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D-Wave's Quantum Leap

9:00 AM -- Canadian startup D-Wave Systems yesterday unveiled what it claims is the world's first commercial quantum computer, touting far higher speeds than conventional machines. (See D-Wave Demos Quantum Computer.)

At the heart of the technology, which was demonstrated at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley yesterday, is a chip built from a superconductive metal called Niobium. The metal, which does not generate heat when current is passed through it, can solve complex computational problems in just a few compute cycles, according to D-Wave. The startup maintains that the same applications running on a conventional machine would typically take up thousands of compute cycles.

This, according to Herb Martin, the D-Wave CEO, could prove extremely useful in sectors that require serious number-crunching, such as life sciences. "You can have this massive explosion of computation power," explains the exec. "What [the chips] are good at is following lots of computational paths simultaneously."

D-Wave has already earmarked a Harvard research project into protein folding as a potential candidate for its technology, although CIOs should not get too excited about the prospect of Niobium chips in their own data centers anytime soon. Martin told Byte and Switch that it could be two years before its technology is commercially viable.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch