Quantagonia wants supercomputers to be fit for everyday use

M.All you have to do is imagine the storm, says Dirk Zechiel: Many trains are delayed or canceled, full on-call schedule, when will which train will arrive and which staff is available, where exactly – everything is gone. The computer now needs to calculate this in real time, says Zechiel, an expert in artificial intelligence (AI). “But only a quantum computer can do it that fast.” These supercomputers that compute no longer electrically, but mechanically quantumly, i.e. at the atomic level. For now, they only exist in universities and in theory. But Zechiel and his co-founders Sabina Jeschke and Sebastian Pokutta want it to be suitable for everyday use in businesses: their Bad Homburg-based start-up Quantagonia is working on a type of translation software that will enable conventional technology to understand New.

You can see that Zechiel chose an example from everyday railway life. Its co-founder, Jeschke, was the digital director of Deutsche Bahn for four years. A year ago, she prematurely terminated the contract with the group and co-founded Quantagonia. “I’m fascinated by technology,” he says. Her former math colleagues made it clear that quantum computing was about to make a breakthrough. With his start-up Jeschke, entrepreneur AI Zechiel and scientist Pokutta, vice president of the Zuse Institute in Berlin, are focusing on the software that is necessary to combine new technology with existing technology. The companies couldn’t just list all their systems and processes, explains Jeschke.

Especially in areas where quantum computers make sense: in network optimization, for example in the rail sector or in supply chain planning, in computationally intensive simulations such as virtual wind simulators or financial market calculations. Systems and computers for such tasks already exist. But the new technology requires completely different programming languages. According to Jeschke, intelligent translation software is needed to make existing codes understandable to the quantum world – and vice versa.


“Tech-Girl”: Sabina Jeschke, a year ago Chief Digital Officer at Deutsche Bahn, is a co-founder of the Quantagonia start-up.
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Image: Imago

It still sounds like cake in the sky

Zechiel says a prototype of the translation software is still underway, and the first sale could likely be generated as early as the end of the year. As technology needs clarification, Quantagonia also offers consulting services to companies to explain with them if and how they can benefit from quantum computing. Entrepreneurs see as the target group not only large machine manufacturers or chemical groups, but also medium-sized companies, such as plastic producers. These could reduce the simulation development speed to a fifth or tenth. In turn, automotive suppliers could use this technology to optimize their supply chains and adjust them in real time.

It still sounds like cake in the sky. While computer companies such as IBM always make promises to sell computers, these computers have so far only operated to a limited extent. One of the problems is the enormous rate of calculation errors. However, scientists in science and even at Google are working on methods to control them. Another challenge: until now, quantum computers have generally only functioned when they have been cooled down to temperatures close to absolute zero (minus 273 degrees Celsius).

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Nevertheless, the EU believes in technology and has allocated one billion euros to research. Investors also bank in this potentially billion-dollar market. In February, Quantagonia was able to provide cash injections from three mutual funds, including the Fraunhofer Society’s FTTF technology fund. There is no mention of specific amounts, but the FTTF itself usually invests six to seven digits.

Choose the right perspective

The company has secured its IT specialists with capital – informs Jeschke. The company has 17 employees and is based in Bad Homburg, where part of the founding team lives. Finding developers and IT experts is not that difficult if you choose the right perspective. “We’ve learned a pandemic,” says Jeschke. Employees can work from their home office, e.g. in Berlin, Sweden or Macedonia, conducting virtual conferences. Thanks to this offer, the company received dozens of applications from all over Europe for a job advertisement.

But wouldn’t all of this be easier to implement in a financially staffed Dax group such as Deutsche Bahn? The railways are facing other, more pressing problems now, says Jeschke. How to get more goods on the tracks or more people on the trains? “They’re just different topics.” Jeschke describes herself as a “tech girl” who wants to develop things herself. And that works much better for your own startup – it’s your fourth – than it is for a large corporation. “A small team can work quickly, focused and achieve a lot.”

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