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Quantumania: Experts Weigh the Emerging Technology’s Potential Uses & Seismic Impacts

Quantumania: Experts Weigh the Emerging Technology’s Potential Uses & Seismic Impacts - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Quantum technology is an umbrella term that encompasses a host of tools at various levels of development. It includes quantum computers—which feature an almost inconceivably high computational speed and are currently still in a gestational period—but also quantum science and applications like magnetic resource imaging machines, commonly known as MRI.

Quantumania: Experts Weigh the Emerging Technology’s Potential Uses & Seismic Impacts - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Chester Kennedy

Chester Kennedy, executive adviser at Infleqtion, pointed to MRI as an under-discussed utilization of quantum during ExecutiveBiz’s 2023 Quantum Technologies Forum on April 5. Kennedy moderated a panel conversation entitled “The Quantum Scale-up Challenge” that featured subject matter experts from across the public and private sectors, such as Charles Wessner, a Georgetown University professor and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

If you missed the event, you can register and watch in its entirety here. Sha-Chelle Manning, chief of commercial strategy at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, delivered the keynote address.

The moderator called panel participant Jay Lowell the “father” of the quantum industry due to some early pioneering work at DARPA in the early 2000s. Lowell, who is currently chief engineer and principal senior technical fellow of disruptive computing and networks at Boeing, took a moment to explicate how quantum sensors are evaluated.

“It really comes down to sensitivity to the thing that you want to measure. Most quantum sensors convert the thing that they actually are sampling or the thing that they’re measuring into a frequency measurement,” he explained, adding, “That is because frequency is the thing that we can measure very well.”

Lowell also noted that precision, “good signal transduction,” “a large scale with a large dynamic range” and consistent accuracy throughout multiple measurements are more hallmarks of quality quantum sensors.

Former Central Intelligence Agency deputy director for science and technology Dawn Meyerriecks said she feels that while promising, the technology is too nascent to warrant the regulatory policy that some are calling for.

“I hear rumors sometimes about trying to specify the number of qubits or logical qubits that can be exported,” Meyerriecks shared.

Adam Black, section head of quantum optics for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, voiced a similar sentiment, enumerating the many different facets and subcategories of quantum technology, each with “really different levels of maturity, different markets [and] different types of investment.”

“What kind of quantum, what kind of qubits are you talking about? Are we talking about superconducting qubits, semiconductor spins, photons, neutral atoms, ions? There are some common components there, but there’s really different platforms and this is an important consideration when we talk about how to mature these technologies,” Black stipulated.

However, he was sure to note that “what we are really looking for is solutions to problems. Whether in computing, networking, sensing—no one really cares if their technology is specifically quantum as long as it solves their problem.”

One thing the panelists could agree on was the pacing threat posed by near-peer adversaries like China. Lloyd Dabbs, director of public sector business development at AI and quantum software company SandboxAQ, said that he is “very aware” of the ways quantum computing could be used both to negatively impact U.S. national security and as a weapon for deterrence against adversaries, if built up properly.

Quantumania: Experts Weigh the Emerging Technology’s Potential Uses & Seismic Impacts - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Cameron Holt

Cameron Holt, former deputy assistant secretary of contracting for the Department of the Air Force, illustrated how warfare has changed since the 20th century and positioned quantum as playing an instrumental role in countries like China’s strategies of “ubiquitous information awareness and coercion.”

If World War III were to break out, Holt foresees it beginning in a “completely silent” fashion and occurring in the “two very new domains of warfare: space and cyberspace.”

“And when I talk about cyberspace, I mean the entire electromagnetic spectrum,” the retired major general emphasized.

Kennedy rounded things out by saying that what keeps him up at night is worrying about the United States’ dominance in the production of quantum components like ultra high vacuum cells or juniper cells “or some other kind of atomic species.”

“My big concern is that we’ve got nation states around the globe that would be willing to invest heavily in the infrastructure to be the dominant supplier of those capabilities,” Kennedy cautioned.

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