Earlier last month, thermostat-company Honeywell announced that it had managed to create the world’s most powerful quantum computer, leaving behind the two major rivals in the field – Google and IBM.
Honeywell claimed that its system works using more efficient technology. IBM and Google use superconducting quantum bits (“qubits”) in their systems, but Honeywell decided to change that by adapting to ion traps instead, that trap ions in place with the help of electromagnetic fields. While superconducting qubits are fast, the advantage of ion traps over them is their accuracy. What’s more, ion traps allow for the quantum computers to pause computation in order to read off a qubit state, and then restart the computation for a different result – essentially executing an “if” statement mid-computation.
Honeywell also boasted of its quantum computer being superior because of its “quantum volume”. While increasing the number of qubits could enhance the abilities of a system, the system’s efficiency will not improve merely by increasing the number of qubits. Quantum volume takes into account the number of qubits, connectivity, and gate and measurement errors.
With that being said, Honeywell claimed that its quantum computer is of 64-bits quantum volume, double the volume of IBM’s current quantum computer that has a 32-bit quantum volume. Critics argued that quantum volume has not been recognized as the standard of measurement of efficiency for quantum computers. Other quantum computing companies like D-Wave said quantum volume doesn’t fully capture the nuances of different approaches to quantum computing and applications. Then again, IBM’s response was that it was “excited to see the wider quantum computing community embrace the quantum volume metric, which IBM first developed in 2017.”
Honeywell will be partnering with J.P. Morgan Chase to develop new ways for quantum computing to help the financial services company support its customers. “Quantum computing will enable us to tackle complex scientific and business challenges, driving step-change improvements in computational power, operating costs and speed,” said Honeywell Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Darius Adamczyk. “Materials companies will explore new molecular structures. Transportation companies will optimize logistics. Financial institutions will need faster and more precise software applications. Pharmaceutical companies will accelerate the discovery of new drugs.”
To achieve this, Honeywell will have several ways organizations can use its quantum computer. In addition, the company will be partnering with Microsoft, which will provide quantum computing algorithms and general computing know-how, as well as investments in smaller quantum computing specialists.
While the claim is indeed a big one, it is safe to believe in it because of how Honeywell is a massive company with industrial expertise that goes well beyond thermostats, especially in many high-precision sectors such as defense and aerospace. Its experience working with vacuums and cryogenics is likely to have played a big part in its efforts to build a quantum computer, which draws on many more areas of engineering than a regular computer. Keeping all this in view, one can suggest that smart money for next-gen quantum tech should be invested in industrial conglomerates like Honeywell, just as much as in tech giants like IBM and Google.