This article will help you learn a portion of the quantum computing ecosystem, the hardware providers. Helpful if you want to to decide whether to invest your time or resources into quantum computing.
We just completed our update of the full quantum computing provider marketplace (02/7/2020 update of original 11/04/2019 report). We published the full report here on our website and maintain a YouTube playlist of videos where we walk through it. Access is free.
Who are the top 12 quantum computing hardware providers that have demonstrated functioning quantum computers? First, are there really 12? That seems like a large number. Can they be broken into logical categories that are easy to remember? Yes.
Simulators (1): Many firms make software-based quantum simulators. These are used to help you learn, and to code and test your program before running it on actual quantum computers. For some problems, this is good enough to provide quantum advantage. A few firms combine simulators with access to cloud computing resources or supercomputers to offer high performance computing solutions. One firm, Atos / Bull, specializes in offering a full stack universal, gate-based simulator along with memory-configured server hardware that you purchase and install in your data center. Their system creates no quantum errors and can serve as a benchmark against some of today’s small and mid-sized quantum computers.
Annealers (3): These systems are either quantum annealers using thousands of superconducting qubits, or quantum inspired annealing systems that are used for specific types of calculations called quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO) or Ising model calculations. These are used primarily for process optimization, or with our firm’s first use case, portfolio optimization. If a problem can be constructed properly (think John Nash’s properly structured games in game theory), this system can theoretically find a single, optimal solution. It looks for the needle in the haystack not by crawling through the hayloft and searching the hay in sequence, but by looking at all the hay at the same time. This somewhat analog system looks for the answer with the lowest energy level, which is the best solution it can find. D-Wave Systems and Fujitsu Ltd. have been making and selling these systems for a while and have shipped hardware to clients. NTT Phi Laboratories, from Japan, is a relative newcomer.
Universal, Gate-based (8): These firms make quantum computers that should be able to solve many types of business and scientific problems. They are more versatile than annealers. They use a language of computer operations that are different than classical processors and are specific to quantum qubits. With a new language, new processing capabilities, and larger search spaces available with quantum computers, we see significant opportunities and potential to solve new problem types. This will be true as the capacity, reliability, accuracy and serviceability of these universal systems improves. In one experiment by Google AI using their Sycamore, 53 qubit quantum computer, they created a program that can be run in a few minutes that would take years on a large supercomputer.
Who are those universal firms with functioning computers?
- Alibaba Cloud (or Aliyun) with the Chinese Academy of Sciences
- AQT (GmbH)
- Google AI
- Honeywell Quantum Solutions
- IBM Research
- Rigetti Computing
Of the overall 12 quantum computing firms, they are based in Austria, Canada, China, France, Japan, and the United States.
Another category of quantum computing hardware providers are the startups that have raised capital to build systems, but have not yet demonstrated them. Some of these are in ‘secret’ mode, and it is difficult to find publicly available information about them. Here is our list:
In our research, we have found 13 firms that make either hardware components used to manufacture quantum computers (e.g., QPUs, dilution refrigerators, or lasers), or that make specific solutions that are based on quantum physics (e.g., Quantum Key Distribution).
One provider of note is Intel Corporation, which is working on creating quantum processing units (QPU) and the ‘motherboard’ that houses it. They are working with a global, academic research team to build a scalable processor architecture.
This is a growing ecosystem of quantum computing component providers.
When we look at the technologies being researched to create quantum computers, or to drive the key components, we see five technologies that we will list here: 1/ Superconducting circuits, 2/ Ion traps of identical, charged atoms, 3/ Photon-based systems, 4/ Neutral atoms, and 5/ CMOS systems. These have different performance and scalability characteristics. Most functioning systems are in the first three categories, and we see significant start-up investment in the last two categories.
A final point is that the industry is split between very large, well capitalized firms (USD $100B to $1T) and very small, venture capital or even SBIR-type government research funded firms. We predict that as small firms achieve breakthroughs they will be acquired by larger firms.
Thank you for reading.
For more information, please contact the author Jeffrey Cohen at Chicago Quantum, a division of US Advanced Computing Infrastructure, Inc. We help clients achieve quantum advantage by creating their own quantum computing use case.
Conflict of Interest Statement: We receive no compensation for writing this report or article, except for the compensation we receive from Medium.