Quantum computing is still in its infancy—industry experts are still undecided on the fundamentals, such as what qubit technologies are the cheapest and easiest to scale. Quantum computers have been built with superconducting qubits, using photons as qubits, with neutral atoms as qubits, and more, but right now there is no clear consensus on which approach is best. However, the events of the past few months have shown that ion trap qubits, as used by companies such as IonQ and Honeywell, have a lot of promise.
Ion trap quantum computers, which use the outermost electron of a trapped ion as a qubit, were long disfavored due to their slow speed when compared to superconducting quantum computers. For this reason, tech giants such as IBM and Google have poured their tremendous resources into building superconducting quantum computers. But perhaps those tremendous resources were misplaced. While superconducting quantum computers are indeed faster, ion trap quantum computers are far cheaper and far more stable. In fact, showing the potential of ion trap technology, on October 1, 2020 IonQ announced their newest ion trap quantum computer, by some measures the most powerful quantum computer in the world.
And there’s more good news for IonQ. On October 29, 2020, the company gained two new quantum computing experts. Dave Bacon, former leader of Google’s quantum software team, is joining IonQ as Vice President of Software, and Denise Ruffner, former Chief Business Officer of Cambridge Quantum Computing, is joining IonQ as Vice President of Business Development. In the words of Peter Chapman, CEO and President of IonQ, “Having Dave and Denise join us from two of the industry’s biggest players further affirms that IonQ is the true leader in quantum.”
While IonQ may be the true leader in quantum, they are not yet the true leader in quantum computing patents. IonQ has only 4 issued quantum computing patents and 26 patent applications, which is tiny compared to Google's 28 issued patents and 70 patent applications or IBM's 202 issued patents and 292 patent applications. If IonQ wants to maintain its lead in trapped ion technology, it will need an extensive patent portfolio to protect itself from these larger competitors.
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