The world’s first commercially available quantum computer, which uses principles of quantum mechanics rather than classical mechanics, was sold to aerospace, defense and security company Lockheed Martin.

Unlike computers based on transistors, quantum computers rely on principles of quantum mechanics to conduct operations. The computers take advantage of properties like entanglement — when two particles have the same properties and behave identically while being separate — and storing data with “qubits,” or quantum bits. Typical bits store memory by registering an “on” or “off,” or a one or zero, while qubits can represent information as both memory and the state of entanglement with other particles.

The quantum computer uses a system of 128 qubits, which means the computer will be able to solve more complex problems than traditional computers at a much higher speed. The computer is able to tackle computing-intensive problems related to number theory and optimization. One example is Shor’s Algorithm, a quantum algorithm that determines the prime factors of a large number quickly and efficiently. Given enough qubits, a quantum computer can use Shor’s Algorithm to break modern encryption algorithms like RSA encryption, a type of public-key cryptography.

The computers can theoretically be significantly faster than regular computers and can solve much more complex problems. They could also lead to new kinds of encryption methods and security algorithms to secure data and model more complex systems — such as emulating how enzymes in the human body work and modeling more complex biological systems.

D-Wave was founded in 1999 and calls itself “the quantum computing company.” It is selling the computer, called the “D-Wave One,” for $10 million per computer. The company will also perform maintenance on the computer and other professional services.

The very notion of quantum computing is a bit mind numbing, and the technology is so nascent that researchers aren’t even really sure of the best way to go about constructing a quantum computer. Nonetheless, D-Wave Systems Inc. has just sold one of its eponymous D-Wave One quantum computing systems to none other than Lockheed Martin, along with a multi-year contract to keep the thing working.

D-Wave’s technology is something they call a “quantum annealing processor,” and without going to deep into the inner workings of the thing (because I can’t), it is basically a means of finding solutions to “combinatorial optimization problems.” In other words, rather than dealing in ones and zeros, the processor taps the processing power of qubits–or quantum bits–which are multidimensional analogs to the analog bit.

The fundamental advantage here is that a qubit can be in more than one state at the same time, unlike the classical bit. And so quantum computers can, in theory, consider multiple possible solutions to a problem at the same time in essence. That makes them vastly more powerful and much, much faster than today’s conventional supercomputers.

D-Wave has come under some scrutiny from the quantum community, where other researchers have claimed that their “quantum optimizers” can really solve useful problems. But Lockheed seems to think they can. No word on what the company aims to do with their quantum computer, but D-Wave claims it is going to be used to address the Lockheed’s “most challenging computation problems.”

World’s first commercial quantum computer sold to Lockheed Martin | VentureBeat.

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