Honeywell’s quantum computer will be generally available within three months with a quantum volume of at least 64. Honeywell also said it plans to increase quantum volume 10-fold increase for the next five years courtesy of a technical breakthrough and trapped-ion integrated system.
In addition, Honeywell said it is investing in two quantum computing software providers and partnering with JPMorgan Chase to develop quantum computing algorithms for financial services. Honeywell Ventures invested in Cambridge Quantum Computing and Zapata Computing. Both companies have expertise in cross-vertical algorithms and software. Cambridge Quantum Computing focuses on chemistry, machine learning and augmented cybersecurity while Zapata invents algorithms and builds quantum software to take on supercomputers.
Quantum volume is a measurement to gauge the power of a quantum computer and accounts for errors, device cross talk, connectivity and compiler efficiency. Quantum volume is different than quantum supremacy, which is the goal of demonstrating that a quantum computer can solve problems classical compute can’t. Honeywell’s quantum volume of 64 is twice what is offered in IBM’s Q System fleet.
The race is on to create quantum computers that can tackle real life issues. While much of the attention around quantum computing revolves around Google, IBM and its System Q, Microsoft, Intel and others, Honeywell has some unique expertise that can make these systems more real.
Honeywell’s Quantum Solutions group published a paper on the integration of the company’s trapped-ion quantum charge coupled device architecture. Honeywell’s quantum system is built around a cryogenic surface trap capable of arbitrary ion rearrangement and parallel gate operations across multiple zones. Honeywell’s trapped-ion technology leverages numerous, individual, charged atoms (ions) to hold quantum information. These ions are trapped using electronic fields and then manipulated and encoded using laser pulses. Honeywell announced its quantum computing efforts in late 2018 and has a team of more than 100 scientists, engineers and software developers devoted to the effort.
Tony Uttley, head of Honeywell’s quantum solutions group, said the company has been developing the underlying technologies for quantum computing for years. In addition, Honeywell’s expertise in magnetic systems, ultra high vacuum hardware, lasers, precision control and cryogenics supports quantum computing.
“Our expectation is that the quantum volume is on a trajectory for a 10-fold increase in quantum volume every year for the next five years,” said Uttley. “We are applying precision control to quantum computing to get the most out of a Qbit and drive quantum volume.”
Under Honeywell’s quantum plans, customers will connect directly to systems housed by the company. Honeywell will use quantum computing to solve issues for its key verticals such as oil and gas and industrials and also has a partnership to make its systems available in Microsoft Azure’s ecosystem.
“We built it to be a full stack capability and want to have the ability to interact directly with customers,” said Uttley, who added Honeywell is pursuing a bevy of potential business models for its quantum computing business.
Honeywell’s quantum computing stack takes a decidedly hardware spin with its secret sauce revolving around trapped ions. “We think we’ll be in a new category because of the controls expertise we have,” said Uttley. “We are playing to the strengths we have. Any successful at scale quantum computing problem is a control problem. It’s a system engineering problem.”
Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk said that companies should determine strategies to leverage or mitigate business changes that will happen from quantum computing.
Why not Honeywell?
What’s interesting about Honeywell’s foray into quantum computing is that it has a customer base that can benefit from it and is coming to the systems with a different perspective.
According to Uttley, quantum computing is an emergent era now with the horse race between companies, but it will soon be entering a “classically impractical” phase. Classically impractical means that enterprises may be able to use classical resources for compute, but the cost and power required is impractical. Quantum would make solving those problems more practical.
Honeywell’s bet is that the impractical era will be important and offer the real path to value. Ultimately, quantum computing will hit a stage where it’ll eclipse anything a classical computing architecture can handle.
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Uttley said the classical impractical era can last for years. “Quantum has never been a science project for Honeywell. It’s a business problem that exists within Honeywell as we work in oil and gas, chemicals and aerospace,” said Uttley. “The Honeywell strategy is to shape how quantum gets used in these industries. The intent is to be our own best customer.”
JP Morgan Chase is into Honeywell’s quantum computing strategy and has a partnership with the industrial company. Honeywell is also partnered with other companies to develop use cases with its quantum computing system.
Digital transformation to technology company
Honeywell’s quantum computing efforts come amid the company’s own digital transformation, which give it technology credibility. The company has digitized processes, focused on data-driven decision making and consolidated its own systems.
During Honeywell’s fourth quarter earnings conference call, Adamczyk highlighted Honeywell Digital. “We have matured our data management practices, digitized key processes through the deployment of new technology platforms, rationalized over 500 software applications, cleansed 5.2 million critical master data records, eliminated 20 ERP systems and reduced websites by 58%,” he said. “When complete, we expect our digital transformation to deliver $0.5 billion of run rate benefits across sales, productivity and working capital improvements.”
Meanwhile, Honeywell has also become a software company focused on the digital Internet of things and added more recurring revenue models across the company.
Honeywell’s most high-profile technology effort its Forge platform, which is connected software that can be used across its core verticals such as building management. Honeywell’s Connected Software business has delivered a 20% compound annual growth rate over the last 5 years.
Forge launched last year, and the company has landed multiple customers. For instance, the company launched Honeywell Forge Energy Optimization, a closed-loop cloud machine learning system that learns a building’s energy consumption patterns and adjusts optimal energy saving settings while maintaining comfort.
Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates ran a pilot with Forge Energy Optimization and delivered 10% energy savings.
Honeywell has been launching versions for cybersecurity with airlines, industrials and buildings. Honeywell Forge also drove double-digit growth for JetWave, a military platform, in the company’s defense unit.
Add it up and the idea that Honeywell can tackle quantum computing by using its hardware and intellectual property in various industries. While Google, IBM, Microsoft and traditional companies will get the quantum computing headlines, it may be worth asking why Honeywell can’t be a player.
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