” quantum computing software company. Founded in 2012, the startup has taken in just over $68 million in funding from investors that include Accenture, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Allianz, and Fujitsu, with half of their total funding raised in April of this year. 1QBit and Fujitsu have partnered to offer a “cloud quantum computing service” that they now refer to simply as the “Digital Annealer“, and it’s actually being offered now as a product offering. In recent news, “NatWest can now decide the composition for the bank’s $155 billion HQLA portfolio faster and more accurately using 1QBit software and the Fujitsu Digital Annealer.” Again, real-world success stories will go a long way to convincing people that you have a solution worth looking at, quantum or not.
Moving across the pond to the beautiful college town of Cambridge, England, we find Cambridge Quantum Computing, a startup that’s taken in $18.8 million in funding to “design solutions that will benefit from quantum computing even in its earliest forms.” The startup has designed ti|ket>, a proprietary operating system for quantum computers that manages quantum computer software and hardware resources. Another offering they have is Arrow, a collection of artificial intelligence algorithms for anomaly detection and classification of real-time data – useful for looking at financial time series. On their website you can find some of their research if you’d like to dig a bit deeper.
Founded in 2014, Washington DC startup QxBranch took in their entire $8.5 million in funding this year. We first came across this company a few years back when we looked at their close relationship to D-Wave, and how QxBranch considered themselves the world’s first quantum computing software company. Today, QxBranch builds applications and developer platforms for classical and quantum computers with a focus on predictive analytics, forecasting, and optimization. In addition to closing two rounds of funding this year, they also announced a collaboration with IBM and a partnership with Rigetti Computing, a company we’re going to talk about next.
While all the startups we’ve talked about so far have taken in funding in 2018, there’s one more we’re adding to this list that hasn’t. Founded in 2013, Berkeley startup Rigetti Computing has taken in just over $119 million in funding from a long list of notable investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Bloomberg, and Amazon’s venture arm. Rigetti offers a “hybrid quantum computing platform” that’s available now – well, as an invite-only beta anyways:
The CEO of Rigetti is optimistic about the timeline for quantum computing telling Tech Crunch that we’re “just three years away” from when a quantum computer will outperform a classical computer. It doesn’t say if he’s talking about his own company, but he certainly might be. That’s because Rigetti is a full-stack quantum computing company in that they develop everything from the quantum chips to the software that interacts with them. Any possible delays are entirely within their control.
So what have people been doing on the Rigetti platform? The company includes a number of examples, including one about how some Oak Ridge National Labs researchers conducted the first nuclear simulation run on any quantum computer. The entire thing is spelled out in a paper titled “Cloud Quantum Computing of an Atomic Nucleus” which is so hopelessly technical that we couldn’t make it past the second sentence. Los Alamos National Lab also used the Rigetti platform to learn a quantum algorithm primitive called the SWAP test. It’s detailed in a paper titled “Learning the quantum algorithm for state overlap” which also makes mention of “IBM’s quantum computers”.
QuintessenceLabs first came across our radar a few years back when we published an article on 5 Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Encryption Companies. Since being founded in 2008, the Australian startup has managed to raise just over $21 million in funding and dubbed themselves “The Global Leader in Quantum Cybersecurity.” One of their products is a true random number generator called qStream.
True random numbers are perfectly unpredictable and fundamental to data security. They have been extremely difficult to generate, especially at the high throughputs needed for commercial use. qStream has solved that problem, using quantum innovation to deliver truly random numbers at very high speeds. Another product they offer is qCrypt which delivers secure, centralized, and highly interoperable key and policy management across any organization.
Just today, Bloomberg penned a piece on “Why Quantum Computers Will Be Super Awesome, Someday” which implied that even with all the hype around quantum computing, we still don’t have a quantum computer. As time goes on, competition to reach quantum supremacy on the global stage is heating up with China getting into the mix:
In addition to the six quantum computing companies we’ve just talked about, four of the world’s biggest tech companies are also racing to bring us quantum supremacy. Maybe artificial intelligence and quantum computing is the tipping point, where we finally have the tools we need to figure out just what the hell quantum computing looks like. In the meantime, Rigetti Computing is offering a $1 million prize for the first person who can solve a real problem on their platform that’s beyond the reach of classical computers. It’s a challenge that’s open to every one of the 7 billion people on this planet. Get busy.
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