D-Wave sells first quantum computer

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Canada's D-Wave Systems has won a ringing endorsement of its controversial quantum computer - an order from Lockheed Martin.

For years, D-Wave has claimed to have developed a functioning quantum computer, and for years its claims have been challenged. Back in 2007, the company showed off a machine which was certainly a computer - it calculated a seating plan and completed a Sudoku puzzle - but which many doubted was actually relying on quantum effects to work.

Rather than the simple on/off switch of standard computers, quantum computing relies on quantum bits, or qubits, which can be both on and off simultaneously, making for massively parallel computing.

But while many scientists have demonstrated this on a small scale in the lab, there's been much doubt raised over whether D-Wave had really been able to create, as claimed, a working 128-qubit computer.

Many experts suspected that its machine was instead relying on classical physics for its effects.

However, a recent paper in Nature appeared to back up its claims - and seems to have been enough to convince Lockheed Martin. It's signed a multi-year contract for the system, maintenance and support, and plans to use it for some of its most challenging computation problems, says D-Wave.

D-Wave says the machine is ideal for software verification and validation, financial risk analysis, affinity mapping and sentiment analysis and object recognition in images.

"D-Wave is thrilled to establish a strategic relationship with Lockheed Martin Corporation," says Vern Brownell, D-Wave's president and CEO.

"Our combined strength will provide capacity for innovation needed to tackle important unresolved computational problems of today and tomorrow. Our relationship will allow us to significantly advance the potential of quantum computing."

In other words, Lockheed Martin will act as a sort of testing ground for D-Wave, perhaps making the whole deal more of a joint development partnership, rather than a straightforward sale. Still, it shows that Lockheed Martin believes that D-Wave is really onto something.