Unless you’ve been sleeping you must have heard about QC or quantum computing which threatens to overturn the world as we know it, impacting everything from the internet to Cryptography. But how do you get involved and play a part in this nascent revolution.
The way to invest in Quantum Computing
Perhaps the easiest way for most people who cannot get involved with private equity is to invest in public companies that are working on Quantum computing technology. At QZ we have listed over 100 companies that are working on Quantum computing efforts in some capacity or another. Most of these companies are private which means Joe public is excluded unless you have a family office or investment firm. Below QuantumZeitgeist.com lists the public companies engaged in Quantum Computing which have listed shares meaning that you can invest in some way into Quantum computing.
Publicly traded companies engaged in Quantum Computing.
This conglomerate founded over 110 years ago, way back in 1906 is getting involved in quantum technologies. You may not have heard of this company but you may even have its devices in your homes as it made control systems for many years for domestic and commercial properties. For a number of years Honeywell has been working on our trapped-ion qubit technology that due to Honeywell’s expertise can be uniformly manufactured and controlled more easily and quickly compared to alternative qubit technologies that do not directly use atoms. Honeywell boast of having a century of experience in system controls and I don’t doubt that boast.
Honeywell’s qubits are all identical and can successfully utilize their natural properties. In comparison to other systems which have specific, fixed locations for qubits computation, Honeywell can move ions so that they can arbitrarily connect any qubit to another qubit, enabling more complex algorithms with less computational steps.
The ticker for Honeywell is NYSE: HON and listed on the New York stock exchange which means that is likely that most brokers around the world will enable you to trade it.
SK Telecom (South Korea Telecom)
Located you guessed it, in South Korea, this company founded in 1984 is likely a company you have not heard of. But why you might ask does it make the list of publicly traded companies? Simple, because the company also has a stock market listing in the US (ADR) which means it is relatively easy to trade and invest in.
Already SK Telecom employs Quantum technology from ID Quantique’s Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG). Which it deploys in its 5G authentication center to prevent hackers and create quantum-safe security. QRNG are devices that constantly generates quantum random numbers, which are used as a much more secure foundation of cryptographic keys – meaning their systems are less likely to be hacked or broken in to.
SK Telecom is also working on Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology, which means both parties can safely share a key and data. Again it is working with ID Quantique on this project. The company is even working on preventing self driving cars from being hacked with its Quantum Security Gateway solution. So integral is Quantum to SK Telecom’s strategy that it has invested $65M into ID Quantique (IDQ) to enable a closer working relationship.
SK Telecom can be traded fairly easily on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker NYSE:SKM.
Raytheon is a publicly listed defence contractor founded by Vannevar Bush almost 100 years ago. Another goliath company that is barely a household name these days. But of course as you would expect with military and defence ties, the company is involved in Quantum Technologies. The main areas that they work on are listed as Quantum Computing, Classical Cryogenic Computing, Quantum Materials, Quantum Devices and Sensors plus Optics and Integrated Photonics. On the Quantum computing front it seems they are mainly involved with the superconducting type of Quantum Computer. But as you would expect they are generally interested in Quantum or Qubit control systems in addition to Quantum Computing Algorithms (which according to them are: Quantum walk algorithms and for simulating physics systems such as plasma dynamics).
Nokia (Bell Labs)
Maybe some of the younger generation simply won’t know Nokia, but for those who were around at the Cambrian explosion of the cell phone will certainly know Nokia (The company most famous for its line of cell phones). Older generations will know of Bell labs which brought us some of the most amazing inventions of the 20th century (Transistors, lasers etc etc). Now Nokia is the parent of the amazing technology incubator: Bell Labs. Clearly a lab with such a famous history will be working on the technology of the future: Quantum Computers. Nokia Bell Labs (NBL) is working on topics from Topological quantum computing to Quantum Security (as you would expect). From our research it appears that NBL is focused on algorithms and theory as opposed to building any hardware. Very interestingly if you look at the share price of Nokia over its history you can see two major peaks, one you might ascribe to the dot-com boom and bust and another run up to the recession (2007/2008), but importantly this was the time of the introduction of the Apple iphone. So the question is, will there be another peak caused by Quantum Computing?
