Quantum Computation

Rather than store information as 0s or 1s as conventional computers do, a quantum computer uses qubits – which can be a 1 or a 0 or both at the same time. This “quantum superposition”, along with the quantum effects of entanglement and quantum tunnelling, enable quantum computers to consider and manipulate all combinations of bits simultaneously, making quantum computation powerful and fast. 

How D-Wave Systems Work

Quantum computing uses an entirely different approach than classical computing. A useful analogy is to think of a landscape with mountains and valleys.

Solving optimization problems can be thought of as trying to find the lowest point on this landscape. Every possible solution is mapped to coordinates on the landscape, and the altitude of the landscape is the “energy’” or “cost” of the solution at that point. The aim is to find the lowest point on the map and read the coordinates, as this gives the lowest energy, or optimal solution to the problem.

Classical computers running classical algorithms can only "walk over this landscape". Quantum computers can tunnel through the landscape making it faster to find the lowest point. The D-Wave processor considers all the possibilities simultaneously to determine the lowest energy required to form those relationships. The computer returns many very good answers in a short amount of time - 10,000 answers in one second. This gives the user not only the optimal solution or a single answer, but also other alternatives to choose from.

D-Wave systems use "quantum annealing"  to solve problems.  Quantum annealing “tunes” qubits from their superposition state to a classical state to return the set of answers scored to show the best solution.

Programming D-Wave

To program the system a user maps their problem into this search for the lowest point. A user interfaces with the quantum computer by connecting to it over a network, as you would with a traditional computer. The user’s problems are sent to a server interface, which turns the optimization program into machine code to be programmed onto the chip. The system then executes a "quantum machine instruction" and the results are returned to the user.

D-Wave systems are designed to be used in conjunction with classical computers, as a "quantum co-processor".

Download this whitepaper to learn more about programming a D-Wave quantum computer.


D-Wave’s flagship product, the 1000-qubit D-Wave 2X quantum computer, is the most advanced quantum computer in the world. It is based on a novel type of superconducting processor that uses quantum mechanics to massively accelerate computation. It is best suited to tackling complex optimization problems that exist across many domains such as:

  • Optimization
  • Machine Learning
  • Pattern Recognition and Anomaly Detection
  • Financial Analysis
  • Software/Hardware Verification and Validation

Download the Technology Overview