The merger brings together two companies specialized in complementary fields, namely hardware and software.
Honeywell Quantum Solutions and Cambridge Quantum have taken an important leap into quantum computing with plans to merge and form an independent company that combines Honeywell’s trapped-ion hardware with Cambridge Quantum’s software platforms.
Honeywell’s quantum computer uses trapped-ion technology, which utilizes numerous individually charged atoms (ions) to hold quantum information. Honeywell’s system applies electromagnetic fields to hold (trap) each ion so that it can be manipulated and encoded using laser pulses. These high-performance operations require in-depth expertise in multiple disciplines.
Honeywell caught the attention of the quantum computing world last year when it launched its first quantum computer model. On the other hand, Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) is focused on creating software solutions for quantum computers.
The newly-formed company will continue to partner with Honeywell for the manufacturing of the ion traps needed to run quantum computers. In an interview with EE Times Europe, Duncan Jones, head of Quantum Cybersecurity at Cambridge Quantum, said that quantum computers now need excellent hardware and software capable of executing the correct programming through python, for example, operating on various configurations.
The merger brings together two companies specialized in complementary fields, namely hardware and software. Although CQC’s solutions will remain hardware agnostic, it is easy to see how the control of hardware and software will lead to better and closer integration and faster development of both components.
Jones commented, “To accelerate technology, developers need to have some common tools to use. That’s really our ambition. We see the next phase moving towards a quantum operating system or a full layer, which developers can interact with, and then use quantum computers in a much more natural way. We think there will be a natural standardization, and the agreement with Honeywell is intended to facilitate just that. Our mission is to remain agnostic, to work with every different type of architecture in every different computer vendor. If we can build that layer, access to quantum computers, I think it will be very useful for the industry.”
The new company will offer a quantum computer and a full suite of software, including a quantum operating system. These technologies will support customers’ needs for improved computing in various areas, including cybersecurity, drug discovery and delivery, materials science, finance, and optimization in all major industrial markets. The company will also focus on advancing natural language processing to fully exploit the possibilities of quantum artificial intelligence.
“In the quantum computing revolution, we will become the first company with a complete solution from hardware through compilers and the operating system,” said Jones. “We think that’s a big step forward and that should help accelerate the adoption of quantum computing.”
Jones currently focuses on a near-term use of quantum computing in cybersecurity, and more specifically in the field of cryptography. He pointed out that the main challenge is represented by algorithms that rely on mathematical problems that we know quantum computers can’t solve. “The industry will have to move towards these problems as a basis for computer security,” Jones said.
However, vulnerable algorithms are not the only danger quantum computers present to infrastructure. The way cryptographic keys are generated will have to fundamentally change as well.
“Quantum computers will be very good at simulating complex systems. That is why they are so exciting for chemistry and for many other beneficial use cases. Unfortunately, they will also be good at modeling the systems we use today to generate our cryptographic keys,” Jones said.
Cryptographic keys are essentially composed of random numbers and are only secure if no one can guess what those numbers are. Today, we generate these keys using entropy sources that appear to deliver a long series of random numbers. But when you have a powerful quantum computer, “It’s not complicated at all,” Jones said. “It will be obvious what’s going to happen inside the system, and you will be able to predict the keys that it generates. So, we need to move towards a completely new approach to key generation.”.
True randomness lies in quantum mechanics. “If I flip a coin in the air, it’s heads or tails. But that’s not really random. If you can measure the weight of my coin, the acceleration of my thumb, the atmosphere in the room, there’s no doubt which side the coin will land on,” Jones said. “Now through a solution, we call IronBrige, we can use quantum computers to access true randomness and solve this long-term cybersecurity vulnerability by generating ‘perfect’ cryptographic keys.”
Jones pointed out that there are various random number generators. Many use laser pulse technology with detectors to correctly determine the position of zero or one. “Usually, you have two detectors to get a zero and a one. If these are not exactly of the same quality, if everything is not exactly right, you start to get not true randomness. By contrast, using these quantum computers, we can get verifiable perfect randomness,” Jones said.
Quantum-based cybersecurity threats are not a future problem, he added. Adversarial governments and other malicious actors have already begun infiltrating systems to harvest data and files for decryption later when advanced quantum computing power will be able to break current encryption standards such as RSA, Jones said.
To conclude, Jones said the collaboration with Honeywell aims to accelerate this development and provide quantum keys for each use case. At the same time, it will take several years for quantum computers to become widespread and widely used objects, particularly in terms of the skills needed to operate and program them.
This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.
Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.