Report from the Inside Technology Conference: D-Wave and whurley

The Inside Quantum Technology conference in Boston last week was a significant event in the evolution of the of the quantum technology business. Many important speakers from this budding industry spoke at the event. This is the first of several pieces that chronicle what they had to say.

Denny Dahl, Research Scientist at D-Wave, whose quantum annealer provides optimization solutions for business workflows, delivered the opening keynote. Dahl talked about different ways to build a qubit, using visuals of ocean waves crashing onshore to describe the concurrent presence of non-coherent activity (noise) when mapping a problem for quantum annealing via ‘landscape’ techniques. Practical use cases mentioned were a grid for routing warehouse robots and a project with Volkswagen on traffic flows.

Dahl concluded, however, that the notion of “quantum supremacy” (a buzzword in 2018) was a red herring because and still need to rely on classical computers for most applications, and that “quantum diversity” in computing power was a better term.

whurley, CEO of Strangeworks, an Austin TX tech software firm, and all-round quantum evangelist predicted that “quantum computing will change computing in next 15 years in greater ways than computing has changed in its entire history.” Like Dahl from D-wave, whurley also made it clear that classical computers won’t be disappearing any time soon. But quantum computers will be able to solve more intractable problems, and make the most complex calculations faster, in fewer steps.

whurley suggested that quantum technology needs long-term investment and collaboration on the level of “a trip to Mars” to become truly useful to humanity. He claimed that quantum technology will eventually be able to cure diseases, mitigate climate change and produce the next big “unlikely discovery.” whurley urged the assembled audience of corporate executive, entrepreneurs and investors at the Inside Quantum Technology conference to be “crazy, creative, and patient…Less Elon, more Beyonce.”

According to whurley, the size of seed round funding for quantum startups is growing, while the number of seed rounds is shrinking. He saw this change as a long-term problem for the quantum technology industry.