Quantum Computing Understanding Required for Industry to Grow

A recent article in Physics magazine addressed the need for better education in quantum physics for university students. The author, Katherine Wright, interviewed scientists and educators who explained just how outdated most undergraduate and even graduate-level courses are in this field. One educator explained that typical quantum physics courses are based on content from physics of the early 1900s, rather than advances that have come during the last 10 years.

Indeed, quantum computing companies are scrambling to find qualified employees, as both established and start-up companies are seeking to fill posts.

A new study conducted by quantum physicists at the University of Colorado, Boulder dug into exactly what companies are seeking in new hires in this fledgling, but rapidly expanding, field.

Rather than focused only on graduates with deep knowledge of quantum physics, companies are most interested in job candidates who are “quantum aware,” meaning they understand the broad concepts behind quantum computing and can discuss them with relative ease. Their findings should be encouraging to students who are intrigued with the field of quantum computing, yet fear they lack sufficient hard-core knowledge. And beyond scientists, quantum computing companies need people to fill posts in sales, marketing, IT and more. Just being quantum-aware can make these individuals qualified.

The Physics article mentioned that “101” courses, with very basic quantum physics information, are now available at the University of Colorado and it is hoped these basic courses will catch on elsewhere. Another industry expert noted that introducing quantum physics at the high school level would be a tremendous way to generate early interest, leading to careers in quantum computing.

Perhaps the most intriguing thinking comes from Chris Ferrie, a renowned quantum physics professor at the University of Technology Sydney and Centre for Quantum Software and Information. Ferrie has taken this thought to another realm – teaching babies!

Ferrie is the author of dozens of children’s books on scientific topics, all aimed at instilling very early interest. His board book Quantum Physics for Babies may sound like a farce, but it is an international best seller. Ferrie explains his interest in writing children’s science books which also includes Quantum Computing for Babies: “It is never too early to introduce children to the wild and wonderful world of science!”

One company in quantum computing, Q-CTRL, has just hired Ferrie as the firm’s Quantum Education Advisor. Q-CTRL is a startup based in Australia with U.S. offices in Los Angeles that applies the principles of control engineering to accelerate the development of quantum technology.

Ferrie, who will continue his university position, will lead content development for a highly interactive educational software Q-CTRL package designed to help non-experts begin their journey in quantum computing. He will work on Q-CTRL’s BLACK OPAL 2.0, which is a major update to this software, designed to help beginners achieve greater performance and results in this early era of error-prone and unstable quantum computers.

By enlisting the expertise of a writer who produces educational scientific books for babies and toddlers, Q-CTRL has demonstrated the urgent need to help adults navigate the complex topics involved in quantum computing.

Federal Government Dials in New Quantum Networking Plans

Just as the World Wide Web connected every inch of the globe and redefined communications, quantum research being done today is poised to restructure the world again – and the U.S. government is serious about being at the forefront.

At a recent conference, the U.S. Department of Energy rolled out its “Blueprint for the Quantum Internet,” mapping out a plan for a communications network far faster and more secure than anything remotely possible today.

The government mapping out its plans in detail serves as yet another affirmation for the quantum industry and its many potential applications.

The U.S. blueprint identifies four main areas of work: 1) Foundational building blocks, 2) Device integration, 3) Repeating, switching and routing, and 4) Error correction. The long-term intent is to connect the 17 existing DoE National Laboratories as the backbone of tomorrow’s quantum internet – perhaps a familiar plan for anyone who recalls how the internet of today got its start.

These four areas of work correlate with four key milestones that will pave the road to the national network: 1) verifying secure quantum protocols over current fiber networks, 2) sending entangled information across either campuses or cities, 3) growing the network across multiple cities and lastly, 4) taking the network inter-state, aided by quantum “repeaters” to boost the signal.

It’s been said that the information age, fueled and empowered by the internet, has “flattened” the world. It’s the simplest thing to know within moments of major events that have transpired around the globe. While this has proven to be wonderful for building a global community, there’s a darker side to that story as well: cybercrime, propaganda, information wars and hacking.

A quantum communications network will serve as a shield against some of these modern woes, thanks to their entangled nature, proving to be virtually unhackable, at least in theory.

Other applications the Department of Energy anticipates for a quantum network include upscaling quantum computing systems – linking many smaller quantum computing systems through a network similar in principle to any other we use today. Though their individual power may be limited, networking these computers together would allow for a distributed system able to operate at a capacity unachievable in any single quantum computer. Other possibilities include networking sensors to provide more accurate measurements of gravitational waves, search for underground sources of oil, gas and minerals, or even accurately predict earthquakes.

