D-Wave’s cross-platform quantum services are a bridge to the future

I’m sure 2011 will eventually go down in history as the year of the release of the groundbreaking film Cowboys & Aliens, but it has to be said that it was also the year that the first commercial quantum computer officially went online.

It’s debatable whether Daniel Craig’s role as an alien-fighting amnesiac gold thief deserves such praise, but there’s no doubt that D-Wave is a true pioneer in the world of quantum computing.

Dubbed the “D-Wave One” (two years before the Xbox One gaming system came out), the company’s first production model was a quantum glow system designed to address optimization issues.

Over a decade later, the company is working on “Vorteil Zwei”. Not counting prototypes, it will be the outfit sixth large quantum computer system.

Advantage Two will be a quantum glow system with a whopping 7,000 working qubits.

That’s a lot of qubits

To people who’ve been following the news about quantum computing, the number “7,000 working qubits” might seem like a typo. The largest gate-based model known to us is QuEra’s 256-qubit neutral atomic system.

However, D-Wave’s system uses a different technology.

As Rebel Brown, a marketer whose blog I happened upon, explains quite eloquently:

One way to understand the difference between the two types of quantum computers is that the gate model quantum computers require problems to be expressed in terms of quantum gates, and the quantum glow computer requires problems to be expressed in the language of operations research problems .

But don’t just take Brown’s word for it. The two types of quantum computers are as different as night and day. Where gate-based models are still more research than function, D-Wave’s annealing systems have been solving problems for decades.

As Murray Thom, VP of Product Management at D-Wave, put it in a recent interview with Neural:

Our focus is 100% on commercial use cases and the added value for our customers.

And that means using quantum computing to provide solutions at the moment. Quantum annealing does this because, as Thom told us, “it’s really the only way to address optimization problems.”

The right tool for the job

However, there are more than just optimization problems that need to be solved. For example, Advantage Two should be able to help medical facilities optimize nurse and doctor schedules across large geographic areas during disasters and outbreaks.

But it won’t be as useful as a gate-based quantum computer when it comes to running quantum simulations for challenging problems like drug discovery.

Ideally, you can use both. But gate-based systems are experimental at best. Until recently, with the launch of its Clarity roadmap, D-Wave was content to be a quantum anneal company on the street and a state-of-the-art research organization in the lab.

“We feel the time is now.”

That all changed last year when D-Wave unveiled its ambitions to combine gate-based technologies with annealing systems using cloud-based portals and bespoke software solutions.