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September 19, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Former Senator Corker moderates a panel on quantum computing as GOVCON wraps-up

Two areas where technology can make a difference are weather forecasting, particularly hurricanes, and early detection of earthquakes.

The discussion on the second and final day of the 2023 edition of GOVCON, the annual “Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development,” continued to spotlight the host city – Chattanooga – and its initiative focused on quantum computing.

Announced at the end of November 2022, the EPB Quantum NetworkSM powered by Qubitekk is, as former U.S. Senator Bob Corker noted in his opening comments during a panel discussion, “the only commercially available network in America, and it is right here in Chattanooga.” The only other network like it is in China.

“It is really important for national security,” Senator Corker added, noting in the end it is about business and opportunities for the community and the Volunteer State.

The panel consisted of: (1) Duncan Earl, the former researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who co-founded San Diego-based Qubitekk 10 years ago and serves as the company’s Chief Technology Officer; (2) David Wade, President and Chief Executive Officer of Chattanooga’s EPB; and (3) Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.

Earl noted that “quantum wasn’t the buzzword that it is today” when Qubitekk was started, but he predicted that it is only two years or so from being as much of a buzzword in technology circles as are artificial intelligence and machine learning. The company opened an office in the Edney Innovation Center about two years ago, and Earl spends about one-half of his time in the Scenic City.

And, as he did in comments made during the opening session of GOVCON on September 18, Mayor Kelly again reiterated that quantum is “the single greatest economic development opportunity in the city’s history.” He credited Senator Corker, who served as Mayor from 2001 to 2005 and then as Senator from 2007 to 2019, and Jon Kinsey, who preceded Corker as Mayor, for laying the foundation that has allowed the city to bring big ideas like quantum to the forefront.

In a question posed by Senator Corker, Earl explained that quantum is “moving from digital bits to quantum bits.” The two biggest advantages are that the processors are so much faster than existing computers, and the technology provides a much higher level of security that digital can. That relates to quantum physics and the random numbers that are generated.

Wade clearly has a great grasp of the technology and its impact. On the technology front, he talked about how quantum computers can handle 18 quadrillion instructions simultaneously. Wade also cited an April 2023 McKinsey report that said the four industries likely to see the earliest economic impact from quantum computing – automotive, chemicals, financial services, and life sciences – stand to potentially gain up to $1.3 trillion in value by 2035.

Earl talked about two other areas where quantum computing can have a significant impact. One is weather forecasting, particularly hurricanes. The other was detecting earthquakes up to two hours before they happen.

As noted in this late July article in, the EPB Quantum NetworkSM powered by Qubitekk is now accepting applications from prospective customers who want to test their technologies on America’s first commercially available quantum network. Wade said it was an opportunity for start-ups to test their applications, very similar to when EPB deployed its gigabit network a decade or so ago.

How can communities across Tennessee leverage the quantum initiative in Chattanooga? One way is to ramp up manufacturing as those technologies that pass muster, so to speak, are commercialized.

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