The week in quantum: IQT Fall, security, international cooperation, error correction and more

The U.S. and U.K. are planning more collaboration on the quantum technology front(Getty Images)

So much has been happening on the quantum technology front this week that it would be unwise to try to cram it all into one wrap-up story… but we’re going to try anyway.

Here’s a rundown of what happened on the quantum computing front and concerning all other things quantum this week:

...ICYMI, IBM proposed a new metric for measuring the speed of quantum computing systems - circuit-layer operations per second (CLOPS). How many CLOPS is IBM’s most recent quantum system capable of? You’ll have to read this story to find out.

...That announcement was detailed by Bob Sutor, IBM’s chief quantum exponent, at the Inside Quantum Technology Fall Conference this week, where panel session speakers also gave some pretty sobering comments about the state of post-quantum cryptography (PQC)--that is cryptography that will be resistant to the efforts of future quantum computers to break it. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is coordinating efforts of many international bodies working on PQC standards, and may have some news for the sector in the coming months, but for many new security standards can’t come soon enough.

William Layton, senior subject matter expert for quantum-resistant cryptography at the National Security Agency, said at IQT Fall that he’s hoping PQC standards arrive soon so that the long period of testing, validation and adoption of the new standards can begin.

“I’m more worried about the actual pain of getting the solutions out into the world,” he said. “There are millions of devices out there that have crypto of some kind. You can fix people’s browsers in a month, but all these devices out there — that is painful and very long and I would like to get that started as soon as possible.”

Why the urgency? Because, as others in the sector have noted, the are very real concerns that bad actors might already be stealing data that they can’t decrypt right now, but plan to employ a quantum computer to decrypt in the future. As another IQT panelist, John Prisco, president and CEO of Safe Quantum Incorporated, put it, “The reason to worry about this right now is that you have [data] harvesting going on right now. I’m sure China is copying everything it can get its hands on.”

...China also was the subject of its own panel at IQT Fall, during which Laura Thomas, who used to work for the CIA, and is now senior director of national security solutions at quantum technology firm ColdQuanta, highlighted the inability of national security groups around the world to keep up with the emerging potential and threats relative to quantum.

“There is still a focus on recruiting the next spy when there should be more of a focus on emerging technology,” she said. “15 or 20 or 30 years ago we had time to think about how to respond [to threats.] Now, software code can change things overnight. The national security mindset is still behind.”

...Beyond IQT, quantum was in the news elsewhere this week, including at the Biden White House, which has been trying to do its best to keep up. In the latest quantum-flavored geopolitical move, the U.S. and the U.K. issued a joint statement declaring their intent to “to boost collaboration to help realize the full potential of quantum technologies and deepen ties” between the two countries.

...In the increasingly busy arena of funding for quantum, U.K. Research and Innovation announced 50 million British pounds ($67.4 million) in financing spread across 12 different quantum technology projects.

...Error correction is one of the most critical fields requiring improvement for quantum computing systems to realize their full potential, and start-up Q-CTRL this week announced the results of new algorithmic benchmarking experiments showing that “replacement quantum logic operations built using quantum control can improve the success of quantum algorithms on real hardware by >25X with no additional overhead on the part of the user,” according to a company statement.

The experiments were completed on multiple IBM quantum computers, and also “showed the new quantum logic gates were over 400 times more efficient in preventing computational errors than any previously demonstrated techniques, considerably simplifying the procedure for a user to achieve improved performance,” the statement said.

That was the week in quantum. Watch for our weekly reports on future Friday afternoons...