Quantum computers can solve problems that a normal computer will never be able to solve. Unlike normal computers that use transistors, quantum computers use quantum objects like photons and electrons for computation. The size of quantum objects and the power of quantum mechanics make these superfast computers incredibly compact. They can manipulate complex massive amounts of data in no time. But then, most of the quantum computing concepts are still futuristic. There are a handful of problems that have to be solved in order to make quantum computing a reality.
How do quantum computers work?
Computers use bits. Every bit can be either zero or one. Quantum computers use qbits. A qbit can be an electron, a nuclear or even a single photon. A qbit has two states, spin up and spin down (like 1 and 0). But the funny thing about a quantum object is it can be in both states at once. So, when a bit can give you only one value, a qbit can give you two. This means n number of bits can give you n values but n qbits can give you 2n values. As a result, a quantum computer can be exponentially more efficient than a normal computer.
This kind of efficiency can make a really big difference in areas like cybersecurity and database management. For example, to find something in a database, a quantum computer needs only a fraction of time that a normal computer would spend in testing every entry.
Intrigued by quantum computing? Let’s look at five startups that are successfully finding solutions to tap into the full potential of the technology.
One of the biggest problems with quantum computing is randomization. In general, the state of the quantum bits is easily randomized by environmental interference. The Q-CTRL toolkit helps in suppressing these randomization errors. According to the founder Michael Biercuk, the toolkit controls unwind the randomization like unmixing a soup. The company was launched in November 2017. The investors include Data Collective Venture Capital, Main Sequence Ventures, Horizons Ventures, and Sequoia Capital. With the sleek SaaS frontend, the user interface is central to the product’s development. Q-CTRL started working on Black Opal, its inaugural product, in January 2018.
Black Opal is the first ever commercially available software to accelerate the performance of quantum computing hardware. Besides its niche users, Black Opal will also attract players who are just learning how quantum technology will impact their work and the ones that are trying to become quantum ready. The team will launch Boulder Opal, which focuses on integrating control systems into professional workflows.
By making complicated workflows visually attractive, Q-CTRL is trying to remove some usability barriers. The company also seems to have plans for enterprise versions in the future. As an interesting side note, Q-CTRL is one of the eight companies picked by IBM to run computations on their quantum systems.
The company focused on developing laser-cooled and ultra-cold atom enabled quantum technologies and sold the first product in 2008. Ultra-cold atoms are maintained at temperatures below 0 degrees Kelvin. At this temperature, the quantum properties of the atoms change. At this stage, the atoms become more controllable and they have a plethora of applications in precision measurement. ColdQuanta was the one to deliver the world’s first commercial ultra-cold quantum gas system. One of those systems was delivered to NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory and it now resides in the International Space Station.
Ultra-cold neutral atom technology will also be helpful for the further development of quantum information systems, inertial sensing, and navigation.
The company has been internally financed by product revenue and contracts since its founding in 2007. In July 2018, the company raised $6.5 million in a funding round led by Maverick Ventures. Global Frontier Investments participated in the funding. The funds will be used to commercialize the company’s foundational ultra-cold neutral atom technology. The company has customers in various industrial and academic R&D labs across the world and also has been awarded contracts from various federal agencies. Addressing applications from time-keeping to secure communications, Cold Quanta is ready to enter the emerging era of Quantum computing.
3. QC Ware
The Palo Alto-based company develops enterprise software solutions for quantum computers and helps enterprises breakthrough computing bottlenecks using quantum computing. QC Ware is a pioneer in enabling enterprises to access multiple quantum hardware systems through a single software platform. Their solutions are hardware-agnostic and they solve problems in combinatorial optimization and machine learning. QC Ware’s solutions are exponentially more efficient than traditional HPC solutions.
QC Ware’s customer base includes leading aerospace prime contractors, financial services companies, power utilities, automotive OEMs, and multiple government groups. The company has also announced support for Cirq (Google’s open source quantum computing framework).
In July 2018, QC Ware raised $6.5 million in a funding round participated by Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Airbus. The company might use the funding to expand its quantum cloud computing offering. The company generates $5 million annual revenue. QC Ware is also developing a set of quantum-powered applications in collaboration with various Fortune 500 companies.
Xanadu is a photonic quantum computing and artificial intelligence company based in Toronto. Here, they use photons to carry information and perform calculations instead of electrons. Founded in 2016, the Canadian startup focuses on creating a full stack quantum computing by integrating quantum silicon photonic chips into existing hardware. The company has raised over $7 million in two funding rounds and generates $1 million in revenue annually.
Strawberry Fields is a popular quantum software package offered by Xanadu. This package is open-source and it features a quantum machine learning toolbox built on TensorFlow. According to the company’s LinkedIn profile, their mission is to create the world’s first practical quantum computer.
PennyLane (Gotta love the Beatles references!)
Besides quantum computing, the company also specializes in machine learning. In fact, they use machine learning to enhance their hardware. The company has also launched a dedicated machine learning software for quantum computers called the PennyLane.
PennyLane is like the TensorFlow of quantum computing. It enables machine learning algorithms to scale up as the quantum computers grow. The software is open source and can integrate the existing APIs with the quantum hardware using plugin systems. PennyLane is hardware agnostic and can interact with quantum computers of different companies, for example, the IBM Quantum Experience.
5. Zapata Computing
The Massachusetts-based startup was founded in 2017 by a group of Harvard scientists who aspired to build a quantum software and services company. The company is operating in stealth mode, but they seem to be building some sort of industry-specific solutions. Zapata has partnered with tech giants like Google and IBM. Zapata is also one of the first users of Google’s Cirq. Cirq might eventually serve as the interface for Google’s (planned) quantum computing cloud services. Like most of the leading quantum computing startups, Zapata has created a machine learning algorithm too. The company expressed that Google is using its algorithm in its quantum cloud computing development. This algorithm is intended to help in building more efficient quantum computing circuits.
Quantum computing growing fast
Sectors like energy and power, health care, pharmaceuticals, and automobiles look like promising markets for quantum computing. Rising incidents of cybercrimes have created a need for more secure communication systems and quantum technology has great scope in this area. Also, quantum key distribution systems are being adopted to secure mobile transactions. Defense and the financial sectors seem to be the earliest adopters of quantum computing. Government entities are making some major investments in this space too. The global quantum computing market is growing at a CAGR of 29.04 percent and is estimated to hit $495.3 Million by 2023.
Featured image: Pixabay