Big Tech has Already Shown Interest in Quantum AI, the US Government is Next

What’s a sure sign that Quantum AI is a serious area of development? Major government contractors are investing. Patent Forecast® already highlighted Google and Microsoft’s efforts to accelerate artificial intelligence development using quantum computing in early May 2021. Now, less than a month later, an application was published for Centauri LLC for an arrangement of ion trap qubits for a quantum computer. Centauri LLC develops software and engineering solutions mainly for the US government for intelligence and defense applications.

Centauri was the subject of a major acquisition in August 2020, when it was bought by KBR for $800 million. Centauri was formed as recently as 2019, with the merger of Integrity Applications Inc., Xebec Global and Dependable Global Solutions and the subsequent acquisition of Kord TechnologiesPreTalen Ltd, and The Design Knowledge. This highly active M&A activity suggests two things: 1. KBR is willing to purchase other companies or IP to expand its capabilities, and 2. KBR has not yet bought a quantum computing company (the previous acquisitions have been more related to cybersecurity and energy weaponry). While the acquisitions of Kord Technologies, PreTalen Ltd., and Design Knowledge were not seemingly IP-based acquisitions (given the focus on energy weaponry, the US government might have a thing or two to say about patenting their technology), IP is more likely to be a focus when dealing with quantum computing, which likely has more patent potential.

Interestingly, KBR has not revealed much about its quantum computing program thus far. We know it has existed at least since 2019, as evidenced by people identifying themselves as “Quantum Computing Intern” since then. Furthermore, we know that KBR is likely to leverage quantum computing to perform analytics for robotics and machine learning, potentially for robotics used in space-based applications. However, what has been more difficult to discern so far is what type of quantum computer KBR is considering using. The application suggests that KBR is most likely to focus on ion trap computers, but appears to be leaving the option open for superconducting qubits.

Looking at the companies with ion trap quantum computing patents, Honeywell and Harris are the largest companies in the space. IonQ, another major start-up investing in the technology, is likely out of KBR’s price range, as it was valued for more than $2 billion. A more likely acquisition target is Alpine Quantum Technologies, which only has 3 patent assets in the sector, but has a team of employees experienced with Ion Trap computers and an existing partnership with the quantum software start-up Multiverse. If KBR is serious about developing quantum technology, expect the company to either make this acquisition or greatly expand its own R&D efforts.

To keep up with the latest trends in quantum computing, check out the Quantum Computing Patent Forecast®