Amazon launched a platform that lets developers 'play' with quantum computing — here's why users like Fidelity think it could be game-changing

  • Quantum computing is still in its early stages but, in a recent milestone, Amazon became the first to publicly offer quantum computers to developers through its Braket platform. 
  • The platform will help to train the next-generation of quantum specialists, as well as allow enterprises to begin to experiment with how to use the tech. 
  • "It's going to take customers some time — four or five years — to build up an internal team and expertise, and to recruit the right staff to program these devices," according to Richard Moulds, general manager of Amazon Braket.
  • Fidelity tells Business Insider that it's using the platform to build up its quantum muscles internally.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but that hasn't stopped tech giants from battling for early dominance in the potentially $64 billion market. 

IBM, Microsoft, and unlikely incumbents like Honeywell are all trying to rush to build their own quantum computers — competing against upstarts like Q-CTRL and IonQ. But the focus has largely been academic thus far, with each company trying to best the compute power of the other. 

That's beginning to change. Amazon Web Services, for example, recently announced that Braket, its platform to give customers access to quantum computers from startups D-Wave, IonQ, and Rigetti, would be generally available to the public. 

This essentially means that developers can easily begin testing out their algorithms on actual machines. Microsoft is offering a similar arrangement, but it's currently still in beta mode. 

Read more: The CEO of $116 billion industrial giant Honeywell says that the company's ambitious transformation into a software powerhouse will hinge on acquisitions and investments in emerging tech like AI and quantum computing

While the technology is still a ways off from ubiquitous use, the milestone signals a shift, and enterprises like Fidelity are getting serious about building their own quantum muscles internally. 

"It's going to take customers some time — four or five years — to build up an internal team and expertise, and to recruit the right staff to program these devices, which are programmed in a completely different way than a regular computer," Richard Moulds, general manager of Amazon Braket, told Business Insider. "There was just enough momentum in the industry to see the stars align and to try to make it happen."

Creating a marketplace 

Unlike classic computers — which operate as a function of one or zero — the building blocks of quantum (called qubits) can be both simultaneously. It's complicated, but that basically allows the systems to process significantly more complex algorithms, faster. 

Ford Motor Co., for example, is exploring how quantum computing could help people navigate large cities. Backers of the technology also often cite the potential for faster drug discovery, as the systems could model immensely more molecular interactions than classic computers, helping pin-point promising treatments much more quickly. 

At Fidelity — the investment giant with $3.2 trillion in assets — Amazon's latest push is another example of how the technology is maturing, said Adam Schouela, vice president at the firm's Center for Applied Technology. An advanced degree or PhD is no longer needed to begin testing it out, but there is still a long way to go before it's actually deployed meaningfully in operations, according to Schouela.

"Fidelity wants to be in a position where once these computers are viable we can literally just pick it up and start implementing it, not have our learning journey basically, start when the computers are 100% viable," he said. 

On top of providing technologists an outlet to test out quantum, Amazon is also taking the early steps of creating a marketplace around the industry. 

Prior to the announcement, most companies would need to go provider-to-provider and negotiate private contracts without any real benchmarks on cost, according to Amazon's Moulds. Now, Amazon Web Services is charging customers a flat rate to, effectively, run a single algorithm on one of the computers provided on the platform. 

"We bit the bullet and tried to come up with a pricing scheme that would apply to all kinds of computing … but at the same time, come up with a pricing scheme that tries to favor innovation," he said. "This is way too early in the market to be worrying about market share. This is really the phase of the market where it's about lifting all the boats and raising the tide in general. This is trying to be a catalyst in an industry."

And for the quantum providers, Amazon's announcement means a much broader audience than before. 

"There were lots of companies that weren't ready for the web and weren't ready for mobile and suffered because of it," said Peter Chapman, CEO of IonQ. "By putting it out into the cloud environments, we're enabling 20 million developers to come and play with quantum."

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