Aussie developers get quantum computing service in the cloud

Access to quantum services in the cloud could benefit researchers and developers trying to solve complex problems that a normal computer would either take days to solve or not be able to solve it at all.

Quantum computing  >  A quantum processor radiates power.
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Access to quantum services based on the cloud could benefit Australian researchers and developers trying to solve complex problems that a normal computer would either take days to solve or not be able to solve it at all.

D-Wave Systems has made the latest version of its Leap quantum cloud service available in Australia, which allows developers, researchers and businesses access to its D-Wave 2000Q quantum computers, hybrid solvers and quantum application environment.

Established in 1999, D-Wave demonstrated its first quantum annealer in 2010, seen at the time as a novel approach to quantum. Gartner said that quantum annealers can generate approximate solutions to otherwise difficult optimisation problems using quantum effects that can be later refined by digital computers.

RMIT quantum computing expert and professor Jared Cole said that there has been debate as to whether D-Wave is a quantum computer, a quantum annealing machine, or something else entirely. “Although it is true that their machines do things that other machines can’t, it’s not clear that what they are doing can’t be simulated on an ordinary high-performance [classical] computer.”

What D-Wave’s Leap quantum service does

D-Wave’s Leap quantum cloud service offers a hybrid solver service, which is a managed cloud-based service allowing users to solve large and complex problems of as many as 10,000 variables. The hybrid solver runs problems on a collection of quantum and classical cloud resources, using D-Wave’s algorithms to decide the best way to solve a problem.

It also has an integrated developer environment with a ready-to-code environment with D-Wave’s problem inspection and Python debugging, and it is integrated with GitHub. The problem inspector gives developers a visual representation of their problems on the quantum processing unit, allowing them to fine-tune code and improve results.

RMIT’s Cole described D-Wave’s approach as marketing a development environment and training programme to get developers up to speed with their hardware quickly.

”The hope is that a few ‘killer quantum apps’ would justify the very large investment in hardware needed for one of these annealing machines,” Cole said.

Other quantum services in the cloud

The idea of quantum in the cloud is not a novelty, Microsoft offers Azure Quantum, a full-stack, open cloud ecosystem with quantum resources including pre-built solutions, quantum development tools such as simulators and resource estimation tools, accelerated classical hardware, and a variety of quantum hardware.

In September 2018, Rigetti announced its quantum cloud services, which claimed at the time to be the only quantum-first cloud computing platform.

Australia’s demand for quantum computing

Chirag Dekate, a Gartner analyst of AI infrastructure, HPC and emerging compute technologies, said that billions of dollars have been invested in quantum computing research around the world, including in Australia.

Sydney has been preparing for the launch of its quantum academy for months now. The academy was announced in March 2019 when the New South Wales government said it was investing $15.4 million. A soft launch of the Sydney Quantum Academy (SQA) took place in late 2019 when the location for it was still being discussed. In July 2020, the NSW government announced SQA will be located in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) flagship building within Tech Central.

RMIT’s Cole said Australia has a strong record in quantum computing and its technology development. “Through our universities and some of the big research efforts, we have been a world player in this field for some time. Based on that strength, there is plenty of interest in seeing quantum technology get to market in Australia. CSIRO recently commissioned a report which made the case that this is an opportunity for worldwide impact in a brand-new industry. Having strong links with these big quantum technology companies is a part of that vision and D-Wave is certainly a big player. Whether there is enough commercial interest locally is still an open question, but providing access to the tools and the hardware is certainly one way of finding this out.”

Where quantum computing can be applied

Charles Sturt School of computing and mathematics lecturer Anwaar Ul-Haq said there is interest in Australia around encryption, mining and precise underwater monitoring.

He expects AI and machine learning researchers to be excited with this announcement as D-Wave is dealing with quantum optimisation algorithms. “These optimisation algorithms will help to define the machine learning problems in terms of quantum machine learning.”

Ul-Haq said the service could help in his field of studies and how quantum may be able to help propel advancements in machine learning research.

Gartner’s Dekate said financial services, pharmaceuticals, transportation, oil and gas companies are some of the early pioneers seeking to devise quantum computing strategies.

Dekate noted the field is still developing to discuss types of use cases but shared some examples of where it could be applicable. “Optimisation problems occur across several use cases across industry verticals. For example, warehouse routing optimisation, traffic optimisation, financial services portfolio optimisation. Early pioneers are exploring quantum annealing solutions (D-Wave) and small scale superconducting gate systems (IBM Q, Rigetti) to explore potential applicability.”

Algorithms based on constraint satisfaction could be applied in financial financial services loan term reconciliation or records reconciliation. Other areas include e-commerce and search engines to address multi-criteria search-related use cases.

“In chemical manufacturing, oil and gas, automotive and aerospace manufacturing, pharmaceutical industry, etc., we are seeing use cases requiring new materials discovery. Early pioneers are exploring small scale superconducting gate systems (IBM Q, Rigetti) to explore potential applicability,” Dekate said.

Dekate noted that enterprise adoption of quantum computing has been slow given the fact that quantum computing will likely take several years to solve business-relevant problems. “We anticipate that organisations that are seeking to develop early quantum computing strategies will be primary benefactors of ecosystems like D-Wave,” Dekate told Computerworld Australia. “Quantum computing is unlike any other conventional computing technology and will require a fundamental redesign of algorithms, applications and implementations. As a result organisations that proactively devise quantum strategies are more likely positioned to succeed when quantum technologies mature.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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