COMPANIES TO WATCH: B.C. company commercializes quantum computing

When a headhunter approached Vern Brownell to visit D-Wave Systems Inc., the tech industry veteran was skeptical about the company’s commercialized quantum computing system. That was more than two years ago, and the now chief executive of the Burnaby, B.C.-based company is confident D-Wave’s technology will revolutionize the computing industry.

“When I came and saw the team and what they had done and the potential here, it was something I had to be part of,” he said.

D-Wave was co-founded in 1999 by current CTO Geordie Rose and has been working to gain intellectual property and develop its processor since then. The D-Wave One system is a high performance computing system that holds a superconducting 128 qubit (or quantum bit) processor chip. According to D-Wave, its chips are “architected to be highly effective at learning, rather than simply running complex arithmetic operations like a conventional electronic circuit.”

The system is built to solve complex problems related to big data analysis, optimization and machine learning.

“We’re kind of in the unique position of not having any commercial competition,” Brownell said. “There’s really no one else in the world who’s trying to build a commercial quantum computer.”

The company is focused on defence and intelligence, financial services, Web 2.0 and search companies and the research industry, including government and academia, but Brownell said it could serve many markets.

In May 2011, the company made its first sale to global security company Lockheed Martin Corp. The system is hosted it at the University of Southern California’s new quantum computing centre, which went live in December, where researchers will work on uncovering the full potential of the system.

The company also offers a developer portal to basically anyone so they can understand it better and apply it to their business problems.

“We have this computational capability that is enormously powerful but it needs people to use it,” Brownell said.

It’s currently in beta but eventually, potential users can get a sign on and will have access to software development kits, documentation and tools necessary to program a D-Wave One system.

This year, D-Wave will work on improving its processor and expanding its customer base. One of it 2012 projects will be to commercialize a “quantum cloud,” where companies who may not want to purchase an entire system can use it as a service.

“We want to extend our capabilities through channels and other providers both on hardware and software side,” he said.

“Anyone who is focused on these very high-end customers that have these very high-end computational requirements could be a good partner.”

Follow Harmeet Singh on Twitter: @HarmeetCDN.

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Harmeet Singh
Harmeet Singh
Harmeet reports on channel partner programs, new technologies and products and other issues relevant to Canada's channel community. She also contributes as a video journalist, providing content for the site's original streaming video. Harmeet is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism.

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