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It’s time to decide how quantum computing will help your business

Sharon Gaudin | May 18, 2017
As the tech advances and investments grow, what seemed out of reach is now possible.

The field has attracted $147 million in venture capital in the last three years and $2.2 billion in government funding globally, according to Deloitte.

A little over a year ago, the European Commission announced a $1.13 billion project to develop quantum technologies over the next decade. And the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced last month that it is working to build a quantum computer in the next several years.

The U.S. is considered to be a major investor in quantum computing research, as well as home to quantum-focused companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft. . Google, for instance, is working on quantum processes it can make available to companies over the cloud, while Microsoft said last fall it was ready to go from "research to engineering with its quantum work."

There also are quantum computing startups like Rigetti Computing, 1Qbit, and Cambridge Quantum Computing, that are getting a lot of attention.

They're not all building a large quantum computer. Some are working on software, while others focus on hardware components or quantum-resistant cryptography.

One company now building what its executives say is the first quantum computer is D-Wave Systems, based in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Although many question whether it's a true quantum computer, D-Wave's system is still being tested by the likes of NASA, Google, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lockheed Martin. That level of interest in testing the D-Wave system - whether it's a true quantum computer or not -- shows how high expectations have gotten around this technology.

Rupak Biswas, director of exploration technology at NASA Ames Research Center, said he oversees 700 employees -- 10 to 12 of whom are now working on quantum computing. Those efforts include testing the D-Wave system.

About $3 million of the agency's research-and-development budget goes to quantum computing.

While NASA is not yet trying to solve real problems - like massive air traffic management issues or scheduling astronaut time on the International Space Station - scientists there are working to figure out the best way to use a quantum computer and understand the underlying physics, as well as the programming that will be needed for it.

Even if the D-Wave system is better at computational-heavy calculations, it's not big enough to handle real problems for NASA. Something that large could be five to 10 years away, Biswas said.

In addition to testing the D-Wave system, NASA is also working with U.C. Berkeley, Google, U.C. Santa Barbara, Rigetti Computing, and Sandia National Labs - all of which are doing quantum research.


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