Quantum Computers Are In Lockheed's Future
March 24, 2013

Lockheed Martin Looking To Use Quantum Computing For Product Development

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A US-based aerospace and defense developer is looking to become the first company in the world to use quantum computing technology as part of its commercial business ventures.

According to Quentin Hardy of the New York Times, Lockheed Martin is planning to use one of the next generation computers, which theoretically will be able to complete complex calculations exponentially faster than modern technology, to help create and test enhanced radar, space and aircraft systems.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based firm purchased the computer two years ago from D-Wave Systems of Vancouver, Hardy explained. While skeptics argue D-Wave has not yet effectively demonstrated to experts that they have managed to solve the many challenges surrounding quantum computing, Lockheed Martin apparently has enough faith in the technology to upgrade it to commercial scale — thus becoming the first company to do so.

While quantum computing itself is a bit complicated to describe, Jordan Novet of GigaOm explained that rather than working with ones and zeroes like traditional binary computers, “quantum computing is more probabilistic, also allowing a combination of zero and one to simultaneously answer many questions with quantum bits of information, or qubits, and tell users more about the likelihood of a situation. It´s not necessarily useful for all kinds of computing, but it could solve problems that current computers can´t.”

D-Wave isn´t the only company experimenting with the technology — Smithsonian.com reports the founders of BlackBerry have recently announced plans to open up a $100 million facility researching quantum computing — but their approach has been somewhat different than their competition, according to the New York Times reporter.

“In the D-Wave system, a quantum computing processor, made from a lattice of tiny superconducting wires, is chilled close to absolute zero. It is then programmed by loading a set of mathematical equations into the lattice. The processor then moves through a near-infinity of possibilities to determine the lowest energy required to form those relationships. That state, seen as the optimal outcome, is the answer,” Hardy explained.

“The approach, which is known as adiabatic quantum computing, has been shown to have promise in applications like calculating protein folding, and D-Wave´s designers said it could potentially be used to evaluate complicated financial strategies or vast logistics problems,” he added. “However, the company´s scientists have not yet published scientific data showing that the system computes faster than today´s conventional binary computers. While similar subatomic properties are used by plants to turn sunlight into photosynthetic energy in a few million-billionths of a second, critics of D-Wave´s method say it is not quantum computing at all, but a form of standard thermal behavior.”

Hardy also explains the cutting-edge technology could be used by cancer researchers attempting to rapidly review an abundant amount of genetic information, or by researchers attempting to go beyond sequencing the genome and determining the actual behavior of proteins in DNA. In addition, Google researchers are working with D-Wave on a project that would use quantum computing to help manage self-driving automobiles.