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Northwest researchers get in on a quantum leap

Microsoft, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington are playing supporting roles in the White House’s $1 billion effort to advance research into artificial intelligence and quantum information science.

Those three organizations have already been working together through the Northwest Quantum Nexus to develop the infrastructure for quantum computers, which promise to open up new possibilities in fields ranging from chemistry to systems optimization and financial modeling.

The initiatives announced today are likely to accelerate progress toward the development of commercial-scale quantum computers, Chetan Nayak, Microsoft’s general manager for quantum hardware, said in a blog posting.

“Today marks one of the U.S. government’s largest investments in the field,” he said. “It is also a noteworthy moment for Microsoft, which is providing scientific leadership in addition to expertise in workforce development and technology transfer.”

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Quantum computing goes public at Amazon

Eight months after unveiling its Amazon Braket quantum computing platform, Amazon Web Services says the cloud-based service is officially open for business.

In a video that pokes a bit of fun at the weirdness of quantum concepts, Bill Vass, vice president for AWS technology, says Braket serves as a “launch pad for people to go explore quantum computing.”

In contrast to the rigid one-or-zero realm of classical computing, Braket and similar platforms take advantage of the fuzziness of quantum algorithms, in which quantum bits — or “qubits” — can represent multiple values simultaneously until the results are read out.

Quantum computing is particularly well-suited for tackling challenges ranging from cryptography — which serves as the foundation of secure online commerce — to the development of new chemical compounds for industrial and medical use. Some of the first applications could well be in the realm of system optimization, including the optimization of your financial portfolio.

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Free quantum computing for COVID-19 studies

D-Wave Systems’ hardware makes hybrid quantum-classical applications available through its Leap cloud service. (D-Wave Systems Photo)

Burnaby, B.C.-based D-Wave Systems says it’s providing free access to its Leap hybrid quantum cloud service to anyone who’s working on responses to the coronavirus outbreak.

But wait … there’s more: D-Wave’s partners and customers are providing expertise to help researchers use quantum tools to study the virus and how to stop it.

The companies joining the quantum fray alongside D-Wave include Volkswagen, Kyocera, NEC Solution Innovators, Denso, Cineca, Forschungszentrum Jülich, MDR/Cliffhanger, Menten AI, OTI Lumionics, QAR Lab at LMU Munich, Sigma-i and Tohoku University.

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D-Wave launches Leap 2 quantum cloud service

D-Wave Leap 2 screenshot
D-Wave Systems is unveiling its Leap 2 quantum cloud computing service. (D-Wave Graphic)

What comes after a quantum leap? For Burnaby, B.C.-based D-Wave Systems, it’s Leap 2, the latest iteration of its cloud-based quantum computing service.

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Japan’s NEC to invest in D-Wave quantum venture

D-Wave computer
A team member at D-Wave Systems, based in Burnaby, B.C.,, works on the dilution refrigerator system that cools the processors in the company’s quantum computer. (D-Wave Systems Photo)

Burnaby, B.C.-based D-Wave Systems says it will collaborate with Japan’s NEC Corp. on hybrid services that combine quantum and classical computing, in a deal that includes a $10 million NEC investment in D-Wave.

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Microsoft and Ford use quantum traffic strategy

Mercer Mess in Seattle
Snarled traffic in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Traffic congestion in Seattle can get so bad that it seems as if you need a next-generation quantum computer to make sense of it — and that’s exactly what Microsoft and Ford are aiming to do.

The quantum frontier hasn’t yet reached the point at which a general-purpose computer can solve the mother of all traffic jams. But the two companies are using quantum-inspired simulations to address the optimization problem that arises when all the drivers are following the same app-generated driving directions.

“While we’re still in the early stages of quantum computing development, encouraging progress has been made that can help us take what we’ve learned in the field and start to apply it to problems we want to solve today, while scaling to more complex problems tomorrow,” Ken Washington, chief technology officer at Ford Motor Company, wrote today in a Medium post.

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Quantum bits: Intel unveils cryogenic chip

Intel's new quantum chip
Stefano Pellerano, principal engineer at Intel Labs, holds the cryogenic control chip known as Horse Ridge. (Intel Photo / Walden Kirsch)

MicrosoftAmazon and Google aren’t the only companies making headway in quantum computing. Intel is showing off a new type of chip for processing qubits, D-Wave Systems is getting a new CEO, and IBM is gearing up for quantum-safe cryptography.

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Amazon launches quantum computing initiative

Rigetti quantum cryostat
The Amazon Braket quantum computing service will take advantage of hardware devices developed by Rigetti Computing and other companies. (Rigetti Photo)

Amazon Web Services is leaping into quantum computing with both feet — or maybe more than both feet, in keeping with the weird world of quantum physics.

AWS’ quantum initiative, announced today in conjunction with its re:Invent cloud computing conference in Las Vegas, includes the unveiling of a cloud-based quantum computing service called Amazon Braket, as well as the creation of the AWS Center for Quantum Computing and the Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab.

But wait … there’s more: The Braket computing platform, which is analogous to the Microsoft Azure Quantum platform announced last month, brings together three different hardware approaches to quantum calculation.

One approach is represented by Maryland-based IonQ’s trapped-ion technology, which is also being used for Azure Quantum. The second approach relies on California-based Rigetti’s superconducting chips, and the third approach takes advantage of Burnaby, B.C.-based D-Wave Systems’ quantum annealing devices.

The broad sweep of AWS’ quantum initiative demonstrates that one of the titans of cloud computing is covering its bets as quantum information science matures..

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Amazon exec becomes quantum pioneer at IonQ

IonQ CEO Peter Chapman
Peter Chapman says there are parallels between his previous work and his current job as CEO at IonQ, a quantum computing company. (IonQ Photo)

How does a guy go from being the engineering director for Amazon Prime to serving as the CEO of a quantum computer company? It’s a classical move for Peter Chapman, the president and CEO of IonQ, which provides the firepower for Microsoft’s recently announced Azure Quantum cloud computing platform.

Quantum computing promises to address the same kinds of optimization problems that Chapman had to deal with for Amazon’s next-day deliveries, but on a grand scale. It also doesn’t hurt that Chapman previously worked for futurist Ray Kurzweil, or that he believes quantum computers provide the only path to strong, human-like artificial intelligence.

“I really like that kind of bleeding edge,” Chapman told GeekWire.

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Microsoft CEO touts quantum computing platform

Satya Nadella at Ignite
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduces the company’s new initiatives in quantum computing at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Fla. (Microsoft Video)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today took the wraps off Azure Quantum, a full-stack, cloud-based approach to quantum computing that he said would play well with traditional computational architectures.

“With all the capacity we have around computing, we still have many unsolved problems, whether it’s around food safety, or climate change, or the energy transition,” Nadella said at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Fla. “These are big challenges that need more computing. We need general-purpose quantum.”

While classical computers deal in binary bits of ones and zeroes, quantum computers can take advantage of spooky physics to process quantum bits — or qubits — that can represent multiple values simultaneously.

For years, Microsoft and its rivals have been laying the groundwork for general-purpose quantum computing hardware and software. Microsoft has previously announced some elements of its strategy, including its Q# programming language and Quantum Development Kit, but today Nadella put all the pieces together.

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