Aliro Technologies Lands $2.7M to Help Developers Go Quantum

It’s still a ways off before visions of all-powerful encryption-breaking quantum computers come to pass. But the new quantum technologies here today are already beginning to make a dent in the world of high-performance computing.

Imperfect as these computers may be—now classified as noisy intermediate-scale quantum—they are becoming more attractive for enterprises that seem always to need more computing power. The noisy intermediate-scale quantum era refers to how quantum computers are beginning to surpass traditional computers in power, but the quantum machines have not yet reached the stage where it can completely error-correct for all the signal noise created by the new technology.

Bridging the knowledge gap between traditional computing and quantum computing has sparked a new class of startups.

Strangeworks, an Austin, TX-based company founded by entrepreneur William Hurley, aims to stand up a developer portal so more people can work on quantum projects. Zapata Computing, a Harvard-born startup based in Cambridge, MA, is also developing algorithms and a platform to help companies get access to quantum computing.

The latest startup joining their ranks is Aliro Technologies, a Boston-based company spun out of a Harvard quantum information computing lab. Alira today announced it raised $2.7 million in seed funding from Flybridge Capital Partners, Crosslink Ventures, and Samsung NEXT’s Q Fund. Star Harvard quantum researcher Prineha Narang co-founded the company.

“Aliro’s goal is to enable software developers using its hardware-independent, cloud-ready platform to take advantage of the power of quantum computing,” Narang says in a press release.

So far, Aliro’s main aim doesn’t look too different from that of Strangeworks, Zapata, and others: Make it easier to connect to all the benefits of quantum without having to abandon the familiarities of traditional computing. We’ll have to wait and see whether any of the above do it best, or even if quantum computer manufacturers—IBM (NYSE: IBM), D-Wave Systems, Honeywell (NYSE: HON), Rigetti Computing, IonQ—try to bridge that gap themselves.

“You almost have to be a quantum physicist to understand how these machines work,” Aliro CEO Jim Ricotta said in an interview with Xconomy. “It’s too hard to access them right now for software developers.”

Ricotta likens the place quantum computing is now to mainframe computing in the 1940s and 1950s, when each manufacturer had its own system and played by its own rules. Today’s quantum computers also differ in small ways that carry critical implications for how a developer would compile code. The distinctions range from how stable the quantum computer is, to how its computing elements, known as qubits, are physically arranged in the machine.

Aliro says its goal is to be a Rosetta Stone of sorts for the different emerging quantum platforms and their peculiarities.

“Our motto for quantum computing is: Write once and run anywhere,” Ricotta says.

He says Aliro is focused on what it calls quantum value—the incremental benefits that businesses can get by moving computing processes into quantum systems, even though the technology is still in its noisy adolescence.

“Quantum value is coming next year,” Ricotta says.

Ricotta says Aliro will use the capital to build up its bench of software experts and quantum engineers. Its platform is being run through the paces internally, he says, with plans to launch a limited beta version by early next year. The company is based at the Harvard Innovation Lab in Boston.

Brian Dowling is a Senior Editor at Xconomy, based in Boston. You can reach him at bdowling [at] xconomy.com. Follow @be_d

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