Honeywell, Cambridge Quantum form new quantum computing firm
Honeywell is merging its internal quantum computing divisions with Cambridge Quantum, forming a new company that promises to deliver a complete quantum computing software stack.
Honeywell has spun off its Quantum Solutions division and merged it with Cambridge Quantum, a U.K.-based company it acquired in June.
The newly combined company, called Quantinuum, plans to deliver a full stack of quantum offerings including an operating system that works with Honeywell's Model H1 and H2 server hardware, as well as IBM's suite of quantum computers, hardware-agnostic application software and the TKET software development kit.
"We want to serve as the center of gravity for the entire [quantum] ecosystem," said Tony Uttley, president and COO of Quantinuum. "For us, this venture is a lot less about competition than it is about collaboration. We fully expect to be platform-agnostic."
The company will deliver exploitive quantum software offerings throughout 2022 aimed at the typical enterprise markets that quantum system vendors have pursued, including pharmaceuticals, material science, financial services, logistics and supply chain.
What might prove more strategically important over the long term, however, is the company's plan to deliver its first cybersecurity offering in December. The upcoming product, which Uttley declined to fully reveal, promises to break new ground in quantum software.
"This is a product for our H1 system and those of others that can produce something meaningful to multiple organizations," Uttley said. "It will be an inflection point showing people it's not going to be five and 10 years before quantum computers can do something useful and practical."
One analyst said the prospect of a quantum application or service with immediate real-world value could draw the attention of skeptical corporate IT pros.
Dan NewmanPrincipal analyst, Futurum Research
"An application powered solely by a quantum machine performing at a level classical machines can't, especially security software, can validate quantum as a platform for productive work and not just for theoretical research," said Dan Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group.
The new operating system the two companies are jointly developing will have the ability to take any number of different jobs and parse them automatically to a resource in the ecosystem best suited to carry out the task.
"There might be some parts of a job that go to our own H1 series hardware, but there might be other parts of that same job that get moved out to an IBM superconducting quantum computer or moved to a cluster of GPUs or FPGA cluster," Uttley said.
Quantum market evolves
Aside from combining the two companies' technical strengths, the merger could set up the newly combined company to eventually go public. This would open up the door to raise more money for technology development and marketing, Newman speculated.
"There hasn't been an opportunity for investors to play in the quantum market with most quantum organizations living inside companies like Google, IBM, AWS and Honeywell," Newman said. "That's just my speculation, but I think that's really what we are going to see here."
Paul Smith-Goodson, a quantum computing analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, agrees the spinoff and merger of the two organizations sets the stage for the new company to go public and build a war chest to compete against larger competitors. He added that coming to market with a full hardware-software stack should enhance their competitive chances against companies such as IBM and Google.
"It's a step in the right direction and gives them a little more market punch," Smith-Goodson said. "Earlier this year, the Chinese announced they also had a quantum-based operating system they are working on, but not too much is known about it. I have a little bit more faith in Honeywell than China to succeed with an operating system."
IonQ, one of Honeywell's rivals, was the first pure-play quantum computing company to go public this past October. While the company's stock has largely fared well, its losses have widened to $14.8 million in the third quarter of 2021. In a recent report, Goldman Sachs analyst Toshiya Hari said IonQ's financial fortunes could turn around but there "needs to be more visibility on matters such as the company's technology roadmap and how quickly businesses start adding quantum computing into their operations."
Honeywell currently holds a 54% stake in Quantinuum, although that percentage will decrease over time, the company said. Honeywell and Quantinuum have also entered into a long-term agreement oneywell for Honeywell to manufacture the ion traps that drive Quantinuum's trapped ion quantum hardware.
Quantinuum has just fewer than 400 employees, including 300 engineers and scientists trained in a range of quantum technologies. The company's European headquarters will be in Cambridge, England, with U.S. headquarters located in Broomfield, Colo.