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Lockheed Raises Quantum Computing Bet

by Brendan McGarry on March 17, 2014

D-Wave

Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense contractor, is putting more of its money behind quantum computing, even though the technology might still be decades away from military use.

The Bethesda, Md.-based company recently announced a partnership with the University of Maryland to develop a Quantum Engineering Center at the school’s College Park campus near Washington, D.C. A quantum computer uses atomic particles called qubits, or quantum bits, rather than binary digits to store information, making it theoretically faster at solving complex problems.

“Classical computing can only take us so far,” Ray Johnson, Lockheed’s senior vice president and chief technology officer, said in a news release.

“In the future, critical systems will become so complex that problems will take too long or become too expensive to solve using even our most powerful supercomputers,” he said. “We believe the next computational revolution will stem from applied quantum science—a discipline that connects physics, information science, and engineering.”

The release didn’t cite how much money Lockheed was contributing to the effort, which is the company’s second such agreement. Under a partnership with the University of Southern California, the contractor purchased a $10 million machine called D-Wave — billed as the world’s first quantum computer — for researchers at the school.

The 10-foot-tall, super-cooled machine, the heart of which was featured on the cover of TIME magazine last month, is helping researchers figure out whether the technology is better than traditional computers at certain tasks, according to an article by Mohana Ravindranath in The Washington Post.

“So far, the results are fairly inconclusive,” Daniel Lidar, an electrical engineering and chemistry professor who leads the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computation Center, told the newspaper. “We have identified examples where the D-Wave is a little faster, but we have also identified more examples where it is slower.”

The computer is made by D-Wave Systems Inc., based in  Burnaby, British Columbia, which was recently named one of the 50 smartest company’s by MIT Technology Review.

Using a quantum computer to improve military logistic networks may still be decades away, but Lockheed wants to be ready.

“We believe that quantum computing will enhance our ability to engineer the next generation of increasingly complex systems and technologies while reducing costs and avoiding schedule delays,” Johnson said, according to the article.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

blight_ March 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Look how cost-effective LM can be when they don't have cost-plus to develop quantum computing.

If the USG came to LM and told them to do it…ohh boy.

Reply

hibeam March 17, 2014 at 8:37 pm

This is a great idea. And a horrible idea. Both. At the same time.

Reply

Bronco46 March 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Good One!

Reply

blight_ March 18, 2014 at 6:45 pm

The idea is expensive and cheap when unobserved, until you observe the superposition of states and it coalesces into one state: expensive.

Reply

Hunter76 March 18, 2014 at 9:55 am

The only reason this is in DefTech is Lockmart is looking into it. There are no military applications at this time nor the foreseeable future.

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@ScienceAdvisor_ March 18, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Really? Breaking encryption seems like it might have a military application or two.

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blight_ March 18, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Come now, the NSA is already working on a competing project. Probably.

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TonyC. March 21, 2014 at 9:47 am

There must be something that the article wasn't informed for Lockheed Martin to be investing in this technology. The development of weaponized lasers and rail guns is apparently going to LM's competitors, so they want a new whiz bang toy to show off.

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blight_ March 21, 2014 at 11:59 am

Lockheed is a conglomerate, and they plan to make money in other places than weapons sales.

Reply

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