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Connects decision-makers and solutions creators to what's next in quantum computing
Q&A with Q-CTRL
June 7, 2023
Q-CTRL is an Australian company that makes quantum control infrastructure that it says makes quantum computers and other quantum technologies useful. It recently opened new offices in Germany and the U.K.
In this exclusive Q&A with Enter Quantum, Q-CTRL founder and CEO Michael Biercuk explains the role of quantum control engineering and the importance of the new U.K. presence in contributing to the AUKUS trilateral security partnership between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.
Enter Quantum: What does Q-CTRL do?
Michael Biercuk: Our focus is on making quantum technology actually useful. We do this through a discipline called quantum control engineering that we deploy primarily as software that improves the performance of quantum hardware.
We serve the quantum computing market – it was recently announced that our performance management software will be native on all IBM Systems – and quantum sensing, where we augment the performance of quantum sensors using software for key applications like navigation.
What’s the thinking behind the new offices?
We need to ensure we’re working with allied nations because a lot of what we do is considered very sensitive technology. So in the EU, Germany was an obvious choice. And because of this AUKUS trilateral engagement, it was quite natural to tap into the very strong quantum sensing and particular community in the U.K.
What work are you doing via the AUKUS partnership?
We build navigation systems that work in the absence of a GPS beacon, meaning circumstances where there is no GPS, like space or underwater, and circumstances where GPS may not be trusted. So if you think about a hostile environment, or just a complicated geopolitical circumstance where you want some backup to spoof to GPS.
We do this in a few different ways, but broadly, we're using the quantum physics of atoms to measure signals. One is a motion, which is called inertial navigation. Another approach is through something called gravitational map matching, where you measure gravity and compare that to what we know about the Earth's gravity locally. And the third is magnetic.
All of these approaches are enabled by trapped atom devices, where we laser cool atoms, similar technology to the atomic clocks in global positioning systems. But our specialization is augmenting our hardware with software to make it perform better in real environments.
There have been beautiful demonstrations for decades of atomic devices for measuring gravity for measuring inertial signals, in laboratories, but that's not good enough. Our key remit is to take these systems and put them on boats and aircraft and terrestrial vehicles. We specialize in combating the sources of degradation that come when you put it in the field.
Does your technology work the same way when applied to quantum computers?
One hundred percent. We started with quantum computing; we demonstrated that you could augment the performance of hardware with software without changing the underlying hardware. We did this initially with IBM Systems. Just with the standard cloud access, we were able to show that over the course of a few years, we could boost the likelihood that a quantum computing algorithm would give you the correct answer by thousands of times, just with software.
It's sometimes called middleware, but we call it infrastructure software. It links the low-level operation of the physical devices up to applications and algorithms and the user interfaces that a typical customer for an end-user quantum computer would experience.
Our objective is to make the tools invisible to the end user. The idea is that if you're an enterprise end user, you don't want to be spending your time thinking about error suppression strategies and compilers, you just want it to work.
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