TQD Exclusive: John Martinis, Former Head of Google’s Quantum Initiative and Tony Uttley, President of Honeywell Quantum Solutions discuss where the industry is heading

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Quantum pioneers say it’s a great time to go quantum. (Credit: Honeywell)

Quantum computing pioneer John Martinis may have moved on from Google’s quantum computing project, but he hasn’t moved on from his belief that quantum computers will take on real world challenges.

Martinis quantum
Credit: Matt Perko/UCSB

The University of California Santa Barbara physicist told the participants of the BCI Summit, a virtual conference on the latest advances in quantum computing held yesterday, that, while challenges remain, he was optimistic.

“This is an exciting time for many groups who are working on quantum computing,” said Martinis. “We are now building machines and building algorithms. Of course, having real applications is difficult because classical computers are so good. It’s a very healthy time right now.”

“This is an exciting time for many groups who are working on quantum computing.”

What’s After Quantum Supremacy?

Martinis was one of the researchers that spearheaded work that led to Google’s quantum supremacy announcement, alluding to this being helpful in getting Google executives belief and buy-in for further development. He added that the team has studies currently waiting to be published that may demonstrate that quantum computers can solve real-world problems.

‘Since then we have submitted two new papers in review using the sycamore chip where they are looking to solve real world problems,” said Martinis. “These are significant improvements of what anyone has been doing. One of the papers has to deal with optimization, second one has to do with quantum chemistry. The important result here is that even though we used a NISQ-era computer, we used techniques that improved the fidelity of the operations by more than a factor of 100. The paper will be coming out shortly.”

Error correction remains an area of considerable interest for the researcher.

“I am trying to work on a timeline of building a big error corrected machine,” said Martinis. “There are a lot of unknowns there. The machines have low enough errors that you will be able to do some significantly good science. When it becomes useful may take 10 years or more. If we’re lucky it could be 3-5 years. The quantum supremacy announcement represented a good milestone to get to the error corrected machine. We just need to get in the lab and get all that to work.”

Martinis has been a professor at UC Santa Barbara since 2004 and joined Google as a research scientist at Google in 2014. He recently announced that he resigned from Google’s quantum computing project.

“We have gone past this stage where they did not exist. We are in the emergent era where we have crossed the divide from quantum computers not existing to existing.”

Honeywell in The Emergent Era

Tony Uttley, president of Honeywell Quantum Solutions, who also spoke at the event, agreed with Martinis’ optimism and said the quantum era has begun.

“Do Quantum Computers work? Yes,” said Uttley. “We have gone past this stage where they did not exist. We are in the emergent era where we have crossed the divide from quantum computers not existing to existing.”

Honeywell, a dark horse that has emerged in the quantum computing race, recently announced its advances in creating a trapped ion-based quantum computer, one that is rumored to rival any current quantum device. The company remain confident on officially launching this in the coming months. Watch this space.

The summit also included Thierry L. Kahane, AI & Analytics practice leader, North America Fujitsu America and Bill Reichert, co-founder, MDGarage Tech Ventures and partner, Pegasus Tech Ventures.

The BCI network comprises top tier banks, active venture investors, Fortune 100s, leading corporations and government entities.

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