No introduction needed. One of the world’s largest creators of software and is well known for giving us DOS and Windows and for the gaming console the Xbox. But did you know about Microsoft’s Quantum Computing efforts? Will “the beast of Redmond” as the company was often known as in the browser wars of the 1990’s.
Microsoft is getting seriously behind the Quantum Computing revolution and has even brought out its own framework and language. They didn’t call it QOS (for Quantum Operating System), but similar to the C# programming language, you guessed it, they called it Q#. Pronounced q-sharp, exactly the same as the programming language you can read more about the language and framework here from Microsoft. Plus for those who would also like a tutorial there are quantum computing tutorials that the authors of Quantum Zeitgeist have written and you can see this here (a worked introduction and even a very simple introduction to entanglement). . Microsoft as you would expect also is enabling the Quantum Cloud through its Quantum Azure compute platform.
On the hardware side of the equation (no pun) Microsoft is working on a type of Quantum Computer (or rather qubit) called a topological qubit. A dedicated team was created in 2005 established under the name of “Station Q” with a range of world leading scientists attacking some of the challenging fundamental questions of physics. Microsoft has not put it’s eggs in one basket and has backed research into hybrid superconducting/semiconducting devices in conjunction with a number of leading laboratories around the globe such as Delft, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Sydney, Purdue, University of Maryland and ETH Zurich.
Topological qubits have numerous advantages but these are not likely to be near term devices. Inherently likely more stable, but Microsoft’s efforts are not leading it into scaling the number of Qubits anytime soon. However that doesn’t mean there is no inherent value in the topological approach, as long term it may provide one of the robust ways of creating Quantum Computers.
For potential investors Microsoft remains an attractive proposition due to its diverse portfolio range and recent success into the cloud area as the revenue from operating systems declines. Plus it has a few sexy consumer products such as the Xbox.
Microsoft is listed on the NASDAQ (MSFT).
IBM (International Business Machines).
Big blue has been making lots of Quantum noises regarding its prowess in creating a device with a few 10’s of qubits. Rather like the early micro computers, the more bits or qubits, the better and IBM has been pushing out press releases with up to 20 qubits available for researchers to use.
IBM was one of the first to create an open platform where researchers could utilize these processors and run software use qubits on their cloud hardware. When the QZ authors first used IBM, the system was running under the name of Blue Mix with just 5 qubits. IBM appear to have consolidated their efforts and their naming to use “IBM Q Experience”.
There are not many companies that can claim to have built: IBM Q System One, the world’s first integrated universal quantum computing system, which was displayed at the Museum of Science in Boston.
Unlike Microsoft which created its own programming framework (Q#), IBM went down the open source route and uses Qiskit (An open-source quantum computing framework) for interacting with its quantum machines. For those of technical disposition you can take a look here at the project. Whether going open source or not will be interesting to see whether it will give IBM any advantage, because right now hardware is so difficult, it might not attract many more users to the platform but that said there might be more researchers with knowledge of Qiskit rather then its own proprietary but public Q#. Of course with such as vested interest in Qiskit, IBM does push a lot of resources into the open source framework and community.
IBM at the time of writing (August 2019) has not made as many into roads into the Cloud space, lagging behind AWS (Amazon Web Services) Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. But don’t expect it to stay that way forever and we expect a huge push on the cloud front from Big Blue. We have certainly been impressed over the last few years how IBM have been making their cloud offering more user friendly. What this means for the investor is the potentially to be buying more than just the Quantum Computing side of things, but a company that is steadily transforming itself. Plus IBM does pay an attractive dividend.
One of the largest telecoms was related to another entry (Bell Labs) but now Bell Labs is under the stewardship of Nokia at the moment. However AT&T is getting involved the quantum space, especially the Quantum Internet. It seems that given its networking past, the company wants to work on ways to connect Quantum Computers together to create a so-called Quantum Internet. Closely collaborating with CalTech (California Institute of Technology), Stanford, Government laboratories, its working on building out capabilities and IP.
