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May 21, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Quantum technologies front and center at the “CO.MOBILITY Summit”

The event, which continues Wednesday, included another keynote - look for Katelyn Keenehan's story - and roughly 60 speakers over the two days of programming.

When you think of Chattanooga and the emphasis placed on quantum computing, you would expect that the rapidly emerging technology area would be a prominent topic in the second annual “CO.MOBILITY Summit” that launched Tuesday at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It was organized by Tasia Malakasis and her team at The Company Lab.

In fact, quantum and the leadership role that the city is playing in that sector was the subject of the first keynote presentation that featured two senior executives from IonQ, a College Park, MD-based quantum computing that delivers high-performance systems capable of solving the world’s largest and most complex commercial and research use cases. IonQ’s current generation quantum computer, IonQ Forte, is the latest in a line of cutting-edge systems, boasting 36 algorithmic qubits. The two were subbing for Peter Chapman, President and Chief Executive Officer who had a death in his family.

Margaret Arakawa
Margaret Arakawa

Margaret Arakawa, Chief Marketing Officer for the company that has a relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, made a formal presentation before joining Rima Alameddine, IonQ’s Chief Revenue Officer, in a time-limited fireside chat with former U.S. Senator Bob Corker. He’s the Chair of the Chattanooga Quantum Collaborative, a non-profit organization dedicated to spearheading the development of a thriving quantum ecosystem in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, and beyond.

Arakawa described her company’s mission as building “the world’s best quantum computers to solve the world’s most complex problems.” Noting an article from Monday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal with the headline “Quantum Computing Gets Real” (subscription required), she described several use cases that would benefit from the power of quantum computers. One was working IonQ is undertaking with Airbus on optimizing cargo loading on its jets; the other was a personal situation she experienced recently when she missed a connecting flight by two minutes that would have benefitted from optimizing gates.

Noting that states like Colorado, Illinois and Maryland and countries like Australia and France are making significant investments in quantum computing, Arakawa said that Chattanooga is a “place where many great things in quantum are happening.” She cited:

  • The gig speed fiber installed more than a decade ago by EPB;
  • The first commercial quantum network;
  • World-renowned businesses;
  • A thriving start-up community; and
  • Strong public-private partnerships.

During the fireside chat, Corker pressed both Alameddine and Arakawa to outline what the company plans to do in Chattanooga. The former underscored the importance of the quantum network that allows for the connection of multiple quantum computers, while Arakawa said the opportunity lies in “massively complex, hard problems.”

(Left to Right): Rima Alameddine, Bob Corker, and Margaret Arakawa.

He asked the two IonQ executives to summarize their takeaways. For Arakawa, one was to “start now, start now, start now,” no doubt a reference to the fact that companies should strike while the leadership advantage exists. Alameddine added that “you have shown you are the innovators.”

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