Quantum computing has the ability to help solve some of the greatest problems facing humanity, and this impact is what drives Chad Rigetti’s obsession with building the world’s most powerful computers. “From day one, we have been working toward the singular goal of building practically useful quantum computers and shortening the timeline to run real commercial workloads,” says Chad Rigetti. Today, his company is one among the four in the world that has a fully operational quantum computer, sharing the table with IBM, Google, and Intel.
Despite operating in a market that is predominantly populated by hard-tech companies and other tech giants, Rigetti is a few years ahead of the competition and stands in a league of its own. Rigetti is the only quantum-first company, designed from its infancy to solve issues around quantum hardware and software, whereas other large companies have additional business interests that consume time and resources. “We’re a standalone full-stack quantum computing company—which means we fabricate our chips, and use our custom-built library along with our proprietary OS—and that enables us to move and iterate much faster,” adds Chad Rigetti.
The Quantum Advantage
When it comes to this emerging technology, some of the most understandably frequent questions that CIOs ask today are: “As an organization, how should we perceive quantum computing?” and “Which of our problems can be mapped to a quantum solution?” At a time when there is still a cloud of uncertainty about this technology, Rigetti’s Quantum Advantage Program comes as a viable option for businesses.
The Rigetti team believes in the ideology that when smart, innovative, and motivated people are put in a room together, they can come up with outstanding solutions. That’s why the company partners with businesses to help them figure out how to get value from quantum computing. Rigetti brings their partner organization’s stakeholders into a meeting with their technical experts and schedules hours of brainstorming sessions. “Once we set out, it is a cross-pollination of ideas, where we spend much time assessing their existing architecture and come up with the best way to retrofit a quantum paradigm,” explains Jonathan Whistman, Chief Commercial Officer, Rigetti Computing.
This close collaboration and tight integration of the development has a positive impact on their partners as they can influence the hardware design, tweak the algorithm design, and ensure the resulting end-to-end system is the best possible solution for their use case. “By building the necessary machines, software, and applications to solve their problems, we let our partners become one of the first in their respective segments to apply quantum and get real value out of the technology, that sets them ahead of the competition,” adds Whistman.
It’s not just the technology that Rigetti’s partners can take advantage of, but the availability of a quantum scientist talent force at their disposal, which is a very limited pool. Having employed more than 50 PhDs that comprise computational chemists, superconducting physicists, and even military veterans in the leadership, Rigetti’s highly interdisciplinary teams have already brought tangible results to the table. This falls in line with “our approach to make the Quantum Advantage available to companies that don’t have access to high-end resources,” adds Chad Rigetti. “We want to open up the resources we already have, such as machine learning, AI, and data science, so that businesses can leverage the technology without understanding how it works.”
The pharmaceutical, finance, agriculture, aerospace, and energy industries are some of the areas where quantum computing can reap significant benefits. A large financial institution wanted to understand how quantum can be applied to solve the two problems they had: portfolio optimization and risk management. Rigetti worked with them to study their requirements, their current approach, algorithms involved, and their computational architecture. Based on their assessment and evaluation of resources needed, they developed a quantum algorithm and a custom-built method to sort the problems. Rigetti empowered this financial institution with the ability to make informed decisions about when and where to deploy quantum within their organization and also the development of the requisite hardware and software systems.
It is a cross-pollination of ideas, where we spend a lot of time assessing their existing architecture and come up with the best way to retrofit a quantum paradigm
Best of Both Worlds—Classical and Quantum Computing
One of the differentiators of Rigetti’s solution is the fact that it couples quantum processing with the latest classical computing systems. “Through our full-stack solution, we have built an entire value chain that includes the quantum processing unit (QPU), our Forest SDK, the PyQuil library, and the Quantum Virtual Machine (QVM) among others,” states Chad Rigetti. These resources are made available through the company’s Quantum Cloud Services (QCS) platform, which allows users to develop and execute quantum-classical programs in a virtual, classical computing environment that can run on Rigetti’s quantum computer.
Any new technology that is about to hit its inflection point goes through several iterations and refinements, and quantum computing is no different. With just a handful of players in the field—some still attempting to arrive at the 1~5 qubit computer and others putting their best of efforts toward the 1000-qubit milestone— Rigetti has an upper hand in the game. A quantum computer’s brain—its QPU— needs to be maintained in a vacuum at near-absolute zero temperatures, devoid of any stray electromagnetic activity. Considered one of the biggest challenges in the earlier stages of developing quantum computers, Rigetti has found workarounds to these demands.
