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I've seen a lot of excitement in the popular press about the computers made by D-Wave Systems, but when I dig deep the only practical things that I can figure out that one can do with the computer are variations of:

  • Train one's staff in the use of quantum computers.
  • Write papers about what you can do with a quantum computer.
  • Explore quantum algorithms.

That is, these aren't even research machines---they are exploratory machines for what kind of research we would do if we had larger machines.

Am I mistaken? Is there any "quantum advantage" to be had from these machines---that is, a computation that can be done more cost effectively than with conventional computers?

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It is true that quantum computing is still emerging technology, howvever, it seems that D-Wave will come to practical usage sooner than universal quantum computers such as IBM Quantum Experience. The reason is that D-Wave provides simpler single purpose computers focusing mainly on optimization.

See for example these links for near to practice application of D-Wave:

  • Lockheed Martin application of D-Wave for source code verification and mistakes identification
  • Volksvagen used D-Wave for traffic flow optimization in Beijing

Other applications seems more or less experimental, for example NASA partnership with D-Wave.

What is interesting is a usage of D-Wave by Los Alamos National Laboratory. It seems that army research is interested in the quantum annealers which can be significant for further development (mainly in terms of financing).

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