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Quantum Computing IPO on the Horizon

D-Wave Systems hopes to get public investment through the stock market within "a couple of years"

2 min read
Quantum Computing IPO on the Horizon
Photo: D-Wave Systems

Investors longing to own a piece of the quantum computing future could get their chance in the next several years. A stock market listing could be on the way for D-Wave Systems, the Canadian company that has built what it describes as the world's first commercial quantum computers.

The company aims to have an initial public offering within a "couple of years," said Vern Brownell, CEO of D-Wave, in a Financial Times interview. That optimistic view comes despite the fact that in recent studies D-Wave's approach to quantum computing has yet to prove it can outperform classical computing, most recently in a paper in the 19 June 2014 issue of the journal Science. Still, D-Wave has already found customers willing to lease its quantum computing machines—Google, NASA, and Lockheed Martin. And these customers have helped double the company's revenue each year since it sold its first machine to Lockheed Martin in 2010.

Corporations such as Google and Lockheed Martin may be willing to bet on D-Wave's machines because the potential payoff could be huge. Unlike classical computing that represents information as bits of either a 1 or 0, quantum computers can perform many simultaneous calculations using  quantum bits (qubits) that can exist as both a 1 and 0 at the same time. That means quantum computing holds the promise of tackling tough problems that would take classical computers forever to solve.

Most quantum computing labs have only built devices consisting of a few qubits, because they want to develop error-correction techniques that can protect the delicate quantum states and ensure accurate computer calculations before building bigger machines. In contrast, D-Wave has already built machines as large as 512 qubits based on "quantum annealing" architecture—an approach that D-Wave says is fairly resistant to quantum computing errors. (For more, see IEEE Spectrum's recent look at D-Wave's quantum computing hardware.)

But bigger quantum computing arrays have not translated into definitive success just yet. D-Wave's machines have not demonstrated "speedup" over classical computers in benchmark tests conducted by academic researchers during the past year or so.

Still, D-Wave has not apparently had any trouble raising private investments to continue building larger machines. The company recently announced it had received $30 million in funding from both old and new investors—including Goldman Sachs, BDC Capital, Harris & Harris Group, and DFJ—for a total of $160 million overall so far. If the company can demonstrate some progress on its particular quantum computing path in the next few years, any future IPO could potentially become a very big deal.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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