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Technology

NTT taps NASA to take on Google and IBM in quantum computing

Japanese telco aims to prove its optical network system can beat world's fastest

NTT plans to spend $230 million doing cutting-edge research in fields like quantum calculations and cryptology during the next five years. (Photo by Yumi Kotani)

TOKYO -- Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, NASA, Stanford University and other institutions have agreed to join in developing a quantum computing system that can compete against the quantum machines that Google and IBM are working on.

NTT made the announcement on Thursday. The partnership could give NTT's technology a leg up in the global race.

NTT develops quantum computers that use optical networks. This strays from how Google and IBM develop their systems, but optical networks allow NTT's machines to operate at room temperature and with little power.

The Tokyo-based company aims to commercialize its quantum computing system within 10 years.

The project also includes the California Institute of Technology and 1QB Information Technologies, a Canadian quantum software developer.

The partnership will use NTT's Quantum Neural Network as a base. Google and IBM are developing gate-based quantum computers. Google late last month said it had succeeded in racing past China by developing a machine that can solve a problem in a few minutes which would take the world's fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to work out.

And in Canada, D-Wave Systems has unveiled a quantum computer that uses a method called annealing that is specialized for a particular calculation.

Gate- and annealing-based quantum computers can only operate in ultralow temperatures, but NTT's optical network-based system allows a machine to work at room temperature.

However, some researchers say quantum neural networks do not allow for quantum computing as they do not adopt what is known as the quantum effect, which allows for super-accelerated calculations.

NTT hopes to prove its naysayers wrong through the new partnership.

In April, it opened a next-generation research lab in California's Silicon Valley. It is NTT's first overseas facility to conduct research into cutting-edge fields such as quantum calculations and cryptology. The company plans to spend 25 billion yen ($230 million) doing this research during the next five years.

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