The London-based startup ORCA Computing announced in mid-November that it had been tapped to install two of its PT-1 quantum photonic systems at Poland’s Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center (PSNC). According to an ORCA press release, the two systems are intended to “accelerate [PSNC’s] work in quantum computing across a range of scientific areas.” The ORCA machines will constitute the classically driven PSNC’s first foray into quantum computing.
ORCA was spun out of the University of Oxford, UK, in 2019, by co-founders Ian Walmsley (the 2018 president of OSA, now Optica), Richard Murray and Josh Nunn, to develop and market full-stack photonic quantum computing systems. The company’s technology rests on the use of single photons to carry information, along with what ORCA calls a “proprietary multiplexing technology” to manipulate and route them. The latter, according to the firm, gives ORCA the ability to “achieve huge data densities to enable full-scale quantum computing with far fewer components.”
One guiding principle that appears to animate ORCA Computing is the notion that, in the longer-term drive for universal, fault-tolerant, general-purpose quantum computers, potential customers may be missing opportunities to put quantum to work today. Another is that a lot of “hands-on experimentation” will be necessary to realize quantum computing’s long-term value proposition.
The firm’s PT system puts those ideas together by focusing on a form of quantum computing called boson sampling. This involves sampling the output distribution of nonclassically interfering photons in the quantum photonic circuit—not exactly a walk in the park, but a much easier lift than universal quantum computation.
ORCA Computing’s PT system focuses on a form of quantum computing called boson sampling.
The ORCA PT system, according to the company, implements programmable boson sampling at telecom wavelengths, and spits out “highly complex statistics” useful in machine-learning and optimization problems. It also supports hybrid quantum/classical algorithms and can be integrated with classical high-performance computing (HPC) operations, ORCA says.
Quantum systems meet classical infrastructure
One such operation is Poland’s PSNC, which is affiliated with the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. PSNC describes itself as “an internationally known node of the European Research Area in the field of IT infrastructure of science and an important R&D center in the field of information and communication technologies.” The center plans to integrate the two ORCA PT-1 systems into that infrastructure to “help advance critical scientific research and industrial innovation,” particularly in biology, chemistry and machine learning.
The ORCA machines have already been procured under the Polish arm of the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EUROHPC-PL), an EU joint initiative to advance supercomputing in Europe. The quantum systems are scheduled to be installed at PSNC by year-end 2023, and subsequently integrated into the classical HPC systems there to serve as “advanced quantum accelerators.” On a parallel track, the center is working on the software and use cases required to take advantage of its new acquisition.
“The availability of two on-premise quantum computers from ORCA Computing is a milestone moment for the PSNC and our vision of distributed quantum–classical computing,” PSNC Technical Director Krzysztof Kurowski said in a press release announcing the agreement. “Having direct access to quantum-computing technologies will accelerate our understanding of quantum computing and facilitate the development of novel quantum–classical applications.”