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01 Jun 2011

Lockheed Martin Buys Quantum Computer From D-Wave Systems For $10 Million

US defense contractor Lockheed Martin has just bought a “quantum computer system” from a startup. The computer uses quantum mechanics for data processing. The computer is still in the test phase and is also being followed by Google. The startup by the name of D-Wave systems confirmed that it’s the first sale of a quantum computer. The computer has a configuration similar to the conventional computers but is said to perform complex operations with ease. The quantum computer system is considered to be more intelligent than the normal computers and can learn a few tricks with the help of its unique software. The system called the D Wave One can be used in a lot of applications of quantum computing which are untouched till now. Theoretically, the scientists have already proved and demonstrated that quantum computers can actually perform tasks which are impossible for its competitors. For example, it can breach the security of a peer by getting through the encrypted codes by solving the problem mathematically at a breath taking speed.

[​IMG]The complete system is quite bulky and accommodates approximately 100 square feet of area. It is actually a supporting system for a normal computer. This specialized auxiliary system runs software that helps the conventional PC to learn from its past information and can predict the future outputs to some extent. Lockheed Martin plans to use this acquisition for detection and identification of bugs in products that are complex combinations of software and hardware. This will enable the firm to cut down the extra costs incurred due to unforeseen errors in such systems. A few such problems resulted in 20% over budget in the F-35 fighter jets project.

The core of this D-Wave One is a 128 qubits processor unit. Qubit is the abbreviation for quantum bits that represent 0 or 1 with the help of magnetic fields and can also represent both using superposition effect of quantum mechanics. Superimposed qubits in different combinations can carry significantly more data than the actual number of bits. The qubits are in the form of metallic loops that are rich in niobium. Niobium acts as a superconductor at very low temperatures and is commonly used in MRI scanners. Different qubits are linked with niobium alloy superconducting couplers which determine the magnitude with which the neighboring qubits affect each other. When a calculation is done, the magnetic fields set the states of qubits and couplers, then a small delay is there after which the final values are read out.

The main advantage that this computing device has over the conventional computers is that it can predict answers to problems and codes that require the machine to try each and every possible solution exhaustively. D Wave runs only one algorithm called “quantum annealing” that is linked to the physical design of this awesome machine. The information in the chip is sent to the processing unit where it’s converted into qubits and couplers also change state. After that during the delay time, the qubits undergo a number of quantum changes and finally the result is read out as a possible solution. The quantum mechanics theory involved in it is pretty heavy, the machine can be used by software engineers who don’t even understand a word of quantum mechanics. All that’s required to operate the D Wave One is a set of simple commands and protocols called the APIs for Application Programming interface. The quantum computer gives every possible solution for a problem and its results are more accurate compared to traditional computers because of its ability to learn. Google Inc. has been carrying on a few experiments with the D Wave One for some years now to implement its cloud computing service. The quantum mechanics can enable faster, accurate object recognition (9% more accurate).

Only time can tell that whether this initiative by Lockheed martin will help it to get an edge over its competitors.

Image Source: Gadgeteer

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