Looking at these potential uses, we can see that – much like computers and networking of today – developments in quantum computers and networking will only serve to spur one another on. The fact that a “quantum internet” is receiving serious attention is an indicator that we are entering another fascinating turn in the development of quantum technologies.

10 Communications Tips for Quantum Tech Startups in the Covid-19 Era – Part 2

This is a continuation of our last post on communications in the post-COVID world. If you missed it, be sure to read the first half first.

6. Know your audience. Before embarking on any communications program, you should have your target audiences well-defined to help focus your efforts and secure tangible results. A quantum computing software firm is not going to benefit from a Superbowl ad. However, developing and disseminating a best practices guide on how to create effective quantum computing algorithms for researchers in academia and the corporate world might be just the ticket in securing the right attention from the right audience.

7. Communicate value early. If you have created a solution of any kind, that means you believe it can help someone. Even if that solution is still under development, you need to let people know the clear benefits and what it means to potential customers. While academic research is dedicated to knowledge-seeking, if you wish to be viable in the marketplace you must explain the quantifiable benefits as early and often as possible.

8. Tell a business story not just a tech story. The sooner the market sees your quantum computing startup as a real business and not a pie-in-sky research project, the better. Talk about how you’re bringing the technology to market, who on your team will help customers meet their business goals, and why the market should care.

9. Become an industry thought leader. It’s an over-used term, but if you’ve been in this nascent field for just a couple of years or more, that makes you an expert to most newcomers. Work with your PR counselor on discussing how your informed perspective on the industry can become an indispensable part of the industry conversation.

10. The media are waiting for you. There is no lack of interest in quantum computing from the tech, trade, business and mainstream media. Covid-19 means there are less companies promoting themselves and many media are seeking forward-looking, positive stories. For many media representatives as well as their audiences, the unlimited opportunities of quantum computing can be as inspiring to the imagination as space travel. Get them involved in telling your story as part of the industry’s story.

11. Extra pro tip. Review these tips for quantum computing startups seeking funding for additional insights and recommendations to ensure you not only survive but thrive during these turbulent times.

10 Communications Tips for Quantum Tech Startups in the Covid-19 Era – Part 1

Covid-19 has created challenging economic times for every business. However, quantum technology companies continue to be funded at record levels by venture capital firms and governments worldwide while Fortune 500 companies continue to test the waters to ensure they are ‘quantum ready.’

That’s why it’s more important than ever that quantum technology startups continue to implement communications strategies that help them be seen, understood and attain success.

Whether it’s securing capital, attracting partners or securing initial customers, business success requires business communications. To meet the business goals of your quantum computing startup today and into the post-Covid world, now is the time to build a communications foundation that positions you for growth.

In that vein, HKA, the global PR and marketing headquarters for quantum technologies, has developed the following list of the best communications strategies for quantum computing companies to survive and thrive in the Covid-19 era:

1. Start a communications program now. Or if you have a PR and marketing program already in place, don’t stop. The fact is, with new legions of stay-at-home workers facing travel restrictions, there has never been a larger, more receptive online audience available. Take advantage of every digital marketing resource you can, from email marketing and social media to webinars and media stories. Take budgets you had set aside for travel and events in the 3D world and apply them to the 2D one for an even better return on investment.

2. Make your story comprehensible. Quantum computing might be complex but that doesn’t mean the narrative you tell in the marketplace has to be. It’s likely that the vast majority of your stakeholders are not quantum physicists. In fact, even non-quantum physicists have a difficult time understanding the field. Explain your company’s solution in terms that can be understood by a broad audience of business and IT professionals, investors, industry analysts and more. Using easily grasped analogies connected to everyday relatable settings is often the best way to achieve broader understanding.

3. Know your tech marketing history. In the early days of every nascent technology field, most people don’t understand its significance until it’s marketed to them in a compelling way. Mainframe computers weren’t automatically purchased by corporations until IBM explained their benefits to customers. Personal computers seemed out of place in homes until companies made it clear they weren’t. Semiconductors weren’t on everyone’s minds until Intel reminded them what’s inside. I’m old enough to remember when WSYIWYG was just another crazy technology acronym and then somehow became a household term. Complex technologies such as quantum computing can be effectively communicated and understood by everyone. It just takes work and imagination.

4. Avoid the hype. The quantum computing industry already has its share of companies exaggerating what’s possible today. Oftentimes, newbies to the PR and marketing discipline believe exaggeration is a smart strategy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The best communications program educates the market with factual information presented in interesting and accessible ways. Most experts believe useful quantum computers are a good five years away, so don’t add to the confusion. It’s also a truism in technology – the more something is over-hyped, the bigger the disappointment and the possibility of the so-called “winter of disillusionment.”

