Honeywell International, the technology innovation and engineering company from Morris Plain, New Jersey, recently has thrown down the gauntlet to technology giants like Google and IBM in the race to create the quantum supercomputer, announcing its own breakthrough in the arcane realm of quantum mechanics. The company joins other technology companies, including Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet Inc., and International Business Machines Corp., in the quest to harness the power of a new kind of multi-tasking computer bit dubbed a qubit (quantum bit). Traditional bits function in either an ‘off’ or an ‘on’ state, characterized as being “0” or “1.” Qubits can be both on or off at the same time, and can also share information so that computers can process data simultaneously instead of sequentially—vastly increasing the speed and power of a computer. “We believe that quantum computing will eventually have a significant impact on all multi-industry companies,” says Darius Adamczyk, chairman and CEO of Honeywell. “When that happens, those multi-industry companies will need to figure out how to respond to either take advantage of or mitigate the business changes stemming from the technology. Our approach is to influence how quantum computing evolves and shape the opportunity for Honeywell and our customers.”
Despite the recent snowballing of research activity in the quantum realm, the quantum computing effort at Honeywell has been going on underneath the covers for five years.
We have a very unique quantum computing technology that we believe is better than anything that is out there today
Its roots go back to 2014 when Honeywell was one of the participants in a program for the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which involved research into trapped ions. After the IARPA program wrapped up, the company went on to build six different quantum-computing devices based on some of that early work. “We have a very unique quantum computing technology that we believe is better than anything that is out there today,” comments the CEO. The use of the trapped ion technology puts Honeywell in rare company, since the most visible companies pursuing quantum computing, including IBM, Google, Intel, and Rigetti, are basing their hardware on semiconductor technology. The atomic structures of trapped Ytterbium (Yb) ions are completely uniform, naturally resistant to error-producing noise, and can be connected to one another in different configurations at runtime. Reportedly, Honeywell’s trapped-ion technology has demonstrated a record-breaking high fidelity of 99.997 percent. While, this technology does not have the decades-long history and proven scalability of semiconductors, at this point, it offers the most interesting alternative for solid-state quantum computing.
Honeywell is currently evaluating different computational architectures, including one-dimensional arrays of ions and a more scalable design using two-dimensional arrays to remove the limits in the number of qubits that can be strung together in a linear arrangement. Additionally, the company’s experience with control-system hardware gives it an edge over its competitors. Honeywell’s quantum project is far enough advanced that Adamczyk said he expects it to start generating revenue late this year or next year.