IARPA kicks off quantum enhanced computing program

WASHINGTON. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) -- an organization that operates within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- has announced the launch of a multiyear research effort to develop special-purpose algorithms and hardware to harness quantum effects to surpass conventional computing. If the research is able to transition to production, technology developed under the Quantum Enhanced Optimization (QEO) program will provide a plausible path to performance beyond what is possible with today’s computers.

is different from common digital computing in that digital computing requires that the data be encoded into binary digits or bits, each of which is always in one of two definite states (0 or 1); in contrast,  quantum computation uses quantum bits, which can be in superpositions -- or multiples -- of states at one time.

Practical applications include more rapid training of machine-learning algorithms, circuit fault diagnostics on larger circuits than possible today, and faster optimal scheduling of multiple machines on multiple tasks.

Dr. Karl Roenigk, QEO program manager at IARPA, says of the program, “The goal of the QEO program is a design for quantum annealers that provides a ten-thousand-fold increase in speed on hard optimization problems, which improves at larger and larger problem sizes when compared to conventional computing methods.”

The University of Southern California is leading an international team in support of the QEO program; subcontractors on the program include the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California at Berkeley, University College London, Saarland University (Germany), University of Waterloo (Ontario), and Tokyo Institute of Technology; plus defense contractors and Northrup Grumman. Project validation support is also coming from NASA Ames Research Center and Texas A&M, while MIT and MIT Lincoln Laboratory are hosting government-furnished hardware and test bed capabilities.

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