Suspended in cryogenic chambers in their laboratory in Berkeley are some of Rigetti’s most powerful QPUs of up to 32 qubits. A qubit is a bit’s counterpart in a quantum computer; where a bit can be either in the “0” state or “1” state, the qubit can exist as both, which is called the superposition state. The smallest of disruptions to this state may lead to disastrous repercussions.
Rigetti has innovated a method to manage and mitigate the noise in the system. For the first time in the industry, they apply machine learning and AI to program the system and develop algorithms that perform better than programs written by researchers. “We have had a breakthrough in infusing AI and machine learning capabilities to derive exponential value and computing performance out of the currently available quantum hardware. Rigetti is the only company in the world that knows how to use this,” quips Chad Rigetti. This innovation will change who the technical user of the platform is, eliminating the need for companies to hire a quantum physicist.
On the Cusp of Innovation
The Quantum Advantage that Rigetti aims to bring to the market confutes the prevailing narrative that quantum computing is ten to twenty years away from actual commercial value. This timeline is disconnected from the innovation that’s happening in leading companies around the world. Recently, Rigetti created history by supporting a research team from Oak Ridge National Labs in simulating the nuclear structure of the deuteron, the first ever such simulation to run on a quantum computer.
For the CIO of a high-tech business, the power of quantum can be seen as exponential computing resources that can crunch numbers at never-before-seen speeds. For instance, it takes thousands of years for a classical supercomputer to process the billions of possibilities in which a potential drug would react with the human body. Adding a quantum computer to the mix unlocks the possibility of finding a solution within hours.
“Most of the CIOs that we work with agree that they have witnessed only a handful of such revolutionary technologies becoming available, since the time they took up their leadership roles,” adds Whistman.
The winter is about to come to an end. Not the meteorological one, but what scientists call the “quantum winter.” What was believed to be many years away, could take a year or two due to the innovation that we see right now. When it comes to that, Rigetti and its partners will have reached Quantum Advantage and be poised to take us into the era of practical quantum computing.
Rigetti Computing News
Rigetti Computing acquires QxBranch to expand full-stack capabilities
Berkeley, Calif. and Washington - Rigetti Computing, a leading quantum startup and pioneer in hybrid quantum-classical computing systems, has acquired QxBranch, a quantum computing and data analytics software startup. The acquisition builds on Rigetti's full-stack strategy and expands the company's ability to deliver quantum algorithms, solutions, and services.
"Our mission is to deliver the power of quantum computing to our customers and help them solve difficult and valuable problems," said Chad Rigetti, founder and C.E.O. of Rigetti Computing. "We believe we have the leading hardware platform, and QxBranch is the leader at the application layer. Together we can shorten the timeline to quantum advantage and open up new opportunities for our customers."
The QxBranch team will focus on building software development tools and applications and work with customers to implement specialized quantum algorithms. Michael Brett, C.E.O. of QxBranch, will join Rigetti as Senior Vice President of Applications. The QxBranch team will join Rigetti in a range of software engineering and application and business development roles.
"QxBranch is thrilled to join our colleagues at Rigetti and accelerate our work together. Since founding the company five years ago, we have worked hard to introduce our data analytics customers to the emerging potential of quantum computing and now we can offer even more with a combined hardware and software solution," said Brett.
The acquisition gives Rigetti a global presence and strong focus on client delivery. QxBranch employs an international team of software engineers and data scientists and operates in Washington, D.C., the United Kingdom, and Australia.
The deal was an all-equity transaction. QxBranch's interest in Envelop Risk Analytics was not included in the acquisition. Additionally, Dr. Ray O. Johnson, former Chief Technology Officer of Lockheed Martin and current Chair of the Board at QxBranch, will join Rigetti's board as an independent director.
"Over the past five years, QxBranch has established itself as a leader in the identification and development of applications for quantum computing technologies. Joining Rigetti's team of talented engineers and scientists will reinforce and accelerate our efforts to create solutions for complex business problems that will leverage ongoing quantum computing developments. We are thrilled to help make a great Rigetti team even stronger, as we continue our quantum computing efforts," said Dr. Johnson.