Sydney start-up Q-CTRL has launched its inaugural product \u2013 Black\nOpal \u2013 which it describes as \u201cthe world\u2019s first commercially available software\nsuite designed to improve the performance of quantum computing hardware\u201d.\nQuantum systems are highly susceptible to\ndecoherence. The states of quantum bits, or qubits, in quantum computers are\nquickly randomised by interference from the environment.\nQ-CTRL\u2019s toolkit help teams design and deploy\ncontrol for their quantum hardware in order to suppress these errors. \n\u201cQuantum control has for a long time been thought of as a bit of\nblack art. Those of us who were deeply ingrained in it understood the\ncapabilities it brings, but many others would only dip their toes in the water\nand that was enough,\u201d explains Q-CTRL founder University\nof Sydney Professor Michael Biercuk.\n\u201cWe\u2019re aiming to remove those barriers, remove the friction\npoints that have prevented teams from taking advantage of everything that\u2019s possible,\u201d\nhe adds.\nThe controls in the toolkit were described by Biercuk as being able to \u201ceffectively turn back the clock\u201d on\ndecoherence. \u201cSo all the randomisation that occurs, unwinds; it\u2019s like unmixing\nthe soup,\u201d he told Computerworld\nlast year.\nQ-CTRL founder Michael Biercuk\nQ-CTRL launched in November 2017, the\nfirst spin-off company of the Australia Research Council Centre of Excellence\nfor Engineered Quantum Systems (EQuS).\nThe company received financial backing from Data Collective\nVenture Capital, Horizons Ventures, Main Sequence Ventures, and Sequoia Capital\nand began work on Black Opal in\nJanuary.\nThe product brings together a decade of academic research, coded\ninto Python and tied to a sleek SaaS front end. The usability and\ndesign of the interface was central to the product\u2019s development, Biercuk says.\n\u201cWe needed to remove barriers. If I just deploy a Python package,\nthe activation barrier to taking advantage of all the capability and knowledge\nin that can be very, very high. We knew in order to reach the most people and\nhave the most impact we needed to reduce those barriers. One great way to do it\nis to make very complicated concepts and workflows visual and interactive,\u201d he\nsays.\n\u201cIt\u2019s a very visual product, it\u2019s had a lot of emphasis on the\nfront end and the user experience,\u201d Biercuk adds.\nThe 18-strong team, based at the University\nof Sydney, is made up of quantum control engineers and product focused\nroles.\nDespite its niche use, the potential market for Black Opal\nincludes those who \u2018just becoming quantum ready\u2019 and learning how quantum\ntechnologies will impact their work, conventional software developers exploring\nthe field, students, academics, professional quantum software engineers and\nquantum hardware engineers.\nWhile many of the major players in quantum computing will have\nquantum control teams working towards similar outcomes, Black Opal provides the\nsame in a SaaS offering.\nBlack Opal at work\n\u201cThe question becomes \u2013 does an organisation invest many years\nand many very expensive, high-quality scientists and engineers in trying to\nbuild up a knowledge base, learn the literature and build up a product? You can\neasily imagine five people taking three years full time just becoming familiar\nwith the knowledge base, then building some useful internal system,\u201d Biercuk\nsays.\n\u201cWe can make any team perform like they have their own in house\ncontrol engineering team without having to build one themselves,\u201d he adds.\nThe SaaS model means Q-CTRL will add new features on a \u201croughly\nweekly basis\u201d Biercuk says. In the\ncoming months the team will also launch Boulder Opal, focused on automation and\nintegration of control solutions into professional workflows. Enterprise\nversions and API access to developers are also planned.\n\u201cBlack Opal helps our team directly leverage Q-CTRL's deep\nexpertise in quantum control to solve some of our toughest problems building a\nnew class of application-specific quantum computers,\u201d said early Q-CTRL\ncustomer Dr Alexei Marchenkov, founder\nand CEO of Bleximo, a quantum technology company based in California.\n\u201cThis\nsoftware \u2013 and its focus on high-quality visualisations \u2013 enables us to build\nintuition for very complicated concepts outside of our core areas of expertise,"\nMarchenkov added.\nIn April the company was given cloud-based access\nto IBM\u2019s quantum computers, as one of only eight start-ups globally to be\ninvited to join Big Blue\u2019s \u2018Q Network\u2019.\nQ-CTRL is one of a small but growing number of Australian\nquantum technology start-ups. Adelaide is home to QxBranch\nwhich develops custom software for quantum computers.\nAustralia's \u2018first quantum computing hardware\ncompany\u2019 \u2013 Silicon Quantum Computing \u2013 launched in Sydney in August last year.\n"After decades in the labs, it\nappears that a new quantum-powered industry is emerging and we are excited to\nsee Q-CTRL playing a crucial role. I think we might see useful quantum computers\nsooner than we had thought," said Phil Morle, a partner at Main\nSequence Ventures.