Which companies are working with quantum computers?

Quantum computers rely on highly complex technology, but their potential is being hailed by many as world-altering. However, developing a quantum computer that works in practical terms is no mean feat.

In the race to develop viable quantum technologies, the aim is to elongate the length of time that quantum bits (qubits) can hold a stable state (and we're talking in the realm of microseconds) before starting to deteriorate. The longer this highly volatile state can be maintained, the more functions the quantum computer can effectively carry out.

Still unsure about what quantum computing is? Read our explainer here.

However, achieving the conditions for this state poses a raft of issues, as the core components must be kept at very cool temperatures within a highly controlled atmosphere, for one.

Working on these issues are a number of tech giants and a bunch of nimble startups looking to the lead the way into the world of quantum. Here are some of the most notable ones.

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IBM

IBM

IBM is one of the companies leading the way in the quantum space. The company is racing to be the first to develop a fully functional and commercially viable quantum computer.

In January 2019, the company announced that it had developed its first "commercial" quantum computer - Q System One (pictured), but the prototype was widely judged as not quite ready for the full gamut of commercial applications one day envisioned for quantum computers.

Read more about Q System One here: Inside IBM Q System One: an archetype for the quantum computing frontier?

Rigetti

Rigetti

Rigettiis a name that often crops up in relation to quantum computing. The startup has been praised for keeping pace with much larger tech giants in the world of quantum. Its products are billed as 'quantum cloud services'.

Founded in 2013, the Berkeley-based company is raking in funding from notable sources such as Amazon's venture arm and Bloomberg. The firm has developed a hybrid quantum computing platform that is currently in private beta. It claims to combine the power of a quantum processor and a classical processor.

Rigetti was founded by Chad Rigetti, a quantum computing physicist who formerly worked in the quantum computing group at IBM.

D-Wave
© D-Wave

D-Wave

D-Wave is a smaller company that is making, ahem, waves in the realm of quantum.

In late 2018, D-Wave launched Leap, the first real-time quantum application environment, providing remote access to a live quantum computer.

They've partnered with DENSO Corporation, a leading supplier of advanced automotive technology to major automakers, and report that the company can improve factory automation routing by 15 percent.

They've also directly partnered with Volkswagen on developing a traffic management system for taxis.

IonQ

IonQ

IonQ advertises itself as having created the most powerful quantum computer to date. It's slightly different from other quantum computers as it uses trapped ions for qubits. IonQ describes it as 'storing information on individual atoms'.

"The qubits in the new IonQ systems are individual atoms of the rare earth element ytterbium, suspended in a vacuum," reads their website.

This 'ion-trapping' technique is at odds with the approach of other tech companies in this space such as Google and IBM, who instead create qubits on silicon chips which are chilled to zero. However the company asserts that it's due to this that quantum states have been difficult to maintain.

IonQ was founded in 2016 by Chris Monroe and Jungsang Kim with $2 million in seed funding from New Enterprise Associates, and a license to core technology from the University of Maryland and Duke University. The following year, the company raised another $20 million from GV, Amazon Web Services, and NEA.

Google

Google

Of course the search giant would be looking to get a head start on the world on quantum computing. In fact, Google has partnered with NASA on the testing of a quantum computer known as 'D-Wave Two', developed in partnership with D-Wave.

The Google AI faction of the tech conglomerate is working in the area of quantum. Right now, the main priorities are building quantum processors and developing new quantum algorithms with the aim of speeding up computational tasks for machine learning.

Some of the areas the unit is currently looking at include superconducting qubit processors, qubit metrology, quantum simulation, quantum assisted optimisation and quantum neural networks.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.