Quantum Computing - 73 companies that are changing the computing landscape
Very few understand how quantum computing actually works, but it is poised to upend entire industries like cybersecurity, healthcare, finance, material science, advanced manufacturing, and more.
Quantum Computing could change the world with its advanced processing power and its ability to handle an unlimited number of variables. But,
How exactly does it work?
What does the quantum landscape look like?
Which industry needs it the most?
What does the future hold?
What is quantum computing & how does it work?
Quantum Computers are more efficient than classical computers in processing massive and complex datasets by relying on the fundamentals of quantum mechanics.
To clearly understand how quantum computers work, we need to look at how classical computers work.
Classical computing uses transistors to store bits of information called classical bits. These basic units of information get stored in transistors. Basically, these are electronic on/off switches in transistors embedded in microchips. More transistors on the chip, faster the computer becomes at processing electronic signals.
Gordon Moore, Intel co-founder, in 1965, observed that the number of transistors per square inch in a microchip had doubled every year while the costs were cut in half. This means the computers got smaller and computing power got faster over time to the point where it is physically impossible to add more transistors to a microchip.
To reap the benefits of exponential growth, we need to find a fundamentally new way to process information, and that’s where Quantum computers come in.
Quantum computers offer a huge efficiency advantage or certain types of computations than today’s computers. Quantum computers are really good at solving problems that require finding the best combination of variables and solutions which are often called optimization problems.
Optimization problems are prevalent across industries from software design, logistics, finance, web search, genomics, and more.
While traditional computers use classical bits, these Quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits.
Unlike Classical bits which can exist only in 0 or 1 state, qubits can exist in any value from 0 to 1 and can hold the properties of both the states simultaneously.
By harnessing the two naturally occurring quantum phenomena (Superposition and entanglement), these next-gen computers can perform immense complex computations.
Right now, the most advanced quantum computer chips can make use of 19 qubits, and it is under development by Berkeley based startup Rigetti Computing. Rigetti announced plans to build 128 qubit quantum chips by the end of this year. However, the race to build most qubits started in the 1990s.
Now that we have a decent idea of Quantum computing let us look at the types of these quantum computers.
Three types of Quantum Computers
Based on qubits, the need for processing power and commercial viability, we can put these quantum computers into three buckets.
These Quantum Annealing best suited for solving optimization problems like the flow of air over an aircraft wings, or optimizing the traffic flows in the streets of Mumbai. Traditional computers would take a few thousand years to compute the optimism solution for these problems. But Quantum Annealing is the least powerful and narrow application of quantum computing, and our traditional supercomputers are on par with quantum annealing machines.
Simulation or Analog Machines
These machines can solve problems that are beyond traditional supercomputers like modeling like simulating a chemical reaction, Simulating a protein fold (one of the toughest biochemistry problems) to help advance designer drug testing, Material Science and more.
General Purpose Quantum Computers
Most powerful and the hardest to build. Ideal general-purpose quantum computers need about a million qubits, and right now we are trying to reach to 128 qubits.
This type of quantum computers, when built, can compute any massively complex datasets and come up with a quick solution (including the annealing equations and simulations).
Right now, researchers are designing algorithms that can work with these computers. Some well-known algorithms are Shor’s algorithm (for advanced code breaking) and Grover’s algorithm (for searching massive unstructured sets of data like internet searching and so on). Currently, there are 50+ unique algorithms developed for these general-purpose quantum computers. Some of these algorithms can be used as building blocks for quantum AI when the hardware catches up.
What is the Quantum Computing Landscape look like?
There are 76 companies in this industry, and some of them were able to raise about $50M to $100M, and this means, despite the hype, the industry is still nascent.
Four companies account for about 70% of the industry’s total funding since 2013
Silicon Quantum Computing
Cambridge Quantum Computing.
But the number of deals has increased from 7 deals in 2013 to 24 deals in 2018.
Mainstream VCs and corporations are already investing in private quantum computing companies, and some of them are
In Jan 2019, IBM announced its first commercial quantum computer at the CES and the IBM Q uses both classical and quantum components with 20 qubits of processing capability. Microsoft, HP, Intel are also in the industry along with consulting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton, Raytheon, to name a few.
Apart from these investments and corporate ventures, China and USA are collaborating with their premier institutes to build their own quantum computers for defense-related projects, material research and more.
Now, let's look at the companies the quantum space. To clearly map this landscape, I’ve segmented this space into these eight buckets.
Hardware - These are startups that are building hardware components for quantum machines. Startups like IonQ, Optalysys, Photon Spot, ColdQuanta, and Qubitekk are developing and manufacturing hardware that is needed to build and maintain a quantum computing.
Software - From developing tools for software engineers to build Quantum applications. Firmware framework, Quantum simulation software to the quantum algorithm that can help interface with the advanced computers. Horizon Quantum, Strangeworks, Quantum Benchmark, QuantumWise, QuSoft, Artiste QB Net, and 1QBit are some of the most interesting companies in this segment.
Building Quantum Computers - These are hardware manufacturers who are building full-stack quantum computers. Companies like Oxford Quantum, IonQ, Optalysys, Rigetti Computing, D-Wave Systems, Turing Quantum, Alpine Quantum Technologies are working towards either Quantum Simulation machines or Full-stack general-purpose quantum computers.
Optical Quantum Computing - These are companies which develop high-speed photon detectors that will enable next-generation experiments in quantum optics, optical quantum computation, single-photon communication, low-flux biophotonics, and remote sensing. Sparrow Quantum, Fathom Computing, Single Quantum, and Quantum Opus are few key players in this segment.
Circuits - Circuits one of the key components in Quantum Computers and companies like BraneCell develops near ambient-temperature quantum computing architecture that make Quantum computers commercially viable. Other companies like QuTel, Oxford Quantum Circuits, Silicon Quantum Computing, and Quantum Circuits, Inc. are working on similar technology.
What does the future hold?
As the cost comes down and more players come into the industry, we will see more quantum computing applications across industries. Right now, these are some of the industries that could benefit from Quantum Computing.
Cybersecurity - Today, we use cryptographic methods to store and secure our data. But Quantum computers can easily break these codes. With Quantum Encryption, we can secure and distribute sensitive information with entangled particles. When you measure a quantum system, the act of measuring disturbs the system. So, anyone intercepts these quantum entangled particles, it will show immediately reveal the correspondence breach.
Healthcare - Designer drugs and personalized medicines by using the advancements in genomics are some of the things that classical computers can’t handle. However, a quantum computer could assemble and sort through all possible gene variants at the same time and instantly find all nucleotide pairs, making the whole process of genome sequencing exponentially shorter.
Finance - Quantum computers can help eliminate data blind spots and prevent unfounded financial assumptions from creating losses. Apart from these, quantum computers can help with complex optimization problems like portfolio risk optimization and fraud detection.
Looking ahead, Quantum computers can train AI better than most classical computers, and this could advance complex tech like voice recognition, machine translation, advanced computer vision, and so on.
This industry is developing fast, and experts agree that by 2030, we could see quantum computers outpace classical counterparts. However, there are some serious technical barriers like stable hardware, software development, and distribution platforms that need to materialize before achieving its potential.