Quantum computing platform company Rigetti Computing Inc. is expanding into application territory with the acquisition of a startup called QxBranch Inc.
Rigetti has built what it calls a “hybrid quantum-classical” computing platform that it claims is one of the world’s first genuine, working quantum computers. Available to use by researchers and organizations as a cloud service, it’s said to combine the best bits of both traditional and quantum computers to handle workloads more efficiently.
QxBranch is more focused on the software side. It builds applications and software designed to run on quantum computers, with a focus on predictive analytics, forecasting and optimization.
Quantum computers rely on “qubits,” which are far more powerful than the traditional “bits” found in classic computers, to process computations. Whereas a bit is either 0 or 1, a quantum bit can be 0, 1 or something else. That something else can be 1/2, 9/16ths, 123/128ths or any other point on an multidimensional axis. This is called a “superpositioning” characteristic and makes it possible for qubits to represent complex problem sets that binary computers can’t approach.
Qubits also have an “entanglement” ability that allows them to correlate with each other so that each is aware of the state of all others. That means that quantum computers grow in power exponentially as more qubits are added.
Rigetti says that by effectively joining forces with QxBranch, it will be able to create a kind of “full-stack” platform for quantum computing, delivering new quantum algorithms and services to its customers.
“Our mission is to deliver the power of quantum computing to our customers and help them solve difficult and valuable problems,” said Chad Rigetti, Rigetti’s founder and chief executive officer. “We believe we have the leading hardware platform, and QxBranch is the leader at the application layer. Together we can shorten the timeline to quantum advantage and open up new opportunities for our customers.”
The plan is for QxBranch’s team to join Rigetti’s staff and work on a range of software engineering and application projects. CEO Michael Brett will become Rigetti’s senior vice president of applications.
“We have worked hard over the past five years to introduce our data analytics customers to the emerging potential of quantum computing and now we can offer even more with a combined hardware and software solution,” Brett said.
Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller said the acquisition has to be seen in the light of quantum computing’s evolution away from a focus on hardware to that of a complete solution that includes the software these platforms will run.
“With its focus and experience with predictive analytics-centric applications, QxBranch is a good acquisition for Rigetti, positioning the vendor well vis a vis the other quantum players,” he said.
Many of the other quantum players have been making headway of their own in recent weeks. Last month, D-Wave Systems Inc., which sells both physical quantum computers and quantum services via the cloud, announced new tools for developers to build “hybrid-classical” applications. And just this week, a startup called IQM Finland Oy announced it has raised $13 million in funding to develop specialized processors that it claims can make quantum computers more reliable.
Photo: Rigetti Computing/Facebook
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