We reported earlier this week about the Sandbox group being spun off from parent company Alphabet. As mentioned in their press release, they endeavor to combine both AI and Quantum technologies to solve client problems that cannot be solved using classical technologies. And to be clear, this group is different from the Santa Barbara/Venice Beach based Google Quantum AI team that is pursuing hardware development of superconducting quantum processors. That team is remaining with Google.
We had a chat with Jack Hidary, CEO of SandboxAQ, and he provided additional insight to us regarding some of their near-term product focus and activities. The first area they are working on is Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) and cybersecurity. We believe that within a matter of days, NIST will announce their selection of the Round 3 PQC algorithms selected for standardization for use in public key cryptography. These are intended to replace the current RSA and other algorithms used in the digital infrastructure today for public key cryptography to exchange encryption keys. We expect this announcement will kick off a massive effort, sometimes known as Y2Q, to upgrade or replace the billions of devices current using public key cryptography in their digital communication to make the devices secure against decryption attacks from large quantum computers. This Y2Q effort will take 10-20 years and enterprises will spend billions of dollars in order to do this. In fact, although the spending in both areas will be measured in the billions of dollars, we believe that for the rest of this decade, enterprises will be spending more dollars on implementing quantum resistant technologies (PQC+QKD) in their digital communications infrastructure than they will on developing the quantum applications for their organization.
Implementing this upgrade of cryptography codes will be a massive undertaking and this is where SandboxAQ can provide a lot of help. Finding and fixing all the places where the algorithms need to be upgraded will be quite difficult. In many cases, it will require upgrading code that may have been initially installed 20 years ago by an employee who left the company long ago.
What SandboxAQ has developed is an AI based discovery engine that will find all the places where an enterprise needs to upgrade the cryptographic software to a quantum secure PQC solution. They will then help the enterprises convert to one of the PQC algorithms that is being approved by NIST. Although there are several other companies pursuing this market to help enterprises convert, we aren’t sure any of the others have a similarly advanced AI discovery engine that can help find where the algorithm upgrade is needed.
Another secret weapon that SandboxAQ has for pursuing this market is their board of advisors. When we first saw the list of their advisors, we noticed that there wasn’t the usual cast of well-known quantum computing experts that you might see as advisors in other quantum startup companies. However, there were many with deep experience in classical enterprise computing such as Eric Schmidt, Marc Benioff and others who can provide great guidance on running an enterprise SaaS company for this type of effort.
In addition, going through this PQC upgrade process may bring additional other cybersecurity related opportunities for SandboxAQ in the future. As companies look to upgrade their cryptographic algorithms, some may decide that it would also be time to upgrade their entire cybersecurity infrastructure with more modern and maintainable software and hardware. Although this would probably not require quantum technology, it could very likely require AI and provide SandboxAQ the opportunity to create additional AI solutions.
Another area that SandboxAQ is working on is AI enhanced quantum sensors. A particular area of interest is the area of Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). The military would really like have a device that could augment or substitute the GPS system so that their troops know where they are in a GPS denied environment. This capability could also be important in the civilian market for autonomous vehicles that may have their GPS signals blocked by tunnels, tall building, or other interference. Quantum sensors can provide much better sensitivity for things like magnetic sensors, but they can potentially become even more powerful when the sensor output is fed into AI software that can interpret the data that is coming out. This effort at SandboxAQ is still in R&D and will come after the PQC offerings.
SandboxAQ sees themselves as a B2B (Business-to-Business) enterprise SaaS company. This contrasts with Alphabet which primarily has a B2C (Business-to-Consumer) model. These two models are much different in terms of customer base, sales channels, and even corporate culture. So, this may be one of the reasons why Alphabet decided to spin SandboxAQ off as a separate company.
When developing products that require quantum computing access, SandboxAQ will remain agnostic. But there will also be cases where it makes sense for SandboxAQ to partner with the Google Cloud or the Google Quantum group to jointly provide solutions to solve the customer’s problems. As their business develops, the company is also open to working with 3rd party providers in the future who can broaden the sales channel and resell SandboxAQ offerings and provide service to individual customers.
So, there should be a lot of opportunities for SandboxAQ to mix their AI technology with various quantum technologies and expect there will be many other efforts from them to do this in other markets and products in the coming years.
March 25, 2022