In the race for the advantages of quantum computing technology, some big tech companies and start-ups have found that, despite years of investment in related fields, the road to commercialization of quantum computing technology is still longer than originally planned. While some companies are expected to gain more processing power, quantum computers cannot outpace traditional computers.
Photo In a lab near Santa Barbara, California, last year, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and researcher Daniel Sank stand next to Google’s quantum computer.
Quantum computers rely on atomic-sized particles rather than transistors for acceleration, and are expected to make a qualitative leap forward in data processing. In theory, this powerful computer processing power could simulate protein interactions, helping people discover new drugs, or cracking existing encryption methods that take years for ordinary computers to crack in hours.
In October, researchers at Alphabet’s Google said they had made a breakthrough in the field, declaring that they had acquired “quantum supremacy”. Google says it has been able to solve problems that ordinary machines cannot solve within a reasonable time frame with quantum computers. Google Quantum Computer, located in a research lab near Santa Barbara, California, takes more than 10,000 years to complete in 3 minutes and 20 seconds, the researchers said.
Although some progress has been made in proving the potential of quantum computing, the fact is that many of the calculations now performed in the lab can be done faster than traditional computers.
Microsoft has been investing in research in this area for decades and said in 2016 that it had begun construction of quantum computers. But Microsoft restructured the project after missing an internal deadline to build a working machine in 2018.
Todd Holmdahl, a senior Microsoft executive, has worked for Xbox Gaming Platform and Hololens augmented reality glasses. Since the founding of the Quantum Computing Division, he has led the company’s quantum computing research. Holmdahl resigned last year after missing a deadline. Holmdahl declined to comment on his departure, saying only that he had retired.
Microsoft says it has demonstrated the ability to perform quantum computing and will continue to pursue computer designs that it considers to be practical. Microsoft says the quantum computing team is now reporting to Rani Borkar, the company’s vice president. Boca is a veteran of the chip industry and has worked at Intel and IBM.
Intel last month released a chip designed to help speed up quantum processing technology. The company says it could take years to produce a quantum computer that is better than conventional computers today.
“It’s too optimistic to say what actual products are going to be in the next two years,” said Jim Clarke, head of quantum hardware at Intel Labs, Intel’s research arm. “But there are a lot of things we can do in the next decade. “
IBM, which also has a long history of quantum computer research, said last month that “it is still in its early stages for one of the most promising technologies of the future.” “
Other companies are more optimistic. “We are only one step away from valuable short-term applications, ” Google researchers said in their paper on quantum supremacy.
But even google’s quantum supremacy has no clear definition. A traditional computer can do the same thing more accurately in two and a half days, IBM researchers said in a blog post. IBM says that while computing is slower than quantum computers, it is not enough to prove that Google has acquired “quantum supremacy”.
In recent years, technology companies and investors have invested heavily in quantum computing. According to the scientific journal Nature, the field of quantum computing attracted at least $450 million in private investment between 2017 and 2018.
One of the hottest start-ups is Rigetti Computing in Berkeley, California. Since Chad Rigetti founded the company in 2013, it has attracted $120m. But people familiar with the start-up say the company’s promises have failed.
Several executives, including chief technology officer and chief operating officer, left last year, according to two former executives. More than 50 rigetti employees have left in the past year, according to LinkedIn and a former executive. Two former executives said their departures were partly due to concerns that Rigetti’s technology was not commercially viable within a reasonable time frame.
The company has also failed to meet its original target and has recently struggled to raise more money to fund the next step in the development of quantum computers, two former executives said.
Despite the turnover, a rigetti spokesman said the company’s workforce rose 18 percent last year, in part because it bought QxBranch, a quantum computing software company, in July. She said the company raised a lot of money last year, and the company’s engineering roadmap includes plans to expand the processing power of quantum computers.
The industry’s woes have not scared off Amazon. In December, Amazon said it was working on an academic collaboration on quantum technology. It has also begun experimenting with quantum computing by offering devices to customers using its cloud services, which come from several start-ups.
Late last year, Microsoft also said it would provide access to quantum processors through Azure Cloud. But the company says it is not providing its own hardware, but plans to sell quantum computer access to Honeywell and start-up IonQ.
Jim McGregor, founder of Tirias Research, a Phoenix-based chip research firm, says quantum computing has commercial use cases. But he added that companies investing in the sector were facing a reshuffle. “A lot of people who are committed to this don’t live,” he said.