Useful quantum computers are closer to becoming a reality as some of the world’s biggest corporations try to bring the technology from the lab into the practical world.
A quantum computer utilizes subatomic particles called qubits to speed up the solving of complex computations. Near-term expectations for quantum computers range from solving optimization problems to quantum-encrypted communications, and more.
With the help of CB Insights’ investment, acquisition, and partnership data, we identified 18 corporate groups involved in the development of commercialized quantum computing hardware and software. They are a diverse group of players, ranging from tech industry behemoths to defense contractors to national telecommunications companies.
Our list is restricted to corporations that have reported unique technological breakthroughs in the last three years in the field of quantum computing, and/or corporate groups with vested interests in research programs geared toward developing commercially viable quantum-enabled products and services. If there are more corporate programs we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments.
This list is organized alphabetically.
- Booz | Allen | Hamilton
- British Telecommunications
- Hewlett Packard
- Lockheed Martin
- SK Telecom
1. Airbus is looking to quantum computers for aerospace software enhancements.
Airbus Group established a team to tackle quantum computing at the end of 2015 at its site in Newport, Wales. Airbus’ Defence and Space unit’s main objectives will be to study all the technologies related to quantum mechanics, ranging from cryptography to computation. Airbus is not planning to develop its own quantum computing hardware, but instead wants to adapt existing quantum machines to specific problems within the aerospace industry, namely those requiring the handling and storage of large amounts of data, including sorting and analyzing images streamed by satellites, or creating ultra-durable materials for aircrafts.
2. Alibaba aims to use quantum computers to develop better security for e-commerce sites and the data centers underlying them.
In July 2015, Alibaba’s Aliyun cloud unit and the Chinese Academy of Sciences established a research facility based in Shanghai called the Alibaba Quantum Computing Laboratory. The lab looks into quantum security technology for e-commerce and data centers. Notably, this year China also launched the world’s first quantum satellite aimed at developing secure quantum communications over long distances.
3. Booz Allen Hamilton wants to offer quantum computing to government and business clients.
Booz Allen Hamilton is part of a growing group looking to find an edge in the race for better data-science products and services. To that end, the management consulting firm says it partners with government and business clients to develop pilots and prototypes in quantum computing and eventually solve optimization problems using specialized devices known as quantum annealers. Quantum annealers can harness the natural evolution of particles in quantum states in order to perform calculations for solving optimization problems. Areas of interest for Booz Allen Hamilton include System & Network Optimization, Vehicle Routing, Logistics, Job Scheduling, Drug Discovery, Manufacturing, System Design, and Verification & Validation of complex code in software.
4. British Telecommunications (BT) is researching quantum computing to protect the transfer of sensitive information on its networks.
BT, alongside Toshiba Research, and ADVA Optical Networking, with the UK National Physical Laboratory, are collaborating to research and implement quantum encryption, the idea that photons — particles of light — can be used to distribute the cryptographic keys used for protecting sensitive data, such as financial or health records. As of 2013, BT ranked sixth globally for priority patents and patent applicants for quantum secure communications technology, according to the UK Intellectual Property Office Patent Informatics Team.
5. Google wants better artificial intelligence and solutions to complex optimization problems through quantum computing.
Google operates a D-Wave Systems’ quantum computer in the Quantum Artificial Intelligence lab (QuAIL). The lab is hosted by NASA and the Universities Space Research Association at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
D-Wave Systems Inc. is the world’s first commercial quantum computing company — and the deal with Google is the largest in D-Wave’s history. Google and its partners get to access the latest D-Wave machines for up to seven years, with new generations of D-Wave systems to be installed at the NASA Ames facility as they are available.
Hartmut Neven, who leads Google’s QuAIL operations, and his team recently published a paper on their DWave 2X computer showing initial test results that indicate the machine could perform a computation 100 million times faster than a classical computer chip. Since as early as 2013, this consortium has been utilizing D-Wave’s machines to explore quantum computing applications in areas as diverse as web search, speech/image pattern recognition, planning and scheduling, air-traffic management, robotics missions to other planets, and support operations in mission control centers.
In 2014, in an effort to reduce the chasm between machine learning and human intelligence — and to take a lead in the nascent field of artificial intelligence — Google began leveraging its experience with D-Wave’s machines and focusing on developing its own quantum hardware. To that end, Google hired John Martinis, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his team to build Google’s proprietary quantum chips.
6. Hewlett Packard is focused on selling small-scale quantum computers, or simulators, to advance real-world use cases for the technology.
HP’s Quantum Information Processing Group is based in HP Laboratories, Bristol UK and is part of the Information and Quantum Systems Laboratory. The lab’s main focus areas include computation, crypotography, and communications. HP Labs is currently developing what they call The Machine. The computer is HP’s attempt at building a quantum “Memory-Driven Computing” processor, and is Hewlett Packard Labs’ biggest project.
7. IBM is working on making superconducting circuits coupled with error correction — protecting quantum information from phenomena known as quantum noise.
IBM Research has a quantum computing group at their Yorktown Heights, New York, research center. In April 2015, they announced a new kind of circuit that can detect both bit-flip and phase-flip errors together. This breakthrough is important for overcoming the challenge of detecting and correcting the two types of quantum errors that can exist in quantum computing systems. Also, in December 2015, IBM was awarded an iARPA grant to use this technology under the Logical Qubits program. The aim of the program is to overcome the limitations of current quantum systems primarily by building a quantum circuit design that can scale to larger dimensions.
8. Intel is focused on using quantum computing to make gains in advanced manufacturing, electronics, and better systems for architectural design.
