(Fortune.com) The race is on to quantum computing. Some of the technology industry’s biggest companies, such as IBM, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and China’s Alibaba, along with upstarts like California-based Rigetti, are in a race to build cutting-edge quantum computing machines, which promise to revolutionize industries including energy, health, and finance by letting them crunch data faster than ever before. Governments understand the geopolitical implications too. China is building a $10 billion national lab for quantum computing.
The most popular approach to quantum computing uses superconducting electronic circuits, using quantum bits, or “qubits” (pronounced cue-bits). These particles, weirdly, inhabit multiple states at once. To keep them in flux, they must be kept isolated and cold. Very, very cold. “What you’re looking at is the world’s most expensive refrigerator,” says Bob Sutor, head of quantum strategy at IBM.
Rigetti, founded by a physicist who previously built quantum computers at IBM, believes it can challenge the titans. The company sells a quantum computing cloud service to researchers who are racing to be the first to achieve “quantum advantage,” when a quantum computer outperforms a traditional one.