VANCOUVER - When the world’s largest defence contractor reportedly paid $10 million for a superfast quantum computer, the Burnaby, B.C., company that built it earned a huge vote of confidence.
Two years after Lockheed Martin acquired the first commercially viable quantum computer from D-Wave Systems, the American aerospace and technology giant is once again throwing its weight behind a technology many thought was still the stuff of science fiction.
Lockheed Martin has just upgraded its D-Wave One quantum computer to the D-Wave Two, a machine the company’s founder Geordie Rose said is 500,000 times faster than its predecessor, which was already faster than a conventional computer.
“I don’t think we would have been able to succeed to the extent that we have without them,” said Rose of Lockheed Martin’s investment.
Quantum computers operate at speeds unattainable by even today’s most powerful supercomputers, operations that are so fast, they can process millions of calculations in a fraction of the months, even years, traditional computers take.
They can even be taught and can recognize objects in images, a task standard computers struggle with.
The computers are so advanced that Ray Johnson, Lockheed’s chief technical officer, told the New York Times his company would use the technology to create and test complex radar, space and aircraft systems.
Rose wouldn't say how much Lockheed Martin paid for the computer, but several tech blogs put the number at $10 million.
It’s a big win for D-Wave, said Rose, who has battled skeptics who questioned the legitimacy of his quantum technology – a technology he noted no other company is working on today.
If the company continues on the same path, it will release a new, faster commercial processor every two years, said Rose who graduated from the University of British Columbia with a PhD in theoretical physics.
“It will be like the Wright brothers taking off,” he said. “There will be an entirely new thing that wasn’t possible before.”
D-Wave set up in Burnaby because the city was already home to all of its founders, Rose said, and when they looked to expand and considered other cities, the reasons to stay multiplied.
Rose said while he plans to keep D-Wave in Burnaby, he finds it annoying that Metro Vancouver, with all of its obvious positive attributes, doesn’t have more depth in the technology sector.
“Canada has a beautiful system of supporting researchers and the generation of immensely valuable ideas,” said Rose. “But taking the bull by the horns and making it into a hundred-billion-dollar business just doesn’t happen.”