Schafer: The fruits of Honeywell’s long-standing dedication to the quantum computer are now visible



“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago,” is a quote from Warren Buffett so famous that consumers continue to search for the perfect holiday gift. can easily find a T-shirt or mug with it.

It’s great if someone feels inspired by this to plant a tree next spring, but Buffett has made a reputation as an investor. He was talking about the value of long-term thinking – how, with patience, a small investment can turn into a huge return.

We keep citing this not because it’s another Buffett gem, but because business executives so easily overlook this lesson.

Things that take a long time to happen aren’t inherently better, but breakthrough products, enduring brands, and major market share don’t just happen in a quarter or two.

This is what is so interesting about Honeywell’s adventure in quantum computing. They are getting it, or at least enough people have done it in its recent history to support its development.

Honeywell International announced in the summer that it would separate its quantum computing unit and merge it with a company in the UK, creating a company controlled by Honeywell called Quantinuum. This new company will hopefully attract investors interested in the emerging quantum computing market. This merger has just ended.

Honeywell International isn’t exactly the same previously Minneapolis-based Honeywell company that older Minnesota residents may remember. But there’s a lot of the old Honeywell DNA in Honeywell International.

The quantum computing business started here in Golden Valley. It wasn’t the kind of business that someone with a short-term thinking, whether it’s next quarter or next year, would even try to try. This company started over ten years ago and Quantinuum has just launched its first commercial product.

As for the potential, the numbers on the potential size of the market suggest something over $ 1 trillion.

And maybe there’s something more to learn about the long horizons of Honeywell’s IT project: how to appreciate the value of corporate legacy.

In a story told by Honeywell over 10 years ago, a new leader of a small business incubator project assessed the knowledge available to Honeywell: advanced capabilities in optics, lasers, cryogenics, ultra-high environments. -empty and, of course, over a century of experience with controls.

Honeywell staff scientists have pointed out that with this portfolio of knowledge and technology, the company could build a quantum computer, said the executive who heads the quantum computing business.

Companies use different approaches to develop quantum computers, but they all promise to be much faster than traditional computers. How it works is beyond my comprehension, except that quantum computing goes beyond traditional computing use of binary bits, represented by a 0 or 1, which store information.

In quantum computing, building blocks are “qubits” that are not binary and can exist in multiple states at the same time.

Some leaders in the segment are completely unknown, such as Rigetti & Co. or Xanadu Quantum Technologies of Canada, which raised $ 100 million this year.

Yet the list of known leaders also includes Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and Honeywell, founded in 1975, 1911 and 1885 respectively.

It has been more than two decades since Minnesota lost the headquarters of Honeywell, then one of the state’s top business leaders, when it was acquired by AlliedSignal. The head office was first consolidated into the home of AlliedSignal in New Jersey, with Honeywell International now based in North Carolina.

The name Honeywell comes from a founder on the company’s family tree, but William R. Sweatt and his descendants are entrepreneurs who deserve credit for developing Honeywell in Minnesota.

The Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. was a control company, particularly for regulating heat in homes. Before this type of technology, when homeowners got cold they put more fuel in the stove or furnace and when they got too hot they had to stop adding fuel. Automation that made life so much easier.

Honeywell expanded into other lines of business and at one point became a major player in the US mainframe industry.

This was around the time when the American computer industry was known as IBM and BUNCH, an acronym that referred to IBM’s top five competitors.

The “U” stood for Univac, with a strong presence here in the Twin Cities, and the “C” was for Control Data Corp., based most of its life in Bloomington and possibly IBM’s only real rival during this period. The “H” was for Honeywell, based in Minneapolis.

The rise of this high-tech industry here in Minnesota is a big part of the transformation of the state’s economy. Personal income in Minnesota went from lagging Midwestern neighbors like Wisconsin in the 1940s to overtaking them in the 1960s.

This mainframe era did not last that long and Honeywell left the company completely.

It would be stretching the truth beyond breaking point to suggest that Honeywell’s quantum computing business grew out of the roots of Honeywell’s computing business. Yet it has grown from Honeywell’s vast pool of know-how and broad technology portfolio.

Honeywell now owns 54% of Quantinuum, ready to raise a lot of capital to pursue what appears to be a great opportunity.

Booming profitability remains a long way off and might never happen, but the Honeywell team deserve a lot of credit for taking the first big step.

This happened when they realized that with time and money, maybe they could build a revolutionary machine, and then decided to give it a try.


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