In theory, quantum computers should be faster at solving many problems compared to classical computers. But because their components are extremely delicate, existing quantum computers are still rudimentary and error-prone, and academic and industry researchers have yet to demonstrate a profitable use for them. In pursuit of commercial applications, companies have built incrementally more complex quantum devices. Today, Canada-based company D-Wave announced the latest in this lineage of machines: Its fifth-generation quantum computer, named Advantage, which is accessible to customers via the cloud.
D-Wave tailored this upgrade based on recommendations from its users, which include companies such as Volkswagen, drug design company Menten AI, and Canadian grocery chain Save-On-Foods. “We’ve gotten about 10 years of user and customer feedback on what works and what doesn’t,” said Mark Johnson, vice president of quantum products at D-Wave and a physicist by training.
Through these partnerships, D-Wave is hunting for ways its devices could benefit businesses. Like other existing quantum computers, D-Wave devices can only solve specific types of problems. D-Wave’s machines are particularly designed to solve optimization problems quickly. For example, Volkswagen has found that D-Wave’s quantum device can help it minimize waste when switching between colors while painting its cars, according to Johnson.
D-Wave’s new device consists of 5,000 tiny circuits made of niobium on a chip, cryogenically cooled to near absolute zero. Each circuit constitutes a qubit, producing a magnetic field that can point in one of two directions to represent the value 1 or 0, like a classical bit. But because this magnetic field behaves quantum mechanically, the qubit can represent values that are a superposition of both 1 and 0. To do math, D-Wave’s computer manipulates the qubits’ magnetic field according to an algorithm. Advantage contains 3,000 more qubits than D-Wave’s previous