According to Morgan Stanley’s tech experts, out of 11 companies set to lead the “quantum” leap, Google, Microsoft, IBM and Nokia Bell Labs have the best roadmaps.
Since the 1980s, when the concept was first imagined, quantum computers have come a long way. They are slowly getting out of the labs and into business reality.
For a long time “quantum computing” remained a pipedream, comparable to nuclear fusion in the field of energy, but things are changing, and quickly, too, as the largest and most influential corporations take aim.
The development of quantum computers has experienced a serious boost since tech giants entered the race.
Now, quantum computing is becoming a reality and all the ingredients seem to be gathered for a quantum-driven 4th industrial revolution.IBM, Google, and Microsoft are leading the quantum computing charge.Click To Tweet
Last August, Morgan Stanley Research issued a 32-page note to clients where it says that, over the next decade, quantum computing will have far-reaching impacts on several industries from oil & gas and utilities to medicine to finance, aerospace, defense, AI, and Big Data (which underlies every industry).
Morgan Stanley analysts predict the high-end quantum computing market (estimated by IBM to be currently $5-6 billion a year) to almost double, reaching $10 billion USD a year by 2025.
The research says that 11 companies have the best quantum-related roadmaps, including tech big names, aerospace companies and defense contractors, as well as other smaller startups.
All of them are actively contributing to the quantum “inflection point’, with IBM, Google, Microsoft and Nokia Bell Labs currently running the quantum show.
In what it calls an “industry-first initiative”, IBM has launched its IBM Q as an attempt to build commercial quantum computers for business and science.
In 2016, IBM has made this quantum platform accessible to researchers and developers around the world.
Then, last May, the platform was updated to have at its core a 17 qubit processor, with Beta access (IBM Q Experience) and SDK (Github). To date, about 300,000 quantum experiments have been run by developers on IBM’s quantum cloud.
This is only a start. IBM is working to build a computer with a power of at least 50 qubits in the years to come.
2. Google (Alphabet)
As it stands, Google’s quantum power surpasses that of IBM.
In 2013, Google invested in D-Wave, a company specializing in quantum computers (more on this Canadian start-up below). For its partnership with NASA (QuAIL), the U.S. space agency has upgraded to the latest D-Wave 2000Q.
Google already had a 9-qubit processor in 2015, during which it was also testing a 20-qubit processor.
Last month, Google, in collaboration with researchers from University of California Santa Barbara, demonstrated a proof-of-concept 50-qubit quantum computer, suggesting that their “quantum supremacy” is around the corner.
Back in 2005, Microsoft launched its “Station Q”, a research lab focused on topological quantum computing, but whose progress remained unknown for years.
Now, the firm seems to be moving its “quantum” pawns, showing fruits of its over a decade-long efforts in the field.
This last Sept. 25th, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the launch of a new coding language and computing simulators for quantum computing.
This programming language and simulators will be available later this year.
4. Nokia Bell Labs
Nokia is making a big comeback, and not only in the mobile market. Perhaps it’s a surprise that Nokia would figure on this list at all, let alone be garnering a top spot as a shoo-in for the quantum revolution.
Based in Murray Hill, New Jersey, Nokia Bell Labs is a research company, now owned by Finnish Nokia Group, that specializes in IT products and services. The lab is a leading the way for research on topological quantum computational qubits that would enable more robust quantum computers.
“… the Bell Labs, said Morgan Stanley in the report, have an aggressive roadmap for 2017 for delivering working gates (functions) around already working qubits…”
At present, and since 2010, D-Wave Systems is the only company producing and selling commercial quantum computers.
However D-Wave computers are not yet programmable, and so they can only be used for specific purposes, such as optimization, sampling, anomaly detection, and image analysis.
Although not a universal quantum computer, D-Wave systems, sold at over $10 million USD per unit, currently has the largest claimed number of qubits in its processor at 2,048 qubits.
Smaller startups, like Rigetti, are also contributing to the quantum revolution.
Founded in 2014, Rigetti is a California-based private company specialized in quantum hardware and software that says it’s “on a mission to build the world’s most powerful computer”.
Last June, Rigetti announced its 8-qubit chip and a software environment, called Forest.
Rigetti’s quantum roadmap, which earned a spot on the list, includes a chip with over 50 qubits expected for the next year.
Airbus Group won’t make its own quantum computers, rather it seeks to use existing systems to tackle some problems inherent to its activity: data storage and sorting, satellites imagery analysis, and the development of new materials for its aircraft.
In 2015, according to CBInsight, Airbus has established a research team, tasked with the study of potential applications of quantum technologies.
8. Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin has started exploring the potential of quantum computing early on.
In fact, Lockheed has partnered with D-Wave since its launch and was its first client ever, acquiring D-Wave One system in late 2010. Then, in 2013, it upgraded its system to the 512-qubit D-Wave Two, and once again, in 2015, to the 1000+ qubit D-Wave 2X.
Lockheed has partnered with at the University of Southern California, to create the QCC (USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computation Center), where the D-Wave quantum system is being used to explore “adiabatic quantum computing”.
The second defense contractor on the list, Raytheon is also working to put quantum tech to good use, from computers and sensors to imaging technology and cybersecurity.
BBN Technologies, a research subsidiary of Raytheon, in a joint effort with IBM Research have demonstrated last may the first proofs of quantum computing advantage over conventional computing.
According to Morgan Stanley, Amgen is conducting its own quantum computing experiments.
Amgen Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, would be naturally interested in using quantum computers for molecular simulations.
IBM has recently shown the potential of quantum-based computational chemistry with the record-breaking simulation of the BeH2 molecule (beryllium hydride).
Another entry in Pharma and last on the list comes Biogen, that, just like Amgen, is also exploring quantum tech for chemical simulations.
As a leading biotech company, Biogen is seeking to advance the development of new drugs for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.
Last June, it was announced that Biogen has teamed up with Accenture Labs and 1QBit, a quantum software startup, to speed up the discovery of new drugs.