Quantum Tech for executives and investors
For the past 24 hours I've been trying to overcome my anxiety of being a day late with my next newsletter, when, all the sudden, my phone started ringing and the news breaking. Honeywell finally had announced its long-rumored quantum computer.
In our long take we discuss what the Honeywell announcement means. In our news section we talk about Honeywell. And in the fan favorite SciFi section we talk about what the future might look like in a Honeywell provoked quantum future. Praise Honeywell!
Maybe Honeywell’s most successful and well known product to date - a thermostat
The long take
Honeywell just announced its Quantum Computing service to go live in 3 months, for the first time going official with their quantum efforts and sharing details of its status that many have been waiting for impatiently.
And those details are stunning.
Honeywell announced a 4 qubit Quantum Computer. That's right. 4 qubits. The real breakthrough is that Honeywell, unlike IBM, Google and many other full stack hardware providers uses the so-called trapped ion modality Trapped ions, so far, had not been proven in any significant hardware since they pose very specific challenges - scaling of trapped ion systems has been considered very difficult at best. And gate speeds are much lower than superconducting systems.
Trapped ions also offer a lot of advantages that, until today, were only theoretical. It improves computing power with better connections among qubits and with calculations that can last longer before qubits get perturbed and have to be reset. Honeywell's machines can also easily add qubits for greater computing capability and solve the scaling issue.
Another advantage of this approach is that trapped ions are less of a committed relationship than other quantum computing modalities and allow you to sort of change your mind halfway through a computation, thus improving your odds of obtaining a meaningful result.
“We can stop the calculation, take one qubit, ask ‘what are you right now, are you a 1 or a 0?’ and change the rest of the calculation based on that answer,” says Uttley. “It’s like putting an ‘if’ statement in an algorithm, and it’s something that’s unique to us.”
“One can easily imagine situations where mid-circuit measurements would extend what one is able to do,” says Aaronson, at least in the near-term. “Mid-circuit measurements also play a central role in the proposals for how to someday achieve quantum error-correction,” he says, which is the next major milestone in the growing field of quantum computing.
A tweet from this morning by Professor Wilhelm Mauch, one of the leading global Quantum Scientists, demanding better qubits rather than just more of them
Most importantly Honeywell focuses on the quantum volume measure popularized by IBM, which doesn't just consider cubic count but also takes into account the quality and durability of these qubits, making it an essential measure to assess the true performance of a quantum computer. IBM's largest quantum computer so far achieves a quantum volume of 16. Google does not measure quantum volume but one can assume that their supremacy breaking quantum computer has a quantum volume better than what IBM has achieved so far but not by much. The new Honeywell machine delivers a quantum volume of 64.
Unlike in classical computing where each additional unit of computation delivers a linear improvement in performance, a quantum computer delivers exponential improvements in performance with each additional unit of performance. Honeywell also claims that they will be able to increase quantum volume tenfold within 5 years, which is likely to make the most complex of computations possible as it equates a performance improvement by a factor of 100,000.
This means that if a quantum volume of 64 is indeed validated the ramifications for useful applications of this new Honeywell machine cannot be overestimated. We might be witnessing the true quantum supremacy that we all have been looking for.
So far this is nothing but an announcement by Honeywell and since we strive to stick to facts and data at IA we need to caution our own words and urge patience, despite our own excitement. However, we know several reputable institutions that have already tested this computer and confirm its performance. Furthermore, Honeywell isn't exactly a crazy, break everything style Silicon Valley tech company but rather a conservative industrial conglomerate known for solid products with a commercial purpose.
For executives this means you should start to panic and call an emergency meeting, corona virus or not. If your industry is affected by the potential applications of quantum computing, and it is, it is time to start planning aggressively. When the Honeywell quantum computer goes live, assuming it delivers on its bold claims, it is very possible that the first commercial applications might emerge rapidly. Another reason to panic is that you are not currently part of the unofficial quantum club - members of this club have had suspicions, maybe even glances of this supreme hardware for weeks or even months already. Algorithms have been run on it, results delivered and reviewed. By the time it hits commercial release and you start using it, you will already be a follower in a quantum world that might only have room for winners.
For investors this means you need to control your urges to jump all over quantum now. Yes, this is an exciting development and a potential breakthrough. However, this is a unique achievement by what might now be called the leading quantum computing group in the industry. This does not mean that other companies, vendors and providers will be able to mimic this breakthrough and all the sudden achieve a commercial path to success. In fact, nothing much has changed for the rest of the ecosystem with a couple exceptions (see below). Caution and a data-driven approach remains as important as ever to source and assess deals in the quantum realm.
For Quantum Executives
There is a lot of relevant news emerging over the last week, we will catch you up on it next week as this week is fully dedicated to the new overlords at Honeywell.
And JP Morgan, a partner in the launch of the Honeywell system that has a stated purpose of delivering commercial applications within Financial Services, amongst others. We know for a fact that the quantum group at JPM is very strong, very focused and aiming very (very) high - with this type of new hardware, they might be able to make quantum dreams come true. For the competition, and you as an executive, this means you need to understand what goals a group like JPM might have, how they could implement it with Honeywell and how you can emulate and compete with it. Then transfer this to other industries, because chemicals, material science, machine learning groups and many others are on the same path, far ahead of you.
Interestingly, Microsoft, also joined into the Honeywell announcement saying that this new Quantum Computer will become available on the Azure cloud alongside classical resources. A tremendous new competitor to other quantum cloud offerings, a great path to market for Honeywell, and an amazing new tool for Microsoft, who is working on its own quantum dream machine.
For Quantum Investors
There have been a couple other investments over the past week but, again, we want to focus on Honeywell as they also announced two investments with potentially important commercial ramifications.
Why? To leverage both their expertise in use cases and quantum software as well as other Quantum Information Science applications that might round out an offering portfolio to potential customers. Both, CQC and Zapata are leaders in their respective fields and can bring a lot of solutions and track record to this new hardware and its ecosystem.
This is a huge validation for both companies as their technologies, research and teams have had to endure tremendous due diligence by the best in the business for the past few weeks. Honeywell is ready to go all out with a full solution play rather than a purely scientific hardware breakthrough. They clearly signal with this investment that they are ready to talk to customers and aim to deliver real commercial solutions. Investors who can figure out who else in the ecosystem fits onto this platform have a tremendous opportunity.
The SciFi corner
Imagine science fiction becoming reality, maybe the scariest of all SciFi stories ever. New materials to build anything, no more diseases, universal income and wealth for all, peace and a healthy environment globally.
A distant dream for sure but take 5 minutes out of your day today and try to imagine what it could be like… then get back to work.