When a technology company doesn’t get a whole lot of press it usually means one of two things: the first is that it isn’t that interesting and no one really cares about it or, and this doesn’t happen often, they simply don’t want/need it. Conversely if a product is a dismal failure it’s usually guaranteed that it’ll get a whole bunch of the wrong type of attention, especially with the Internet’s bent towards schadenfreude. With that in mind it made me wonder why I hadn’t heard more about D-Wave since I last wrote about them around this time last year. Especially considering that Lockheed Martin had bought one of their D-Wave One systems a year prior to that.
Turns out they probably don’t really need the press as they’re doing just fine:
VANCOUVER — When the world’s largest defence contractor reportedly paid $10 million for a superfast quantum computer, the Burnaby, B.C., company that built it earned a huge vote of confidence.
Two years after Lockheed Martin acquired the first commercially viable quantum computer from D-Wave Systems, the American aerospace and technology giant is once again throwing its weight behind a technology many thought was still the stuff of science fiction.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was just old news resurfacing 2 years later but it isn’t as Lockheed Martin just purchased a D-Wave 2, their latest and greatest quantum computing offering. Details are a little scant as to what is actually in their latest system but going off their product road map it’s likely to be some variant of their Vesuvius chip which contains 512 qubits. That’s 4 times the amount of qubits in their previous system which would make it exceptionally more powerful and all for the same cost as the first unit they sold.
In my quest to try and find a little more information about their new system I stumbled across this page which digs into the underlying architecture of the D-Wave One/Two systems. Now back when I first wrote about D-Wave they weren’t exactly forthcoming with this kind of information which was what drew them a considerable amount of criticism but since then a lot of their loudest critics have renounced their positions. Interestingly though, and feel free to correct me if I’m interpreting this wrong, whilst they indeed claim to have produced a functioning qubit they haven’t managed to entangle several of them together. Whilst this doesn’t make their system useless, single qubits daisy chained together will still be useful for some specific functions, it does mean that the exponential scaling doesn’t really apply to D-Wave’s style of quantum computers. I could be wrong about this but their explanation only mentions entanglement-like properties in the qubit section with their interconnecting grids only being used to “exchange information”, not to provide multi-qubit entanglement.
That doesn’t make it any less cool however as I’m sure as they continue to scale up their processors they’ll eventually start entangling more bits together which will increase their computational power exponentially. We won’t see consumer level processors using technology like this for a long time though as they’re akin to CUDA units on graphics cards, highly specialized computational units that excel in their task and not so much in general computing. Still D-Wave’s systems signal the beginning of the quantum computing era and that means its only a matter of time before we see them everywhere.