5. Map your milestones. While over-hyping quantum computing is bad, you should help people understand your technology’s path to success with a timeline of milestones you’re working towards. These clearly defined benchmarks can guide your audience by setting realistic expectations regarding where your technology will be in the coming years and the valuable contributions it will make along the way. Of course, when you meet a challenging milestone you’ve set, then trumpet that accomplishment all you can. Think Google and its “quantum supremacy” announcement but applicable to your market niche.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll explore more important tips on navigating the post-COVID world of communications.

Quantum Interest Growing Among Life Science Companies

According to a new survey conducted by the Pistoia Alliance, the Quantum Economic Development Consortium and QuPharm, life science organizations have a keen interest in quantum computing, with nearly one third of companies ready to begin evaluations of the technology this year.

This is huge news for the quantum industry – particularly for startups that can begin positioning themselves to serve a massive new audience that will find itself in need of tools and software very shortly. The potential benefits of equipping these newfound partners is difficult to overstate. For example, if the world was to face another pandemic along the lines of COVID-19 in a quantum-savvy future, a vaccine could be developed well before the disease caused a significant amount of damage.

Supporting the opportunity for quantum startups, 28 percent of respondents indicated that a shortage of skills and lack of access to quantum infrastructure were among the biggest barriers blocking their immediate interest and implementation of the technology.

An impressive majority among the companies – 82 percent – expressed belief that quantum computing would have an impact on their industry within the next 10 years. Roughly the same number of respondents said that they believe quantum computing deployments in the biopharmaceutical industry will provide boons for both discovery and development.

This affirms that companies recognize what many in the quantum industry already know – the importance of preparing for the “quantum advantage,” defined as the breakthrough when quantum computers can solve practically relevant problems better or faster than conventional machines.

The quantum advantage will be particularly beneficial to life sciences. With sufficient deployment and application of quantum computing, precision medicine would undergo explosive growth brought on by the ability to calculate multiple probabilities and outcomes simultaneously. The time saved by these instantaneous, multifaceted calculations would enormously expedite the development of vaccines – as in our earlier COVID-19 example – and all manner of other groundbreaking research.

In a release announcing the results of the study, QED-C Deputy Director Celia Merzbacher said the time has come to focus on spelling out how quantum can assist life sciences companies and address any obstacles that may throttle forward progress.

“There are myriad opportunities for quantum computing in life sciences and health care, and through this community of interest the pharmaceutical and quantum computing sectors can work together to identify and communicate areas of early and high potential,” Merzbacher said.

“While quantum computing is still emerging, now is the time to jointly define use cases and challenges in pharmaceutical discovery and development that quantum computing can address. Better understanding of the pharmaceutical bottlenecks can accelerate quantum computing hardware and software development for overcoming those.”

Class is in Session for Next Generation of Quantum Technologists

More than 5,000 inquisitive minds currently are experiencing a very different kind of summer school right now. They’re not making up for poor grades – far from it. These students are learning how to change the world as we know it, ushering in a new age of computing.

The Qiskit Global Summer School program, based on premium training provided to IBM Quantum interns, is a two-week intensive program that is equipping a new generation of quantum developers.

The program’s curriculum, now wrapping up its final days, covers broad quantum preliminaries before laser-focusing on two main topics: superconducting devices and quantum chemistry applications.

Abraham Asfaw, global lead of quantum education at IBM Quantum, heralded the global turnout for the classes as a sign of quantum computing’s continued – and increasingly accelerating – growth.

“I am so humbled by these numbers,” Asfaw said in a post on LinkedIn. “Next time anyone tells you that the quantum computing industry is only 1000 – 10,000 people worldwide, tell them we’re scaling that out to the next order of magnitude really quickly.”

In addition to lectures from a cohort of international professors, the program includes ample time learning hands-on programming in Qiskit, an open source platform for working with quantum computers.

Qiskit serves as a complete toolbox of sorts for developing quantum applications, including everything a user needs to access circuits and hardware, optimize for noise mitigation and build upon a library of quantum algorithms.

While registration was open to everyone, students were selected by invitation using some prerequisites – including a certain level of mathematical aptitude and basic knowledge of programming in Python. A selection of resources was provided ahead of time to allow potential students to hone their skills as necessary.

Tomorrow, the first Qiskit Global Summer School program will have its Commencement via Qiskit Live, featuring a panel discussion from industry experts advising students on how to use what they’ve learned to secure their own careers in quantum computing.

