In Challenging and Fun Eight-Hour Event, Teams Learn Problem-Solving Potential of Quantum Computing

DECEMBER 3, 2015

In a first-of-its-kind, all-day Hackathon, four teams of algo-traders battled to solve problems using quantum computing techniques ... and participants left with a glimpse of the future and the tools to shape it. The event — hosted in Sydney on Saturday, November 14 at Tyro Fintech Hub by QxBranch and Cybertraders Anonymous, a group for financial industry programmers — provided insight at the potential impact of quantum computing and its relevance for participants’ business needs and strategies.

In this eight-hour collaborative programming event, teams were offered an early look into the groundbreaking and rapidly emerging technology of quantum computing using actual software and training materials. The challenge was in designing and testing software suited to the technology. A few days prior to the event, QxBranch and Cybertraders Anonymous held an introductory workshop to help teams fully understand the technology compared to existing programming models and prepare for the event.

Dr. Kingsley Jones, quantum physicist advisor for QxBranch, former Global Head of Quantitative Trading Research at AllianceBernstein LP and Hackathon organizer, noted that programming a quantum computer is not an unattainable skill meant only for physics PhDs, but can be accomplished with training by even people with limited programming backgrounds. Indeed, many of the teams were composed of young financial programmers and undergraduate and graduate students in varying fields.

“The key skills developed were in understanding the problem, figuring out how to formulate it on a quantum computer, and then maximising the efficiency of the solution given quantum hardware constraints. That’s what the QxBranch team was working to teach today through a curated set of problem examples in a fun competitive context,” Dr. Jones added.

Dan Padilha, a Systems Engineer at QxBranch who presented the event, noted, “Allowing people to start thinking about how quantum computers may impact their business today and in the near future is simple and fun, yet still challenging. Working out the right way to solve problems on quantum computers takes skill and time to perfect, and companies will increasingly have to invest in training people in these skills in the next few years.”

The competition ended fiercely, but started with caffeine and an introductory talk by QxBranch quantum computing experts about the technology, the state of the art computers available today, how they’re programmed, and the approach QxBranch takes to solving problems for clients.

The Hackathon consisted of four problems, ranging from a level of difficulty of “I will show you step-by-step how to solve this one” to “If you solve this today, we’ll probably hire you on the spot.” Each team could submit solutions to any of the problems, which QxBranch would score based on how their solutions performed on a quantum simulator. Teams could also submit improved versions of their solutions to better their scores.

“It was exciting to see how the Hackathon and workshop allowed previously inexperienced people to better understand the technology and appreciate the nuances of its application. We hope to expand the Hackathon experience so that others have the same opportunity with this science that is launching the next computing revolution,” said Dr. Jones.