- Google, with research partners NASA and USRA, signed a new agreement with quantum computer maker D-Wave.
- The most recent D-Wave quantum computer, D-Wave 2X, is now operational at NASA Ames.
- Google and its research partners will have access to next-generation D-Wave computers as they become available.
- Google has a lot to gain from the unprecedented computational power of quantum computing and its applications to critical core business areas.
- Google is in a good position to buy D-Wave, but the quantum computer maker could be thinking about an IPO instead.
Google NASA D-Wave Team Up
In the race for superior quantum computing capabilities, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is making some interesting moves. Google, NASA, and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), have signed an agreement with quantum computer maker D-Wave that will give them access to new quantum processors as they are developed for the next seven years, D-Wave said in a press release. The deals builds on on an earlier hardware agreement from May 2013.
"This allows Google to get the latest machine from D-Wave as soon as it’s available," said D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell. "The new agreement is the largest order in D-Wave’s history, and indicative of the importance of quantum computing in its evolution toward solving problems that are difficult for even the largest supercomputers," said Brownell in the D-Wave press release. "We highly value the commitment that our partners have made to D-Wave and our technology, and are excited about the potential use of our systems for machine learning and complex optimization problems."
A previous coverage of the developments in quantum computing, looks at the general direction that the industry as a whole is heading in.
The research partners will use new generations of D-Wave systems to be installed at NASA Ames, as they become available, to study how quantum computing can advance artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the solution of difficult optimization problems. The installation of the most recent D-Wave quantum computer, D-Wave 2X, was recently completed and the system is now operational at NASA Ames, one of the world’s leading high performance computing centers.
"Working with the D-Wave processors has helped us develop and fine-tune models of quantum annealing," said Hartmut Neven, Director of Engineering for Google and Head of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab. "We look forward to the continued advancements coming from each generation of D-Wave systems."
Bloomberg Business notes that, with this move, Google is making sure that it will play a role in the next era of computing. The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (QuAIL), located in the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Facility at Ames Research Center, supports quantum computing research and development at NASA, Google, and the USRA.
"Through research at NASA Ames, we hope to demonstrate that quantum computing and quantum algorithms may someday dramatically improve our ability to solve difficult optimization problems for missions in aeronautics, Earth and space sciences, and space exploration," said Eugene Tu, Center Director at NASA’s Ames Research Center. "The availability of increasingly more powerful quantum systems are key to achieving these goals, and work is now underway with D-Wave’s latest technology."
Quantum computers encode information in "qubits" that, instead of being in definite zero or one states like classical bits, can be in weird quantum superpositions of zero and one states, and process information in ways that have no equivalent in classical computing by exploiting subtle quantum phenomena. Experts believe that future quantum computers will permit solving very complex computational challenges, beyond the reach of even today's most powerful computers, for a wide range of critical applications.
"Our collaboration with Google and NASA enables the university community to access the most cutting edge area of computing research today - quantum computing," said David Bell, Director, USRA’s Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science. "At USRA, we are excited to see the diversity of research that will result by having universities and other research organizations from around the world conduct research using each generation of D-Wave systems."
Of course, Google isn't the only company to bet on the breakthrough potential of quantum computing. Other top technology companies are entering into partnerships with universities and research laboratories for next-generation quantum computing systems. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) believes that quantum computing is a strategic technology and recently invested $50 million in a research collaboration to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) have ongoing quantum computing projects.
Any of the top public tech companies mentioned above - Intel, Lockheed Martin, Google, and IBM - could be thinking of buying D-Wave. However, the quantum computer maker could be thinking about an IPO instead, Wall Street Journal reported in January.
"This agreement demonstrates the commitment by leading corporations and government organizations to the use of D-Wave's technology to solve problems that are difficult or impossible to solve using classical computers," said Alexei A. Andreev, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Harris & Harris (NASDAQ:TINY), an investor in D-Wave.
Google has a lot to gain from the unprecedented computational power of quantum computing and its potential applications to Google's critical core business areas, such as optimization and machine learning, and therefore it seems likely that this move will boost Google's stock in the mid and long term. Investors bullish on quantum computing should also watch for news about the possible D-Wave IPO, or consider investing in Harris & Harris Group.