Alphabet spins off quantum AI 'Sandbox'

Ex-CEO Eric Schmidt sticks his own cash into startup and rules as chairman

Alphabet has spun off yet another biz - this time Sandbox AQ - which has been working on mixing quantum computing and AI with a focus on "post-quantum cryptography," data security and even clean energy.

The business is based on a set of APIs called Floq allowing developers to use tensor processing units (TPUs) to simulate quantum computing workloads. Preliminary code has been released on GitHub.

The spun-off quantum tech group – not to be confused with Google's Privacy Sandbox initiative – started life at Alphabet in 2016, but flew under the radar largely because it operated outside of Google's Moonshot division, where it sends other concepts in need of experimentation.

Now that it has separated from the mothership, with founding CEO Jack Hidary still at the helm, Sandbox has changed its name to Sandbox AQ for maximum buzzword appeal: "In addition to cybersecurity, quantum tech and AI working together have a powerful compound effect we call AQ," Hidary said

Sandbox AQ, chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, just finished an oversubscribed funding round with investments from Breyer Capital, Schmidt himself, Marc Benioff's TIME Ventures and others. 

Schmidt said in an interview with Reuters that converting big companies to quantum-secure comms would be "a pretty big business."

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The firm also has a healthy list of high-profile customers, including Vodafone Business, Softbank Mobile, Mt Sinai Health System and "other leading Global 1000 companies," Sandbox AQ said. 

Sandbox tech still in stealth

On its website, Sandbox AQ describes itself as "an enterprise SaaS company combining AI + Quantum tech to solve hard problems impacting society."

Sandbox said its products include "post-RSA" cybersecurity modules and it makes clear mention of its existing customers, but that's about it. Hidary admits what's already a well-known fact: "fault-tolerant quantum computers won't be commercially available for a decade or more."

Still, Hidary said, "we have been delivering practical quantum and AI solutions that are solving real-world challenges for a broad range of industries."

Breakthroughs in quantum computing are still infinitesimally small and rudimentary: Microsoft only recently said it created the proper conditions necessary to sustain its version of a quantum bit. That hasn't stopped funding and interest from private investors and the US government from trying to get a piece of the pie before it's even out of the oven. 

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said he sees Sandbox AQ as a Salesforce spiritual successor. "Jack [Hidary] is emulating the way Salesforce.com harnessed the cloud computing era and applying it to the quantum technology era," Benioff claimed.

Sandbox for its part isn't wasting its resources, and has actively been partnering with universities to fund PhD students and host postdoctoral fellows. Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge and others have all partnered with Hidary and company. ®

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