Quantum computing may still be years away from realizing its problem-solving potential, but today, a newly launched Harvard spin-out called Aliro took a step in that direction.
Aliro is a platform that helps developers optimize their code for quantum computers. It is one of a small collection of startups addressing the obstacles to quantum tech’s widespread use.
In Aliro’s case, that obstacle is that each quantum computing machine uses its own special programming language and hardware configurations, so developers can’t easily run the code they’ve written.
Aliro’s solution is promising enough to grab the attention of investors like Samsung NEXT. The company’s $2.7 million seed round was led by Flybridge Capital Partners, with additional participation from Crosslink Ventures.
At Aliro’s helm as CEO is startup veteran Jim Ricotta. The company was co-founded by Harvard computational materials science professor Prineha Narang, along with two Harvard undergraduates and a postdoctoral researcher.
Startups like Aliro will serve as an important bridge as researchers and businesses try to harness the power of quantum computers. Classical, binary-based computers break calculations down to bits — whether an electrical circuit is on or off. Quantum machines employ “qubits,” which allow for each bit equivalent to be in more than one state at a time, which in turn increases processing power exponentially, making it easier to model complex systems.
The applications are vast: from building new medicines to forecasting the weather to simulating transformations at the atomic level.
As it stands, anyone wanting to run an algorithm on a quantum computer must have a deep background in the machine’s hardware and language. For example, Microsoft’s quantum computer uses the Q# programming language, while IBM uses a platform called Qiskit. Aliro will optimize its users’ code for quantum machines and even suggest the best hardware configuration for the job. With these capabilities, the road is paved for what Aliro calls “hybrid classical-quantum programming,” or code that mixes the two computing frameworks, to gain headway.
As such, the company plans to employ both quantum computing experts and classical software engineers. It’s currently looking for a research software engineer.
No one knows when quantum computing will become as useful as the theory behind it suggests, but when that happens, companies like Aliro will be well positioned to usher the technology into the mainstream.
Want to learn more about quantum computing and the companies using it? Check out this guide.