With a quantum volume of 64, the Honeywell quantum computer is twice as powerful as the next alternative in the industry. That means we could be closer to industries leveraging quantum computers to solve computational problems that are impractical to solve with traditional computers.
“What makes our quantum computers so powerful is having the highest quality qubits, with the lowest error rates. This is a combination of using identical, fully connected qubits and precision control,” said Tony Uttley, president of Honeywell Quantum Solutions.
Quantum computers harness their power by being able to investigate many potential outcomes at the same time. Traditional computing bits are in a state of either “0” or “1.” Quantum bits, called qubits, on the other hand, can be in both states at the same time, a property called superposition.
when you have these qubits interacting with each other in a computation, you get, what I call, a quantum superpower – Tony Uttley, Honeywell
“That means that when you have these qubits interacting with each other in a computation, you get, what I call, a quantum superpower,” Uttley said. “You get an exponential expansion in the number of values that can all be considered at the same time.”
Practically, that means that certain computations that can never be done on even the highest performing supercomputer may one day be computed on a quantum computer, according to the company. One example is the best path of robots in a distribution center to improve speed of selecting items and packing orders.
Those computations are processed through algorithms designed and developed specifically for quantum computers. Although quantum algorithms are similar to classical algorithms from computer science, they leverage a combination of physics and mathematics expertise. Within quantum’s ecosystem are a number of quantum-algorithm experts, who specialize in “converting” real world problems into quantum-standard algorithms. Honeywell Ventures has invested and partnered with two of the companies that do that, Zapata Computing and Cambridge Quantum Computing.
“The promise of quantum computing, ultimately, is that instead of getting close, you get exact. You’re able to look at all of those different interactions at exactly the same time to get to an optimal solution.”
In quantum computing, both quality and quantity – of the qubits – matter. Companies often have their own take on which is more important. Quantum Volume is a method developed by IBM to attempt to capture, in one number, a true measure of progress in the development of quantum computers, taking into account not only the number of qubits but also the connectivity of these qubits and their reliability (among other factors). Clearly, this is a subjective measurement developed by one company and we should be cautious in how we view this, but it is getting increasing respect and traction.
According to their statement, Honeywell prioritized creating the highest quality qubits, focusing on eliminating the errors present within the system on smaller numbers of qubits and then working to scale up the number of qubits. They claim to have achieved a Quantum Volume of 64, which compares to IBM’s 32.
And thanks to a partnership with Microsoft’s Azure Quantum, Honeywell will be able to offer organizations access to their quantum computer both directly through its interface as well as through the Azure Quantum portal.
It’s been a banner week for ion-trap quantum computing, as EeroQ’s CEO Nick Farina pointed out earlier today:
Hard to keep up with ion traps this week. Monday, Universal Quantum announces funding for microwave-based approach. Tuesday, Alpine Quantum gets a @WEF nod. Wednesday, IonQ announces $29M further funding. Today, @honeywell claims QV of 64 (still no paper). https://t.co/CCbap2icjk
— nick farina 💘 (@nick_farina) June 18, 2020
- Universal Quantum announced £3.6m of funding for their ion-trap / microwave based approach
- Alpine Quantum Technologies were awarded as technology pioneer by the World Economic Forum
- IonQ announced $29m of further funding and new advisory board members
Trapped Ions are just one approach to qubit implementation, which we cover in more detail here.
So what does the landscape look like now? There are now 4 major companies working on trapped ion qubits, but there continues to be significant work and interest in multiple other approaches:
The flurry of news has got the Quantum Community debating whether the ion trap approach to quantum computing is starting to take the clear lead. In short, the answer is no and the landscape is going to evolve quickly over the coming years.