Speedy Qubits Lead the Quantum Evolution


There are a few defining moments of innovation that we can point to that changed the future. The first automobile in 1769, the first flight in 1903, the invention of the transistor in 1947…each one of these moments started a revolution leading to new technology that shaped the daily lives of people across the globe.

Today, we see quantum computing as that next big moment.

“Computationally, quantum computing is the equivalent of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk,” said Greg Tallant, Manager at Lockheed Martin. “It has the potential to be a turning point in our history."

Nearly everything around us, from cars and airplanes to smartphones and watches, has software. These systems are becoming increasingly complex with high stakes. Debugging millions of lines of code for these systems is a big data problem, which could cost big bucks.

“The development of any large computer system integration initiative involves a lot of software, and validating the performance of that software is vital,” said Brad Pietras, Vice President of Technology at Lockheed Martin. “Quantum computing can revolutionize the way in which we do business, providing affordability and agility to our core customers and countless other applications, from drug discovery to investment and health care.”

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing has potential to solve challenges ranging from designing new lifesaving drugs to instantaneously debugging millions of lines of software code.

Speedy Qubits Test Everything, Simultaneously
The quantum computer is not a general-purpose computer. The performance gain is within exceedingly complex computation problems.

“With quantum computing it's not that we can solve problems that we cannot solve classically, it's just that we can solve things faster,” said Daniel Lidar, Scientific and Technical Director at the University of Southern California Lockheed Martin Quantum Computation Center. “Sometimes problems that are impractical to solve on classical computers become practical on quantum computers."

Quantum computers "exploit the counterintuitive fact that photons or trapped atoms can exist in multiple states or 'superpositions' at the same time"[1] to solve complex problems.

For those of you left scratching your heads, what it boils down to is this:

People think and process information in a straight forward manner, one step at a time, one possibility at a time. Computers “think” in zeroes and ones, also known as bits. This is what limits the traditional computer to check only one answer at a time. Like people, a computer must serially process and test every possible input combination.

By comparison, the quantum computer can simultaneously test all possible combinations because it is not limited to just zeroes and ones. Quantum bits, or qubits, can be both zero and one and all of the points in between, all at once. Running an algorithm is like trying out all the possible steps at the same time, combining them in a unique way that generates the correct answer to the problem.

D-Wave 512 qubit processor

D-Wave 512 qubit processor

Quadruple the Qubits
A joint effort of Lockheed Martin Corporation and the University of Southern California, the Quantum Computation Center (QCC) first began exploring the power of quantum computing with the D-Wave One, the world's first quantum computer designed by the company, D-Wave Systems, Inc.  

The QCC recently upgraded to the D-Wave Two, a more accurate machine than the D-Wave One, designed with 512 qubits instead of 128. The D-Wave Two is the largest programmable quantum information processor built.

“Quantum computing has the potential to help solve some of the most complex technical, commercial and scientific problems that we face,” said Bo Ewald, President of D-Wave Systems U.S. “The QCC is a perfect example of industry and science coming together to advance our knowledge and quantum capabilities, pushing the boundaries of information science and technology.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17688257

October 28, 2013