Quantum Computing Around the World: United States

Conceived in the late 1900s and has gradually been developed throughout the recent years, quantum computing remains a novel technology to many of us. Alongside the advancement of quantum computers, the quantum industry is also growing fast. The quick expansion of this new playground also means there exist many areas of the industry that remain difficult for many of us to understand. Through this blog post, which is the first in a series on quantum ecosystems in different parts of the world, I hope to simplify the quantum computing landscape of the United States and provide an accessible overview for anyone with interest in this technology of the future.

Big Tech Companies

Big companies such as IBM, Google, Honeywell, and AWS (Amazon Web Services) are the pioneers of quantum computing, having invested in this new technology for the past decade and beyond. For the last few years, however, the market also welcomed many newcomers to the scene, giving a healthy competitiveness to further accelerate the development of quantum computers.

Take IBM for example. IBM has been developing quantum computing for years and is one of the biggest companies in the United States investing in quantum computing, including both hardware and software. On the hardware side, IBM has numerous quantum computers which can be accessed through IBM’s free cloud quantum computing service called the IBM Quantum Experience. On the software side, IBM Quantum Experience allows users to code for a quantum computer using qiskit, IBM’s in-house quantum programming language. IBM also frequently conducts research into how quantum computing can be applied to different areas like machine learning, finance, and optimization.

On the other hand, Amazon made available to the public their quantum computing service, Amazon Braket, just last August. Amazon Braket allows customers to create hybrid algorithms, combining both classical and quantum computers using familiar code applications like Jupyter Notebooks in order to develop solutions for problems within the users’ business. Companies like Volkswagen and Enel (a multinational power company) are using Amazon Braket to investigate how quantum computing can be used to help their company become more efficient in the future.

By making their quantum computers accessible to researchers and enthusiasts around the world, coupled with heavily funded education programs, big companies like IBM and Amazon are nudging awareness of quantum computers with their massive potential to the general public, as well as encouraging the development of new skills that would be necessary in turning quantum promises to reality.

Start-Up Companies

Aside from large corporations leading the way in quantum computing, many startups have received millions of dollars in investments to develop their quantum computing technology. Other startups also partner with the big companies to further the development in both hardware and software, taking advantage of the infrastructure of the larger companies’ cloud systems.

Rigetti is one such successful quantum computing startup. One main aspect of quantum hardware is the qubit, or quantum bit, which consists of different types such as superconducting qubit, Diamond NV Center qubit, and trapped ion. Rigetti specializes in developing quantum computers using superconducting qubits. Most recently, the company has created the Aspen-9 — a 31-qubit quantum computer. Last year in 2020, Rigetti raised 79 million dollars in investments. The company has also partnered with Amazon Web Services Amazon Braket, providing part of the hardware for AWS’s quantum computing services.

Other quantum computing startups in the United States include IonQ, 1QBit, QC Ware, and Zapata. These companies each specialize in some area of quantum computing, whether it be software, hardware, or both. New quantum-focused startup incubators such as Duality, a newly established accelerator in Chicago, will further support the startup ecosystem in the quantum field and introduce continuous innovations into this exciting industry.

Government Involvement

In the last decade, the U.S. government has begun to allocate more and more funds to quantum computing research. On December 21, 2018, President Trump signed into law the National Quantum Initiative Act., which allocated 1.2 billions dollars to the research and development of quantum technologies. The Energy Department awarded 625 million dollars over 5 years to 5 national laboratories to establish quantum information science research centers. Academic and private universities also dedicated 340 million dollars to research, and another 75 million dollars in federal funding is allocated to the creation of 3 new Quantum Leap Challenge Institutions which aim to create breakthroughs in fundamental quantum research over the next 5 years.

In December of 2019, the Tokyo Statement on Quantum Computing was also signed in by the United States and Japan. The statement calls for international cooperation in order to accelerate development around quantum information science and technology and provides a framework for collaboration between the United States and Japan. In the future, there will be more statements like these, enabling further collaboration on quantum technology research between the United States and other countries.

University Research and Education

As quantum computing continues to develop, more and more universities are dedicating specialized teams to this field of research. In 2015, Yale opened its Yale Quantum Institute devoted to the research of quantum technology. In the University of Maryland’s computer science research areas, one area has been devoted to the research of quantum computing. Just this year, Harvard announced its new PhD in Quantum Science and Engineering. Undergraduate institutions are also making it easier for college students to get involved in quantum computing research through joining research groups, summer research programs, and even student-led interest groups.

Despite its complexity at the highest levels of research, quantum computing is beginning to be taught to high schoolers as well. Since October of 2020, Qubit by Qubit has been introducing to high schoolers the basics of quantum physics and quantum computing with the sponsorship from IBM and the help of MIT professors. It is one of the first full length quantum computing courses in the world to be taught to high schoolers, proving that quantum computing can be taught in secondary education as well.

Closing words

Despite quantum computing being a new technology, the quantum ecosystem in the United States is already thriving with many different stakeholders involved. With corporations, startups, universities, and even the government helping to expand the industry, it’s only a matter of time before quantum computing technology becomes widespread in the United States. All of the expanding opportunities for education and business makes it a great time to understand how quantum computing can help you change the world in the future.

This article was written for boltz.ai.

Sources

“Two Years Into the Government’s National Quantum Initiative” by Brandi Vincent. <https://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2020/12/two-years-governments-national-quantum-initiative/170949/>

<quantum|gov>, a government initiative in the development of quantum <https://www.quantum.gov/about/>

“AWS Announces General Availability of Amazon Braket”, Amazon <https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/aws-announces-general-availability-amazon-braket>