The impact of quantum networks will likely be huge. As it appears we are at the birth of the Quantum Computing Revolution with working devices from the likes of IBM, D-wave and others. According to Caltech physicist John Preskill, one challenge will be how to connect all these quantum machines together and build quantum networks, often connecting and crisscrossing across the planet, rather akin to the internet is today.
Still one of the dominant processor manufacturers on the planet. I’m using an Intel processor typing this. Sure there are others, such as AMD or NVIDIA for running graphics (or for speed up of certain tasks), but intel has remained a technology stalwart even in spite of many upstarts.
Intel has been working on Quantum Computing for a number of years and started with a collaboration with QuTech in 2015. Better late than never. The collaboration is developing Quantum Processors, using Intel’s vast knowledge and fabrication, control electronics, and architecture. As you would expect being a silicon company, its chips are based around silicon. Their processor Tangle Lake is based on superconducting qubits. However they are not content to just stick with superconducting qubits and are investigating spin qubits, which might offer significant advantages in having the control electronics close to the physical qubits.
Of course buying into Intel right now should be more than just about its Quantum Computing efforts. On the standard processor side of things it remains a strong competitor, but as of writing this article (August 2019) it is clear that in some ways Intel is beginning to lag behind its once smaller competition such as AMD (Advanced Micro Devices), particularly as Intel has no notable Graphics chip unlike AMD and NVIDIA for example.
Google / Alphabet
You really must have heard of Google. But you may not have known about its efforts in Quantum Computing. Google emerged in the 90’s from Stanford research by its two co founders Brin and Page. Most famous for its Google search engine, Alphabet (Google’s parent) is placing bets into all manner of technologies and you guessed, Quantum is one of those.
According to Google AI, which appears to oversee the Quantum effort, Google is advancing quantum computing by developing quantum processors and quantum algorithms to enable researchers and developers solve near-term problems both theoretical and practical. Google boast of being able to address 72 qubits in their latest bristlecone processor. Clearly they are looking at ways they can accelerate the AI process.
Their research can be divided into a number of topics, aside from building the hardware and increasing qubit count. These are simulation – working on better ways to simulate matter including biological systems. An important aspect of building systems is to better address more processors (networking) in addition to increasing the fidelity of the processing qubits. On key area is to look at Quantum Neural Networks. Google are focused on Superconducting qubits with chip-based scaleable architecture.
Google is listed on the NASDAQ as GOOG and GOOGL (for A and C class shares).
Lockheed Martin Corporation is an American global aerospace, defense, security, but you might know it for its quite secretive planes used by the military. Lockheed Martin have not been shy about their adoption of quantum computing and one of the first customers of D-wave way back in 2010. Mainly focused on optimisation problems that fit with the D-wave architecture of annealing which is different from the Gate based style of general purpose Quantum Computing.
Lockheed Martin is certainly exploiting the early commercialisation of Quantum Computing with its foray into solving some of its optimisation problems in conjunction with D-wave. Maybe not a direct play on Quantum Computing, but interesting from the perspective that it is a company looking to gain every edge and advantage that it can be exploited by Quantum Computing. We expect to see more and more companies like Lockheed Martin also getting involved in the Quantum space, but right now, aside from a few gate based toy problems there is little commercialisation.
Lockheed Martin is found on the NYSE under the LMT ticker.
To invest now or later in Quantum Companies
The fact is there are some good week known companies with a diverse range of products that you can invest in today but typically Quantum is only a small part of their portfolio. Likely down the line there will likely be some specialist companies emerging that might be a direct quantum investment play. However the only way to get involved in these fully Quantum Computing companies is to invest as part of a VC firm or private deal.
Predictions about the nascent Quantum Computing market
Companies like Rigretti are likely to be the stock market darlings of the future if they don’t get gobbled up by larger players. Right now it’s hard for the man in the street to make an entry into this nascent market.