Seeing a program like this get such widespread interest from youth around the globe is both encouraging for the future and demonstrative of the intense interest already in place for quantum computing. As Asfaw said, the quantum industry is quickly soaring into new orders of magnitude, and these students will be well-positioned to not only ride the wave but contribute to the field as “quantum” becomes a household word.

We wish the best to all of these scholars and look forward to seeing more of their work in the future!

A Quantum Leap in Computing Is Coming – Part 2

We left off our last post talking with Doug Finke of the Quantum Computing Report relaying how quantum computers take advantage of the counter-intuitive world of sub-atomic particles that will one day deliver massive calculations that will enable scientific breakthroughs.

One example of quantum phenomena being leveraged is known as ‘superposition.’ Classical binary computing relies upon manipulating ‘bits’ that exist in one of two states: a 0 or a 1, essentially like a switch that’s either off or on. (For example, the binary code to instruct a computer to create this single letter to appear – A – is 01000001.) In quantum computing on the other hand, information is encoded as quantum bits, or ‘qubits.’ In superposition, qubits can exist simultaneously in both states of 0 and 1 or in gradations of the two states, enabling computational “instructions” to be processed exponentially faster than binary code.

Other quantum phenomena used includes ‘entanglement’ where a pair or larger group of subatomic particles will simultaneously mimic what happens to a single entangled particle, no matter how far they are separated by distance. Imagine two entangled photons with one located in Los Angeles and the other in New York. In entanglement, if you measure the state of the photon in L.A., the photon in New York will instantaneously follow suit and enter the same state. (Einstein called this phenomenon “spooky action at a distance.”) Massive numbers of entangled qubits can enable computations to be completed more rapidly.

In some ways, the quantum computing industry looks a lot like the early days of the computer industry in the 1950s. Doug said researchers are trying different ways to extract incredibly fast and accurate calculations through designs using photons, trapped ions, superconductors and other methods. IBM is one of the furthest along with its IBM Q System One which can be accessed publicly in the cloud. Their most advanced current system is a 20-qubit 9-cubic foot quantum computer that must be housed at a smidgen above absolute zero, or just around minus-460 degrees Fahrenheit.

Doug told me that the first quantum computer that surpasses our fastest supercomputers for certain applications (they call this reaching the “quantum advantage”) is expected within the next few years. In addition to IBM, Google, Intel, Microsoft and a variety of other tech companies, top academic and government labs, and startups are all pursuing the quantum dream in one form or another.

Industries performing early research into quantum computing include the chemical and pharmaceutical industries where advanced computational chemistry enabled by quantum computing algorithms can help discover new materials or drugs. Other early interest includes the finance industry where quantum computing can provide new approaches to portfolio management and other functions, while the automotive industry is working on a few different use cases, including calculating the best traffic routes and finding better battery chemistry for electric vehicles.

Following decades of intensive research to prove its feasibility, quantum computing startups and tech giants are now pursuing commercialization and the possibilities are endless.

A Quantum Leap in Computing Is Coming – Part 1

Trying to write a brief introduction to the field of quantum computing feels like something a quantum computer should probably tackle. Instead, we only have my brain power to access, so my apologies in advance.

I have long been fascinated by quantum mechanics, an area of physics describing the behaviors of atoms and subatomic particles such as electrons and photons. This is the strange, subterranean realm of nature where the laws of Newtonian physics break down.

What I hadn’t understood until I got to know Doug Finke, editor and publisher of the Quantum Computing Report, is that we built our digital world on what’s known as ‘classical computing.’

Our entire computing infrastructure is founded upon the basic principles of physics and math discovered in the 19th century, such as electromagnetism and Boolean logic, from the lowliest bargain-priced desktop PC, to the snazziest new smartphone, to a supercomputer.

Quantum computing, on the other hand, leverages the insights of quantum physicists from the 1920s and ‘30s, including Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born and others, to create an entirely new kind of computing.

Why go to all that trouble? The simple answer is to number-crunch at mind-numbing scale and speed.

Doug gave me this analogy: Imagine you’re a traveling salesperson and you need to drive the shortest route between four cities. Seems easy enough. But let’s say your boss says you need to add a dozen more cities. Then it gets more complicated and you may need to access a classical computing device to get your answer.

But what if the number of cities is 100 or more? Well, the variables are so great that even our best supercomputers can’t figure out the optimal solution, at least not in any amount of time that would be useful. That’s where quantum computing comes in.

The goal of quantum computing is to leverage phenomena found at the subatomic particle level to deliver mathematical answers millions of times faster than today’s highest-performing computing systems.

