The emerging world of quantum computing is an exciting place – and it’s moving fast. Quantum computing is a mind-bending new paradigm with limitless potential to dramatically speed up processing — and bring science, research, and technological development to a whole new level.
Instead of bits representing data as in classical computing, quantum computing uses qubits. Whereas bits are binary (0 or 1), qubits can contain an infinite, continuous superposition of every conceivable state. Quantum computing utilizes specialized high-speed, quantum-mechanics-based computers with circuits that process data in parallel using quantum logic, rather than the classical, sequential logic used in traditional computing. That means the potential quantum technology has to speed computing is exponential.
This is the first of a three-article series in which we’ll cover the state of quantum computing, its expected impact for science and product development, and what happens when classical and quantum computing collide.
Altair and Riverlane: Advancing the Quantum Landscape
Though the hype is real, today’s quantum systems aren’t quite ready for prime time. That’s because right now they can only perform a few hundred quantum operations before failing because of the delicate nature of qubits and the high resulting error rate. In addition, quantum computers are very sensitive to environmental changes, including temperature variations, pressure changes, and even fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field. To achieve useful quantum computing, we need to dramatically reduce the error rates for operating on quantum data.
Altair recently invested in the Cambridge, U.K.-based Riverlane, a company working to make quantum computing more robust by detecting, diagnosing, and correcting quantum errors as they occur. To be useful, quantum computers need to reliably perform a trillion operations without disruption — the number needed to execute the quantum algorithms required to unlock meaningful use cases. Riverlane’s world-leading quantum engineering team is tackling practical error correction with its Quantum Error Correction Stack, Deltaflow, which controls unstable qubits and corrects data errors in a continuous cycle.
Altair founder and CEO James Scapa, who has joined Riverlane’s board of directors, is enthusiastic about the collaboration. “Riverlane's groundbreaking technology provides a critical common software platform including error correction across all quantum hardware architectures to accelerate the impact and scale of quantum computing. Altair has a long history of creating and investing in HPC technologies. Collaborating with Riverlane allows us to stay ahead of the curve of transformative technologies to help our customers fast-track their innovation.”
Quantum Computing and Accelerating Tomorrow’s Innovation
There are many areas where quantum computing has the potential to deliver tremendous rewards, especially those that already have inherent quantum complexity. According to Altair chief scientist Rosemary Francis, “Particle physics for chemical engineering or molecular dynamics for life sciences may be the first to benefit. One aspect of quantum computing that holds us back is the lack of intuition around possible algorithms,” she said. “Humans are great at problem-solving, but the abstract complexity and expert knowledge required to come up with a quantum algorithm is a real barrier to entry.”
Machine learning is another good candidate for quantum computing because its algorithms already tolerate a certain level of uncertainty. Francis theorizes that “it’s likely to be the lighter side of data analytics that benefits first, rather than the more complex applications of deep learning.”
Quantum computing is a quickly advancing, forward-facing technological paradigm that represents a revolution in computing. It’s presenting us with exciting new possibilities, and we expect it to keep Altair, Riverlane, and our customers pushing forward and innovating well into the future. Stay tuned for the second article in this series to find out more about the near-term impact of quantum computing for science and product development.