Quantum Bayesian Networks

June 11, 2009

D-Wave Company

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 12:29 am

I recommend the following recent article on D-Wave Inc.

“The Tortoise and the Hare”, by Danielle Egan, Phillip Chin, BCBusiness, Jan. 01, 2009

I found the article to be well-written, balanced, candid and full of interesting details about D-wave. It quotes several science and business experts who run the gamut from very optimistic to very pessimistic about the prospects of D-Wave. Personally, I believe that D-wave, like any other company, has some good and bad features. Let me discuss in this blog post what I see as its good features:

  • Focal Point for QC Investors. One thing that few can dispute is that D-wave has done an impressive job at courting investors for money, about $70 million in the last 15 years (about $20 million from the Canadian government, and about $50 million from private investors). D-wave has proven that there are people out there who believe in quantum computing and are willing to invest in it. One just has to make an effort to find them.
  • First Step towards a QC Industry . What has D-wave gotten in return for $70 million in 15 years? Their current chip has 128 qubits, and they are promising a 1000 qubit chip by the end of 2009. By comparison, the US government has spent about 1 billion dollars on quantum computing during the same period, and their best quantum computers (ion trap QCs) have about 10 qubits, and cannot be scaled to much higher qubit numbers, except through some Rube Goldberg schemes. Of course, the D-wave computer is adiabatic and the ion trap ones aren’t, so comparing them in terms of number of qubits is not very fair. Still, the difference between $70 million and $1 billion is astonishing. This supports the contention that quantum computing will advance much faster if it is both an industrial and an academic enterprise. The example of Craig Venter and Celera is quite pertinent here. Without industry (Celera), scientists probably would  have taken at least ten more years to map the human genome. Unfortunately, quantum computing in the US is so far mostly an academic, government funded endeavour — a very narrow combination. The US has no quantum computing industry similar to Canada’s D-wave.
  • Job Generator. Another commendable fact about D-Wave is that it has generated some rewarding HiTech jobs. It “has 13 full-time employees, as well as 60 research collaborators in the U.S. and Europe.”
  • Beautiful Experiment. Even if D-wave runs out of money before it can generate a profit, it will undoubtedly have carried out some very interesting physics experiments. For example, it will go a long way towards answering the question of whether adiabatic quantum computers are useful in practice.
  • Seems Well Positioned for the Future. D-wave has assembled a team of first rate experts in superconductor physics. It has gone where no man has gone before in terms of producing chips with a large number of coupled SQUIDS. It has accumulated a large number of patents and much experience pertaining to such models. If adiabatic QCs prove to be profitable, then it will become the first player in a new market. If not, it might still be able to use the expertise it has accumulated to produce other superconductor devices,  maybe even a discrete-steps (sequence of elementary operations) QC with error correction (See recent DiVincenzo paper).


  1. I’m sorry but D-WAVE does not have a quantum computer, or anything near it, adiabatic or otherwise.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 12, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

  2. Anonymous, you might be right. I don’t know enough to predict objectively how well D-wave’s computer will perform. My impression is that they have an adiabatic quantum computer that is quite noisy. But is it so noisy that it won’t pose a challenge to its classical competitors? I don’t know. Noise is hard to predict theoretically. I’m sure D-wave is constantly trying to reduce noise. Who knows how successful they will be in doing this. Even if they bomb, I will still consider their effort a great learning experience. Inventors (e.g., Wright brothers, Edison and light bulbs) often go through many iterations, learning experiences, before they find the right recipe. At least D-wave is trying hard. I admire anyone who is trying. I want QCs to be built in my lifetime!

    Comment by rrtucci — June 13, 2009 @ 3:23 am

  3. Anonymous: Can you be more specific as to why you think this? They have published at least three papers showing that the devices they are using are highly quantum mechanical. Also they have published very detailed measurements of noise, in fact as far as I can tell they have done some unique sorts of noise characterization and are showing noise levels as low or lower than the best aluminum qubits in an integrated niobium process which is very impressive. ??? Can you be more specific about your objections?

    Comment by Question — June 14, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

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