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India has an appetite for quantum tech

NEW DELHI : D-Wave Systems Inc. is the only company in the world to build both quantum gates and quantum annealing computers. In an interview, Murray Thom, vice president, product management, D-Wave, explains why the company is into building quantum gate models, and shares his thoughts on when we may see quantum supremacy. Thom, who has led teams engaged in customer projects related to algorithms, and performance testing, also spoke about how India fares in this space. In his earlier roles at D-Wave, he was responsible for the development and delivery of the Leap quantum cloud service and Python-based Ocean open-source tools. Edited excerpts:


How much progress has D-Wave made with its Leap quantum cloud service? Can you share some adoption numbers for India?

We launched Leap in October 2018, but provided access to users in India in 2020. With over 25,000 users, India is the third-highest country in terms of LEAP sign-ups since the launch. The number of people accessing quantum computers in the cloud through Leap from India has increased by 58% since January 2021. India is a leading country in terms of software development expertise. It has an appetite for advanced technologies, and Leap is all about providing people with access so that they can learn the technology, the programming models, and how to formulate problems for the system. We’ve provided open-source examples to allow them to do it. We want to follow the lead of the users there in terms of their ability to show progress with practical applications and building enterprise solutions.

You have a partnership with University of Southern California, which works with a D-Wave quantum computer. Can you please elaborate on it?

Yes. The University of Southern California built a quantum computing centre in 2011. They have been able to leverage our quantum computer to do some real cutting-edge research in quantum computing. In terms of practical applications, they have published great work, including how machine learning can work with our quantum computing systems to advance data analysis for the discovery of Higgs bosons; and methods for doing error correction with quantum annealing. With the upgrade to D-Wave’s Advantage quantum system—our first 5,000-plus qubit machine physically located in the US at USC’s Information Sciences Institute—the university and D-Wave will increase the capacity for academic researchers, government users, and the business community to continue studying how quantum effects may speed up the solution of complex optimization, machine learning and sampling problems, and breakthrough results in quantum optimization. The Advantage system (Advantage2 is expected to feature 7,000 qubits with a new qubit design) is accessible via the Leap quantum cloud service.

What explains the adoption of the gate model after betting on the quantum annealing model?

According to Boston Consulting Group, quantum computing can create value of $450 billion to $850 billion in the next 15-30 years . Some of that is in the space of quantum chemistry simulations, and differential equations. Another portion of it is in optimization. If we want to be able to address the quantum chemistry simulations, we need to be able to build the gate model quantum computers, and D-Wave wants to be the provider of everyone’s full quantum solution, which is why we’re expanding our product line to include the gate model systems. The other important thing is that using gate model machines to do optimization is incredibly inefficient. Therefore, we need both (models) for our customers in the future.

What’s your strategy to simplify quantum computing for enterprises?

D-Wave is focused on showing the business value in practical quantum applications. We believe this is the right strategy towards building a new disruptive technology. For example, CaixaBank is applying quantum computing in investment hedging in the insurance sector. They use our quantum hybrid solver services to code a faster algorithm to reduce the computing time needed to reach an optimal solution to improve investment portfolio hedging by up to 90% over the traditional solution. Save-On-Foods, a mid-sized grocery store chain in Western Canada used our hybrid quantum algorithms to reduce the time for grocery optimization from 25 hours to just two minutes. Another example is Menten AI, which has quantum designed proteins, synthesized them and taken them for live testing of covid virus. With the open-source Python Software Development Kit, it’s actually very accessible for people to work on problem formulations, and see the practical value quickly.

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