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This article was published on April 4, 2022

Google sibling SandboxAQ bursts onto the quantum scene like the Kool-Aid Man

Oh yeah!

Google sibling SandboxAQ bursts onto the quantum scene like the Kool-Aid Man
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

We’re firmly entrenched in the quantum era. There weren’t any announcements and there wasn’t any fanfare. It just sort of happened. One day we were in the deep learning era and the next we’d gone quantum.

If we had to put a date on it, here at Neural we’d choose 22 March, 2022. That’s the day SandboxAQ slipped out of stealth mode and starbursted out of the Alphabet (Google) research blanket.

There’s a certain risk involved in attaching such significance to a relatively unknown company. And SandboxAQ isn’t exactly building iPhones or autonomous vehicles. It’s solving really hard problems with technology that’s extremely difficult to harness.

Sandbox who?

The A in AQ stands for artificial intelligence and the Q is for quantum. As best we can tell, it’s called Sandbox because the higher-ups at Alphabet just wanted a lab to develop solutions to a handful of problems that very few other companies are in a position to solve.

The first problem SandboxAQ decided to attack was encryption. The current standard is called “RSA.” It’s named after Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman, the people who invented it back in 1977.

As you can imagine, the 45-year-old security protocol wasn’t designed to thwart quantum decryption technology. Up until now, that hasn’t mattered much.

There isn’t a computer on the planet capable of performing quantum decryption. But there will be. And whether that happens tomorrow, next week, or ten years from now, we’re going to need to be prepared.

Our governments, militaries, energy grids, utilities, hospitals, and schools use RSA encryption to protect our data. The businesses we, our clients, our families, and friends work for rely on RSA to keep their data safe.

And one day someone is going to come along with a quantum computer and an algorithm that can smash all of it.

The paradox here is that we can’t wait until a useful quantum computer is invented to figure out how to stop it from decrypting our data, because then it’ll be too late.

SandboxAQ’s solution to this problem is to use machine learning and quantum technology to develop and secure a new protocol called post-quantum cryptography (PQC).

There’s more than one way to quantum

SandboxAQ CEO Jack Hidary, in a recent interview with Neural, said:

For whatever reason, the mainstream media seem to only focus on quantum computing.

His company, by necessity, is focused on leveraging quantum physics to solve problems today without the aid of quantum computers.

The big difference here, as Hidary told us, is that “these solutions can run on an Nvidia GPU … you don’t need a quantum computer.”

In fact, Sandbox AQ’s focus includes quantum sensing, quantum communications, quantum simulations, and quantum cryptography.

During our interview, we discussed the massive problem of updating RSA. Thousands of companies use RSA around the globe. And not all of them are in a position where they’re able to suddenly slap all-new quantum-based technologies into their security stacks. Someone has to create the on-ramps to the new protocol and show businesses how to transition.

But there’s more at stake than just future-proofing. According to Hidary, “the big benefit is protection from SNDL or, ‘store now, decrypt later’ attacks.”

If you’re unfamiliar with this terrifying attack, it’s when a hacker steals a bunch of data they have no chance of decrypting and keeps it laying around just in case someone invents a quantum computer one day.

As mentioned above, “one day” is quickly coming and those vast troves of data will eventually be cracked open.

Unfortunately, as Hidary put it:

Some of the horses have already left the barn.

But we can still protect the rest. As we close in on quantum decryption, it’s likely we’ll see SNDL attacks increase in scope and volume. That makes it all the more important to develop PQC as soon as possible.

The future is now

SandboxAQ is poised to burst into the quantum technologies scene with immediate impact. It has contracts with healthcare organizations, the US federal government, TELECOM, and the banking industry.

And it doesn’t hurt that the chairman of its board of directors is none other than Eric Schmidt, the long-time former CEO of Google.

SandboxAQ is also in the unique position of being able to shelter under the Alphabet umbrella alongside fellow quantum company Google — who’s as likely to win the quantum computing race as any other organization.

Between Google’s time crystals and SandboxAQ’s quantum-as-a-service technologies, it’s apparent that Alphabet is spearheading the industry.

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