Gartner underestimates an emerging technology and I will use this humble blog to redress this. Other than Gartner I will do it for free because this new and developing industry is utterly fascinating.
Gartner places quantum computing firmly at the early stages of what they call the “Hype Cycle”. This is what they call a technology that is more than 10 years away from maturity.
When googling the latest publicly available report I found that even in 2009 Gartner didn’t revisit this assessment.
This seems like a reasonable and conservative classification when taking into account how most quantum computing is performed at this time. The leading approach requires a roomful of high tech lab equipment to create ultra-cold, single atom ions that are then trapped with uncanny precision and manipulated by lasers to create entangled electron states that represent qbits. At the time of writing the record stands at 14 qbits that could potentially be used to perform quantum algorithms.
An impressive scientific feat but hardly with the potential to impact business computing any time soon.
Yet, already in 2007 there was a small start-up company making some marketing noise: Claiming that they can deliver a pre-packaged quantum computer on a scale that won’t crowd your average corporate data center.
Initially, they kept their technology a black box. A demonstration in 2007 showed that they couldn’t convincingly outperform conventional computers. So Gartner’s stance back then is quite justifiable. They weren’t alone in dismissing this as vaporware.
But things have changed. Now the company D-Wave is selling their (big) black box and also found a first paying customer in Lockheed Martin.
The controversy if this is real quantum computing hasn’t gone away, but even one of D-Wave’s fiercest critics had to admit that the company finally demonstrated the use of quantum annealing on eight qbits when publishing some of their results in Nature.
For the currently shipping system they claim 128 qbits. If these could actually all be used as an entangled entity then this new computational device would have some serious clout.
As my time allows I will use this blog to cover this emerging technology and strive to make it a useful resource that helps to distinguish between the hype and reality of quantum computing. I will delve into what makes this type of information processing so different from coding for good old fashioned Turing machines and explore the difference between the “conventional” quantum computing approach and what D-Wave is offering.
Some of my blog entries will be technical and some lighter reading for the more business minded crowd and I will mark them accordingly. In the end I hope this blog will prove to be a useful resource for any professional who may be confounded by the question of what quantum computing is and what it’s good for.
D-Wave recent paper in Nature makes clear that they don’t use entangled qbit states. Rather any extra power over a classic analog computing annealing scheme will stem from quantum tunneling.