Xanadu Quantum Technologies Inc., a Canadian quantum startup, has placed the world’s first photonic quantum computer onto the cloud. In contrast to quantum computers that rely on expensive and fragile qubits, Xanadu’s computer uses photons for computing. This means that Xanadu’s system does not require near-absolute-zero conditions, does not require extensive error correction, and does not have the difficulties scaling that their competitors do. A photonic quantum computer also has other advantages, such as ability to be integrated into existing photonic-based telecom technology.
There are other quantum computers available on the cloud, but no others that rely on photons. Xanadu adding their photonic quantum computer to the cloud is not just adding an alternative to the other quantum computers, but in fact adds new capabilities that the other quantum computers do not offer. Due to the nature of quantum computing, different hardware configurations are required to solve different problems. According to Xanadu CEO Christian Weedbrook, “[t]he set of problems that you can solve on our cloud is literally different from anyone else.” Xanadu’s quantum computer should have capabilities in solving densest subgraph problems, which involve identifying the node in a network with the most connections. These problems have applications in biology and medicine such as helping researchers “understand how complicated networks of proteins interact in the human body.”
Xanadu has pulled in $45M in funding—less than a quarter of the $215M invested in California-based competitor PsiQuantum earlier this year. Both companies are taking slightly different approaches—Xanadu relies on the uncertainty principle while PsiQuantum relies on beam splitters—but it is natural to compare the two as the biggest names in photonic quantum computing. Not only does PsiQuantum have more funding, but they also have a more aggressive patent strategy, with eleven issued patents in this space compared to Xanadu’s one issued patent. If Xanadu wants to catch up, they had better hope that their new offering on the cloud attracts the attention of investors.
Quantum computing is the use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform computation.