How exactly does it accomplish that amazing feat? We have Doug help answer that question in our post next week.

Southern California: A Growing Quantum Technology Powerhouse – Part 2

This is Part 2 of our discussion on Southern California’s continuing quantum boom. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

You might not expect surfing to have much in common with quantum computing, but at this one moment in time, they share a key element: the all-encompassing importance of catching the wave.

Local startups are catching the quantum wave, including Qulab in Los Angeles, which develops advanced computational methods to automate molecular drug design; Q-CTRL, an Australian firm, HKA client and provider of quantum control firmware with a U.S. headquarters in L.A.; ORCA Computing, focused on quantum computers powered by photonics; and Qubitekk in San Diego, developers of quantum cryptography solutions.

Many European and Asia-based startups are also reportedly eyeing Los Angeles as their North American base of operations, while individual emissaries from these companies already abound in the region.

And although it’s still a nascent field, high-paying jobs are the norm in Southern California’s quantum technology industry. According to Sean Howell, head of Q-CTRL’s L.A. office, the company is offering higher salaries compared to similar positions in the Bay Area, and with a relatively lower cost of living here in the Southland.

It all adds up to a quantum advantage for Southern California. Doug Finke, HKA client and publisher of the highly influential industry resource site Quantum Computing Report — based here in Orange County — has written:

“Some of my friends who live in Silicon Valley still regard it as the center of the technology universe and believe that all worthwhile new technologies must emanate from there. But this may not be necessarily true for quantum computing. Overall, I will give the edge to Southern California.”

In the past, Doug has said the current state of the quantum computing industry closely mirrors the computer industry circa the 1950s. This is true in two key ways – first of course is how the nature of their work parallels one another, with groups in both eras working to enable faster and faster calculations by new and exciting means. But just as noteworthy is the positioning of these industries against the backdrop of their times. Just as computers went through an unimaginable boom, so too will quantum computing once all the conditions are met. And the ones in front of that boom will ride the wave just as names like Apple, Microsoft and IBM did in the past.

As a quantum computing PR and marketing agency based in Southern California, we look forward to many years of telling the stories of these exciting organizations in the region as they search to unlock the full human and commercial potential of quantum physics.

For a brief primer on quantum computing, see our previous interview with Doug, A Quantum Leap in Computing Is Coming. If you are a quantum technology or quantum computing startup, or are thinking about starting one, download HKA’s free 10 Tips for Quantum Tech Startups Seeking Funding.

Southern California: A Growing Quantum Technology Powerhouse – Part 1

Silicon Beach. Silicon Alley. Silicon Prairie.

For years throughout the U.S. various regions have tried to replicate the success (and even the name) of the Silicon Valley technology ecosystem and its potent mix of top-flight schools, world-class talent and oodles of venture capital. Business and academic leaders continue to look to the Bay Area’s achievements with considerable ‘Silicon Envy.’

While it’s true Silicon Valley-based companies mostly owned the personal computer, internet and smartphone eras, there is a new technology hotshot on the block and there’s a good chance the Valley won’t be the center of innovation and commerce of this next era. Southern California will likely rule the fascinating and limitless world of quantum technology.

Mark Gyure, the executive director of UCLA’s Center for Quantum Science and Engineering, had this to say recently:

“We sit at the heart of one of the most dynamic cities in the world and in an area where the local industry could very well dominate the quantum technology landscape for many years to come.”

How could that be? What’s different about quantum technology?

Just like the Bay Area’s success, it all starts with a thriving academic research community. Fortunately, there is ground-breaking quantum technology research going on at a half-dozen universities here in Southern California. In addition to UCLA, there is Caltech in Pasadena, USC, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, Chapman University and recent entrant UC Riverside.

There’s also a ton of private industry research into quantum technology going on around Southern California featuring such names as Google, Microsoft, IBM, JPL, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin. In addition, there’s HRL Laboratories, a research center jointly owned by GM and Boeing, and the non-profit The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo conducting research on quantum-based satellite communications.

Of course, many of these companies maintain a symbiotic relationship with the local academic institutions, collaborating on various research while students trained by the universities often move on to work at these firms as well.

As a quantum-focused PR and marketing communications group located in the center of Southern California, HKA has had a front-row seat to the burgeoning quantum technology ecosystem.

In our next post, we discuss the early quantum startups here and what the region’s near-term future in the quantum world looks like. Here’s a bit of a teaser – what we’ve seen so far is only the beginning. How much do we expect to see, and when do we expect to see it? Tune in next time and find out.