In September 2015, Intel committed $50M to QuTech, the quantum research institute of the Delft University of Technology, and the Dutch Organisation of Applied Research, to provide engineering support over a ten-year collaboration. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich published a blog post detailing the company’s strategic interest in quantum computing, and the relevance of electronics and manufacturing expertise in making quantum computing a reality.
9. KPN wants better post quantum cryptographic algorithms to secure telecommunications.
KPN is a Dutch landline and mobile telecommunications company that has implemented end-to-end quantum key distribution (QKD) in its network between KPN datacenters in The Hague and Rotterdam. KPN is collaborating with ID Quantique, a Swiss company specialized in quantum encryption.
10. Lockheed Martin advances the state of the art in software verification/validation and more through quantum computing.
In partnership with the University of Southern California, Lockheed Martin cofounded the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computation Center (QCC). The center is focused on harnessing the power of adiabatic quantum computing, in which problems are encoded into the lowest energy (“coldest”) state of a physical quantum system to find the optimum answer to a specific problem with many variables. Additionally, D-Wave Systems Inc. announced in 2015 a multi-year agreement with Lockheed Martin to upgrade the company’s 512-qubit D-Wave Two quantum computer to the new D-Wave 2X system with 1,000+ qubits. This represents the second system upgrade since Lockheed Martin became D-Wave’s first customer in 2011. In 2014, the company Aerospace Concepts partnered in a research collaboration with Lockheed Martin and the result was the creation of a new company — QxBranch — which offers quantum computer products and services to the financial, oil and gas, aerospace, and biotech sectors.
11. Microsoft is creating proprietary software and hardware for quantum computers.
Microsoft’s QuArC group, which was established in Decemeber 2011, is focused on designing software architectures and algorithms for use on a scalable, fault-tolerant quantum computer. Notable achievements for the group include LIQUi|>, a software architecture and tool-suite for quantum computing. Microsoft’s QuArC group collaborates closely with universities around the world, including quantum computing groups at TU Delft, Nils Bohr Institute, University of Sydney, Purdue University, University of Maryland, ETH Zurich, and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). In 2014, Microsoft revealed it’s researching topological quantum computing — which aims to improve upon controlled engineering of quantum states — within a group called Station Q, located on the UCSB campus. Underscoring the software and algorithmic work of the QuArC group, Station Q is Microsoft’s global effort to bring together the world’s mathematicians, computer scientists, quantum physicists, and engineers to build hybrid superconducting/semiconducting devices for use in controlled environments, with the ultimate goal of creating a scalable, fault-tolerant, universal quantum computer.
12. Mitsubishi Electric is developing proprietary quantum cryptography equipment to secure mobile communications.
Mitsubishi Electric claims it has developed the world’s first “one-time pad software,” an advanced encryption technique for mobile phones to ensure that telephone conversations remain confidential. Additionally, the company is involved in implementing their technology in a project being conducted by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology to test the viability of mobile communications over a quantum secure network.
13. NEC and Fuijitsu look to offer customers quantum-encrypted communications over long distances.
In September 2015, the Institute for Nano Quantum Information Electronics at the University of Tokyo, in collaboration with Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., and NEC Corporation, announced that they achieved quantum key distribution for securing communications at a distance of 120 kilometers using a system with a single-photon emitter.
14. Nokia is the parent company of Bell Laboratories — a pioneer in the development of quantum computing algorithms.
Several researchers at Bell Labs have served as pioneers in quantum computing, including Peter Shor (Shor’s Algorithm) and Luv Grover (Grover’s Algorithm). For more information on the current research activity in quantum computing at Bell Labs see the homepage here. Nokia is also involved in a project at Oxford University alongside Lockheed Martin to explore the potential for quantum technology to enhance optimization and machine learning.
15. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation wants quantum-based computer chips that rely on photons to process information.
NTT Basic Research Laboratories and NTT Secure Platform Laboratories have collaborated to explore ultracold atoms and quantum information processing. In 2014, the company and researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK developed an optical chip that uses photons to test new theories in quantum computing, with a goal of reducing the resources previously required to test quantum theory.
16. Raytheon is exploring the future of sensors, computers, data security, and imaging technology.
Raytheon BBN Technologies is a research and development center, and is part of the Raytheon Company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The center has established a quantum information processing group that focuses on exploiting quantum phenomena for sensing, computing, and imaging. In 2012, Raytheon BBN Technologies was awarded $2.2M in funding under the quantum computer science program sponsored by Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). Raytheon’s goal is to integrate aspects of a quantum computer in a single framework for better managing resources and assessing performance. Additional program partners include NEC, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Melbourne.
17. SK Telecom wants a quantum secure cryptographic communications network in South Korea.
In March 2016, SK Telecom announced that it completed the rollout of five different national test networks for quantum communications that cover a combined total distance of 256 kilometers. SK Telecom’s Quantum Cryptography System, developed since 2011, is considered one of the most secure encryption methods that uses quantum physics instead of the mathematics-based encryption algorithms used more widely today. The consortium working on the project includes Wooriro Co, Ltd., HFR Inc., National Security Research Institute, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, University of Seoul, KAIST, Korea University, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, and Quantum Information Communication Research Association.
18. Toshiba goes after quantum key distribution and secure communications networks.
Toshiba’s prototype quantum key distribution system delivers digital keys for cryptographic applications on fiber-optic-based computer networks. For more on the initial product, see the homepage here. Notably, the company announced in 2015 that genome data from Toshiba’s Life Science Analysis Centre was slated to be encrypted by a quantum communication system and transmitted to Tohoku University’s Tohoku Medical Megabank Organisation. Toshiba maintains one of the largest quantum IP portfolios in the world.
Want more data on emerging tech trends? Login to CB Insights or sign up for free below.