One of the biggest problems in quantum computing is keeping qubits stable. Any amount of noise, from increases in temperature to disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field, can cause qubits to decohere. Most companies are attempting to fix decoherence by building shielded and stable hardware, but this becomes a steep expense. Other companies have taken a different approach and are using an algorithm called Quantum Error Correction which can spread the information in one qubit out into many to protect against decoherence by redundancy. However, it may take as many as 1000 qubits to function as a single error-corrected, or logical, qubit.
Q-CTRL, an Australian quantum computing startup, has decided on a third path. Q-CTRL develops quantum firmware that determines error-robust operations for manipulating physical hardware. The quantum firmware does not focus on shielding, or on error correction after the fact, but instead on suppressing errors during operations. Quantum firmware is an additional level of stabilization that may work alongside shielding or quantum error correction and may therefore be added into any quantum computer.
On September 9, Q-CTRL announced a non-exclusive partnership with Quantum Machines, an Israeli quantum computing startup with a focus on both hardware and software. The partnership itself, and the fact that it is non-exclusive, signal that the challenges of quantum computing are too much for any one company to solve alone. As of writing, neither Quantum Machines nor Q-CTRL has a significant US patent portfolio: Quantum Machines has four issued US patents, while Q-CTRL has only one. If developing quantum computers is going to require a lot of collaboration, Quantum Machines and Q-CTRL should make sure to get their IP rights in order.