Honeywell Wants To Show What Quantum Computing Can Do For The World – Forbes

Posted: August 14, 2020 at 11:51 pm


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The race for quantum supremacy heated up in June, when Honeywell brought to market the worlds highest performing quantum computer. Honeywell claims it is more accurate (i.e., performs with less errors) than competing systems and that its performance will increase by an order of magnitude each year for the next five years.

Inside the chamber of Honeywells quantum computer

The beauty of quantum computing, says Tony Uttley, President of Honeywell Quantum Solutions, is that once you reach a certain level of accuracy, every time you add a qbit [the basic unit of quantum information] you double the computational capacity. So as the quantum computer scales exponentially, you can scale your problem set exponentially.

Tony Uttley, President, Honeywell Quantum Solutions

Uttley sees three distinct eras in the evolution of quantum computing. Today, we are in the emergent erayou can start to prove what kind of things work, what kind of algorithms show the most promise. For example, the Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering (FLARE) group of JPMorgan Chase published a paper in June summarizing the results of running on the Honeywell quantum computer complex mathematical calculations used in financial trading applications.

The next era Uttley calls classically impractical, running computations on a quantum computer that typically are not run on todays (classical) computers because they take too long, consume too much power, and cost too much. Crossing the threshold from emergent to classically impractical is not very far away, he asserts, probably sometime in the next 18 to 24 months. This is when you build the trust with the organizations you work with that the answer that is coming from your quantum computer is the correct one, says Uttley.

The companies that understand the potential impact of quantum computing on their industries, are already looking at what it would take to introduce this new computing capability into their existing processes and what they need to adjust or develop from scratch, according to Uttley. These companies will be ready for the shift from emergent to classically impractical which is going to be a binary moment, and they will be able to take advantage of it immediately.

The last stage of the quantum evolution will be classically impossible"you couldnt in the timeframe of the universe do this computation on a classical best-performing supercomputer that you can on a quantum computer, says Uttley. He mentions quantum chemistry, machine learning, optimization challenges (warehouse routing, aircraft maintenance) as applications that will benefit from quantum computing. But what shows the most promise right now are hybrid [resources]you do just one thing, very efficiently, on a quantum computer, and run the other parts of the algorithm or calculation on a classical computer. Uttley predicts that for the foreseeable future we will see co-processing, combining the power of todays computers with the power of emerging quantum computing solutions.

You want to use a quantum computer for the more probabilistic parts [of the algorithm] and a classical computer for the more mundane calculationsthat might reduce the number of qbits needed, explains Gavin Towler, vice president and chief technology officer of Honeywell Performance Materials Technologies. Towler leads R&D activities for three of Honeywell's businesses: Advanced Materials (e.g., refrigerants), UOP (equipment and services for the oil and gas sector), and Process Automation (automation, control systems, software, for all the process industries). As such, he is the poster boy for a quantum computing lead-user.

Gavin Towler, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Honeywell Performance Materials and ... [+] Technologies

In the space of materials discovery, quantum computing is going to be critical. Thats not a might or could be. It is going to be the way people do molecular discovery, says Towler. Molecular simulation is used in the design of new molecules, requiring the designer to understand quantum effects. These are intrinsically probabilistic as are quantum computers, Towler explains.

An example he provides is a refrigerant Honeywell produces that is used in automotive air conditioning, supermarkets refrigeration, and homes. As the chlorinated molecules in the refrigerants were causing the hole in the Ozone layer, they were replaced by HFCs which later tuned out to be very potent greenhouse gasses. Honeywell already found a suitable replacement for the refrigerant used in automotive air conditioning, but is searching for similar solutions for other refrigeration applications. Synthesizing in the lab molecules that will prove to have no effect on the Ozone layer or global warming and will not be toxic or flammable is costly. Computer simulation replaces lab work but ideally, you want to have computer models that will screen things out to identify leads much faster, says Towler.

This is where the speed of a quantum computer will make a difference, starting with simple molecules like the ones found in refrigerants or in solvents that are used to remove CO2 from processes prevalent in the oil and gas industry. These are relatively simple molecules, with 10-20 atoms, amenable to be modeled with [todays] quantum computers, says Towler. In the future, he expects more powerful quantum computers to assist in developing vaccines and finding new drugs, polymers, biodegradable plastics, things that contain hundred and thousands of atoms.

There are three ways by which Towlers counterparts in other companies, the lead-users who are interested in experimenting with quantum computing, can currently access Honeywells solution: Run their program directly on Honeywells quantum computer; through Microsoft Azure Quantum services; and working with two startups that Honeywell has invested in, Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) and Zapata Computing, both assisting in turning business challenges into quantum computing and hybrid computing algorithms.

Honeywell brings to the quantum computing emerging market a variety of skills in multiple disciplines, with its decades-long experience with precision control systems possibly the most important one. Any at-scale quantum computer becomes a controls problem, says Uttley, and we have experience in some of the most complex systems integration problems in the world. These past experiences have prepared Honeywell to show what quantum computing can do for the world and to rapidly scale-up its solution. Weve built a big auditorium but we are filling out just a few seats right now and we have lots more seats to fill, Uttley sums up this point in time in Honeywells journey to quantum supremacy.

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Honeywell Wants To Show What Quantum Computing Can Do For The World - Forbes

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August 14th, 2020 at 11:51 pm

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