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DCS 2019: Spotlight on emerging quantum sector

16 Apr 2019

Conference opener hears "quantum applications will enable things we just cannot do today.”

From Ford Burkhart in Baltimore

A standing room only session on quantum computing did not fail to deliver the expected fireworks on Monday for SPIE’s first-ever such industry event, the curtain-raiser for the weeklong SPIE Defense and Commercial Sensing meetings at the Baltimore Convention Center, through April 18th.

From ColdQuanta, a Colorado-based quantum innovator, came Robert Williamson, vice president of business development, with the company’s latest news. “We are developing a neutral atom quantum computer, still in early development,” he said. It illustrated his theme: “Truly quantum applications, ones that put to work entangled qubits, will enable things we simply can’t do today.”

ColdQuanta’s device will one day fill needs like better quantum measurement, gravity assessment, and better atomic clocks. ColdQuanta, he said, is a late entrant among a dozen or so players in this space.

Meanwhile, Thomas Tongue, VP of sales and marketing at Toptica, in New York State, said a crucial step in years ahead will be how to commercialize quantum supply chains. “Today everybody has one little piece. If we can work together, we are going to spend less time re-inventing each others’ wheels and more time getting the job done.”

He focused on a serious need for more trained experts to join companies like his, ready to make things work. “We need people to do this work, not at a research level but at an engineering level,” he said.

Tongue said there are fears of anti-encryption threats from powerful quantum computers that are unjustified. “Some people are saying quantum technology is going to crack your password before you even type it in. That’s just not the case. It will be ten years before encryption devices become a serious threat. We should focus on the current benefits that quantum will bring.”

'Quantum frontier’

Jenn Wickre, of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, outlined recent developments on the quantum frontier at a packed opening day for the first ever SPIE special industry session on quantum technology.

She wrote much of the 2018 legislation establishing the US National Quantum Initiative (NQI) and worked with industry and government reps on the NQI, which she said will boost US economic and national security. The legislation has authorized spending $1.25 billion over five years to advance US leadership, set standards and streamline the workforce pipeline “for apps we haven’t even thought about yet.”

Joseph S. Broz, VP for strategy and applied sciences at SRI International in Arlington, Virginia, outlined the work of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QEDC), of which he is the Executive Director and Governing Board Chairman.

The consortium’s 55 members include Amazon, Boeing, FLIR, Raytheon.

SRI International was asked to develop the Consortium with a focus on how the new industry will emerge. “We are not about qubits,” he said. “We are about all the enabling tech that creates qubits, stable qubits that behave. That means creating all the enabling equipment and technology for a mature industry. The purpose is to look at those gaps and find solutions to fill them.”

It will address work force needs, intellect property issues and standards development.

The QEDC, Broz said, is “ahead of schedule, moving two times the expected pace of development.” Two more companies are joining up each week, he added. Its goals include seeking out “killer quantum apps,” and setting quantum standards as well as defining markets. By 2021 it will make its first proposal awards and issue consortium licenses.

The QEDC will address technology gaps like superconducting qubit cabling, high density interconnects, cryogenically compatible components, and customized magnetic shielding.

EKSMA OPTICSMOELLER-WEDEL OPTICAL GmbHPhotonTec Berlin GmbHNanoscribe GmbHEdmund OpticsInfraTec GmbHDelta Optical Thin Film A/S
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