The fifth annual Chicago Quantum Summit brought together more than 220 members of the quantum information science and technology community from across the nation and around the world. Industry leaders, government officials, university presidents and national laboratory directors gathered to discuss quantum education, cutting-edge quantum research, and what comes next for the rapidly growing field.
The Summit also featured the Quantum Creators Prize Symposium, where early-career researchers working in exciting new directions of quantum science shared their work, which spanned the breadth of the field, from gravitational wave sensing to novel quantum materials.
Sean L. Jones, assistant director for the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation, said of the Quantum Creators Prize Winners: “If these talented young researchers are any indication, then the future of quantum is very bright.”
A public event at the Chicago Cultural Center discussed the Chicago region’s efforts in this future with Marco Pistoia of JPMorgan Chase, Mirella Koleva of Quantopticon and others.
“I believe that the future of quantum computing is going to run squarely through the universities and laboratories you see partnered here, and it's going to run squarely through the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago,” Robert Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said at the November event.
Industry leaders take different approaches in emerging field
At the Summit, quantum leaders from Intel, Amazon Web Services, and SandboxAQ all shared how they have approached the rapid progress in the field of quantum computing.
Intel’s approach to quantum computing is very much based in the history of classical computing, said Anne Matsuura, Intel’s director of quantum and molecular technologies. For example, Intel has chosen to invest in silicon quantum dot qubits because they functionally resemble the classical transistors that Intel has spent decades perfecting and manufacturing. This approach is bolstered by Intel’s well-established foothold in the classical computing industry, but it is also motivated by a desire to widen quantum computing’s appeal.
“If we really want new technology to take hold, we have to widen that user base,” Matsuura said at the Summit. “And in order to do that, we have to make it more user friendly. We have to make it more accessible to non-quantum experts.”
To determine their approach to quantum computing, Amazon Web Services looks first at what their customers need. According to Simone Severini, director of quantum technologies at AWS, what their customers need most in quantum computing is insight. Many don’t know what the status of quantum computing technology is, or even if or how it could help their company. AWS has launched programs to help their customers better understand the applications of quantum computing most relevant to their businesses.
But quantum computing isn’t yet practical for most applications, like simulating molecules and cracking encryptions. To prepare for the day it will be, SandboxAQ works on accelerated classical hardware that is not quantum, developing faster simulation and optimization software that extract as much computing power as possible from existing advanced hardware before it becomes possible with quantum computers. They’ve also created quantum-resistant cryptography protocols to protect data from “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks, where hackers steal data with the intent to decrypt it when quantum computers develop that ability.
“Even though there is potential in using quantum computers to do molecular simulation and help with drug discovery, it's still at the very early stage,” said Nadia Carlsten, vice president of product at SandboxAQ. “So what we're trying to do is bridge that gap with classical hardware that's very fast, so we don’t need to rely on that quantum hardware to become available.”