Get ready for a quantum computing software company


The technology world might soon be welcoming its first quantum computing software vendor, an Australian systems-analysis firm called Aerospace Concepts. The company, which also has a U.S. presence in a Washington, D.C., technology incubator, has partnered with Lockheed Martin to perform applied research about complex systems analysis on Lockheed’s D-Wave Systems quantum computer.

What that means, Aerospace Concepts COO Michael Brett told me via email, is that the company wants to develop algorithms that can wade through the complexities of creating advanced systems and help determine designs that best balance the various inherent tradeoffs. “For example,” he wrote, “a satellite needs to trade power and capacity while minimizing mass, so what is the best combination of factors to improve design.”

Theoretically — because the technology is still very much in its early days –quantum computing is ideal for this type of optimization problem as well as for advanced machine learning tasks, as D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell explains in the video below. NASA and Google also possess a D-Wave quantum computer.

“Also, we’re keen to use this access to build software and services unique to quantum computing and grow our business in step with the technology base,” Aerospace Concepts’ Brett added.

Presumably, Aerospace Concepts would develop the quantum algorithms and then deliver them as packaged software to its customers. Those algorithms might be able to run on standard hardware, or perhaps the company will deliver them as a service, running customer jobs on the Lockheed system or on whatever cloud-based version of the D-Wave technology ultimately surfaces.

Brett noted that Aerospace Concepts has a close relationship with D-Wave already, and would “welcome to the opportunity” to buy its own quantum computer or access future cloud computing resources.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Aerospace Concepts will even succeed in its goals for this partnership, or, for that matter, even that D-Wave’s machines will ultimately prove viable. But even the talk of a quantum computing software company this early into the technology’s commercial existence (Lockheed bought its D-Wave system in 2011) is exciting. I listed quantum computing as one of the five technologies that will help big data cross into the mainstream, and doing so will require an ecosystem of companies working to make it consumable outside the small number of companies that can afford to hire the world’s small number of quantum computer scientists.

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