In a bid to accelerate this countrys efforts in quantum computing, 24 Canadian hardware and software companies specializing in the field are launching an association this week to help their work get commercialized.
Called Quantum Industry Canada, the group says they represent Canadas most commercial-ready technologies, covering applications in quantum computing, sensing, communications, and quantum-safe cryptography.
The group includes Burnaby, B.C., manufacturer D-Wave Systems, Vancouver software developer 1Qbit, Torontos photonic quantum computer maker Xanadu Quantum Technologies, the Canadian division of software maker Zapata Computing, Waterloo, Ont.,-based ISARA which makes quantum-safe solutions and others.
The quantum opportunity has been brewing for many years, association co-chair Michele Mosca of the University of Waterloos Institute for Quantum Computing and the co-founder of two quantum startups, said in an interview, explaining why the new group is starting now. Canadas been a global leader at building up the global opportunity, the science, the workforce, and we didnt want this chance to pass. Weve got over 24 innovative companies, and we wanted to work together to make these companies a commercial success globally.
Its also important to get Canada known as a leader in quantum-related products and services, he added. This will help assure a strong domestic quantum industry as we enter the final stages of quantum readiness.
And while quantum computing is a fundamental new tool, Mosca said, its also important for Canadian organizations to start planning for a quantum computing future, even if the real business value isnt obvious. We dont know exactly when youll get the real business advantage you want to be ready for when quantum computers can give you an advantage.
Adib Ghubril, research director at Toronto-based Info-Tech Research Group, said in an interview creation of such a group is needed. When you want to foster innovation you want to gain critical mass, a certain number of people working in different disciplines it will help motivate them, even maybe compete.
Researchers from startups and even giants like Google, Microsoft, Honeywell and IBM have been throwing billions at creating quantum computers. So are countries, especially China, but also Australia, the U.K., Germany and Switzerland. Many big-name firms are touting projects with experimental equipment, or hybrid hardware that does accelerated computations but dont meet the standard definition of a quantum computer.
True quantum computers may be a decade off, some suggest. Ghubril thinks were 15 years from what he calls reliable, effective quantum computing. Still, last December IDC predicted that by 2023, one-quarter of the Fortune Global 500 will gain a competitive advantage from emerging quantum computing solutions.
Among the recent signposts:
Briefly, quantum computers take the theory of quantum mechanics to change the world of traditional computation of bits represented by zeros and ones. Instead, a bit can be a zero or a one. In a quantum computer, such basic elements are called qubits. With their expected ability to do astonishing fast computations, quantum computers may be able to help pharmaceutical companies create new drugs and nation-states to break encryption protecting government secrets.
Companies are taking different approaches. D-Wave uses a quantum annealing process to make machines it says are suited to solving real-world computing problems today. Xanadu uses what Mosca calls a more circuit-type computing architecture. Theres certainly the potential that some of the nearer-term technologies will offer businesses advantage, especially as they scale.
We know the road towards a full-fledged quantum computer is long. But there are amazing milestones in that direction.
Ghubril says Canada is in the leading pack of countries working on quantum computing. The momentum out of China is enormous, he said, but it looks like the country will focus on using quantum for telecommunications and not business solutions.
From his point of view companies are taking two approaches to quantum computers. Some, like D-Wave, are trying to use quantum ideas to optimize solving modelling problems. The problem is not every problem is an optimization problem, he said. Other companies are trying for the Grand Poobah the real (quantum) computer. So the IBMs of the world are going for the gusto. They want the real deal. They want to solve the material chemistry and biosynthesis and so on. Theyve gone big, but by doing so theyve gone slower. You cant do much on the IBM platform. You can learn a lot, but you cant do much. You can do more on a D-Wave, but you can only do one thing.
Ghburil encourages companies to dabble in the emerging technology.
Thats Infotechs recommendation: Just learn about it. Join a forum, open an account, try a few things. Nobody is going to gain a (financial) competitive advantage. Its a learning advantage.
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