The 2020 Q2B Quantum Computing Conference in 8 Minutes

The 2020 Q2B Quantum Computing Conference in 8 Minutes

This year’s Q2B came out of the gate strong with a Q&A on the future of quantum computing with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who now runs a company called Schmidt Futures. If you’ve found your way to this blog post, then you already know what Eric knows: the future will be quantum-powered. 

With that in mind, quantum computing’s present-day reality was well-represented at the just-wrapped Q2B virtual conference with students, academics, business users, business seekers, hardware vendors, and software vendors. Given that one would probably need a solid 10,000 years to deeply analyze every session on a classical machine (or 200 seconds on a quantum machine), we’ve summed up Zapata’s hot-takes and those of some other attendees.

Perspective Is Everything

Before we get to what’s happening today and what the future bodes, a little perspective: 

High-level Takes 

Three quotes stand out to sum up Q2B from a high-level – from a hardware vendor, an enterprise user and a research firm. 

Honeywell Quantum Solutions’ President, Tony Uttley, may have said it best at the beginning of the “Shaping the Future of Quantum Computing” session: “What a difference a year makes.” 

JPMorgan Chase’s Head of the Future Lab for Applied Research, Marco Pistoia, Ph.D, also made clear what many other large corporations are doing today: “We’re getting quantum-ready.”

Hyperion Research’s SVP of Research and Chief Analyst for Quantum Computing, Bob Sorensen, surveyed quantum computing buyers/users and told us that, in order to bring quantum into their environment, They want to be able to demonstrate near-term return on investment for those key use cases, and they want to have a developed, robust software infrastructure.” 

Quantum Computing Isn’t Just for Scientists and Academics Anymore. Enter Enterprise… 

Related to Marco’s point above, BBVA is also committed to a quantum mindset when it comes to gaining a quantum advantage: 

…and it appears there are increasingly more enterprises uncovering and pursuing real-world use cases: 

#results Matter 

While there is still a lot of hype when it comes to quantum computing, there are real initiatives happening that are generating real results. 

As we say in Boston, we thought this machine learning algorithm on an ion-trap quantum computer generating high-resolution images of handwritten digits was wicked cool:

Images generated on an IonQ Quantum Computer, built and executed as a classical-quantum workflow on Zapata’s Orquestra®. From Generation of High Resolution Handwritten Digits with an Ion-Trap Quantum Computer.

Digits Generated on IonQ Quantum Computer

Honeywell talked about something we fully support – how “quality matters” in quantum computing:

More here: Identifying challenges towards practical quantum advantage through resource estimation: the measurement roadblock in the variational quantum eigensolver

And you can’t have this many super-smart people gathered together – even virtually – without chess breaking out. So, it was cool that Q2B had its own chess tournament. The #result? AWS won.

Quantum Hardware and Software Takeaways from Zapata Computing’s Team 

“Workflows are the workhorses of the quantum environment.” 

Yudong Cao, Co-founder and CTO

“The outlook on quantum hardware is becoming more and more optimistic! Whether it’s current hardware companies accelerating their roadmap (like IBM and IonQ), or even previous software companies getting into the game (like Amazon), Q2B was full of companies showing great advancements and predicting even greater advancements in the years to come!”  

— Ethan Hansen, Product Marketing Specialist (and host of “Quantum Computing Now” podcast!) 


“The million dollar question is: would a quadratic speedup be enough to provide quantum advantage given the overhead for quantum error correction? Mattias Troyer, Ryan Babbush, and Scott Aaronson think it may not be, at least with the error correction methods we have now.” 

— Max Radin, Lead Quantum Software Engineer  

Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own 

For the U2 fans reading this, a great though relatively unknown song is “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” which also doubles as a fitting summary of the quantum computing ecosystem in December 2020. Partnerships always matter in business and academic research, but in quantum they REALLY matter in these early days. Even the biggest players in the space can’t make it on their own. 

Energy giant BP said just as much when communicating their “4 Pillars” approach to quantum:

And, not surprisingly, IBM has some pillars of its own: 

Quantum hardware vendors need software vendor partners to help users actually run applications and workflows to accomplish things. And software vendors need hardware partners so their software has something to run on. And commercial users and researchers need both so they can do their jobs. As we just witnessed at Q2B, there’s no one universal solution, and the ecosystem is vibrant with many different collaborations. 

Hype Is Our Shared Enemy 

Related to the importance of partnering and collaborating, it’s critical to not collectively get wrapped up in the hype of quantum computing.

“What a difference a year makes.” 

Back to Honeywell’s Tony Uttley to wrap this up. Quantum computing has grown as an industry in 2020, despite our pandemic-ruled reality that continues to this day. There are more companies building hardware and software to take advantage of quantum capabilities, more smart people doing research and expanding our collective knowledge of the space, and more businesses not only taking a look, but actually using quantum’s power and algorithms to tackle real problems and create new opportunities. 

Our prediction for Q2B 2021? Tony will make the same statement again, and it will be just as true – maybe even more so! Bring on 2021…