Will there be a Quantum winter?

A season to regenerate and for the prepared ones to strive

Quantum Information Science for executives and investors

We are one month into 2020, which, we believe, will be a pivotal year for Quantum Computing. We have a long take on the start of the year, a short take on a few news items and, of course, the fan favorite SciFi corner.

A graphic by Sandia National Laboratories visualizing the state of a Qubit.


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The long take

A recent post of mine on LinkedIn mentioning the infamous “Quantum winter” received an interesting comment by a data scientist. He innocently asked if there ever was a quantum summer?

I found this most intriguing and responded that yes there was at least a mild quantum summer, with startups that sometimes do not have more than some research commanding seven if not eight digit dollar valuations, many Fortune 500 companies showing up at conferences touting their quantum achievements and all the large vendors fighting each other with supreme press releases.

So is there truly a quantum winter coming? Maybe. To me, what is more interesting, after dozens and dozens of conversations during the first months of 2020, is the fact that a certain “quantum fatigue” seems to have set in. You have vendors large and small trying to prepare NISQ era machines for usable applications. On the other side you have potential clients, concerned with disruption or innovation, failing to see results from their sometimes onerous and long-term agreements with some of these vendors. And in the middle of it all an investor community that has been forcing down rounds, meaning additional fundraises at a lower valuation than the previous round, onto startups. This typically is a strong sign of skepticism and a downturn to come.

The major lesson from all the conversations I've had in the first month of this year, is that most companies potentially impacted by quantum computing and other quantum information science applications currently do not see the urgency of moving forward with large expensive programs. The results of the last 2 to 4 years of investing, experimenting and trying to commercialize quantum use cases without any tangible results has led to a certain quantum fatigue across the board. Sure, in the press you continue to hear about companies investing into quantum and that is certainly true. JP Morgan just made a splash by hiring a high-profile scientist and inventor from IBM. Goldman Sachs, a large Wall Street rival, hired the former head of product from Rigetti, arguably the most famous quantum computing startup, to join their team. You also still see the same usual suspects from large automobile or insurance companies making the rounds of the conference circuit and spreading their internal quantum grandeur.

But when you dig deeper and speak to these teams you notice one of two things. First, they either have sufficient ambitions and resources as not to be concerned with the short term and are building an infrastructure and culture for the long term to succeed in quantum information science and its potential applications. Second, you see companies using it as a PR strategy to celebrate their new technology skills and expertise and, thus, distract from other challenges that the company and their relevant industry is potentially facing.

As we move into the second month of 2018 what is the lesson from all of this? It's simple, quantum computing is increasingly following the usual technology adoption and maturity curve. One might argue that we're currently entering the trough of disillusionment and that is an awesome thing. It will lead to a shake out in the industry, realign commercial and industrial resources towards truly useful and profitable applications and use cases. And clean out the hype and bullshit in an industry increasingly crowded by pseudo experts, consultants and other vultures.

lies ahead in 2020 as some companies will stand out through their sheer quality and accomplishments and be able to confirm their growth curves. And others will fall prey to consolidation in the market. The ability to bet on the right horse in this environment will lead to significant and timely returns for the smart well-informed investor.

. There will be no easy way to justify an investment into quantum computing for any company, as use cases that are practical and offer bottom line impact remain far in the future. Yet, the argument that quantum computing will be a paradigm shift, and that you need to start today to build your skills, culture and team remains more valid than ever. Additionally, use cases such as quantum key distribution, quantum communications or quantum sensing continue to have an increasingly imminent timeline and application. As a senior executive, this means you need to equip yourself with the data, partners and vision to build a long-term program within your company.

Contact us if you are interested to learn more about Quantum Key Distribution and how Quantum might break current encryption standards

For quantum executives

News from January

You've heard about qubit count or the raw power of a quantum computer. Equally important, though, is how to manufacture and scale the production of these qubits, once research has advanced on their coherence and error correction. Other applications, such as QKD, increasingly see industrialization of their technologies, even though many of these are yet untested.

The blockchain community has been in uproar last year about the threat of quantum breaking their encryption. Truth is, that this is becoming a matter of national security that goes well beyond blockchain and is affecting all types of public and private encryption to a point where new countries such as India or Germany make new, large commitments to the technology.

Quantum Sensing is an underreported field within QIS that is showing initial commercial applications. This follows significant investments into the research and implementation of Quantum Communications infrastructure, such as in China, another imminent QIS application.

For quantum investors

News from January

We are aware of only one investment in January, which goes to Xanadu for their efforts to develop photonic QCs.

While investors and industry might have some quantum fatigue, even though some still stir the pot, research is powering onward with new labs at Princeton, new government grants and private funding.

The SciFi corner... just for fun!

Recently the theory of Quantum Darwinism is gaining increasing popularity amongst certain Quantum fans.

One of the most remarkable ideas in this theoretical framework is that the definite properties of objects that we associate with classical physics — position and speed, say — are selected from a menu of quantum possibilities in a process loosely analogous to natural selection in evolution. In other words, physics too might be survival of the fittest.

Three experiments have vetted quantum Darwinism, a theory that explains how quantum possibilities can give rise to objective, classical reality.

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- Quantum Computing, non technical introduction LINK
- NYC QC ecosystem overview LINK
- The Quantum Computing vendor quadrant LINK
- QIS landscape report LINK
- QIS cognitive market analysis LINK