The Transformative Impact of Quantum Sensors

May 22, 2023

With the prospect of a large, fault-tolerant quantum computer still years away, many government agencies and global enterprises are turning to quantum technologies – software and hardware solutions that leverage properties of quantum mechanics – to achieve their mission objectives. The ability of these solutions to run on classical computing hardware means organizations can take advantage of these advanced technologies now, without having to wait for a functioning quantum computer.

One of the more promising technologies is quantum sensing, which capitalizes on quantum technology’s extreme sensitivity to outside interference – caused by minute changes in electromagnetic, photonic, gravitational, kinetic, thermal and other energies – and delivers highly accurate and reliable measurements. Quantum sensors have a broad range of applications across a variety of industries, including healthcare, transportation, energy, environmental science, construction, and national security.

Blazing a New Path with Quantum Navigation

Quantum sensing provides an alternative, high-precision navigation system to complement satellite-based GPS signals that can be denied or spoofed by adversaries (a tactic Russia is using frequently in its war against Ukraine). GPS is often the only source of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) data for many critical infrastructure systems making them potential targets for GPS interference. Quantum sensing eliminates these vulnerabilities, as it would be impossible to jam, spoof, or deny access to Earth’s magnetic field. 

This very topic was addressed by retired U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson in a March 2023 CSIS webinar, titled, “The Future of Quantum - Building a Global Market.” In it, Admiral Richardson stated that in any real conflict, “[GPS] is going to be one of the first targets. It’s going to be heavily prioritized in terms of jamming… [but] it’s very difficult to jam the Earth’s magnetic field.” He went on to discuss the virtues of such a system: it’s persistent, all-weather, all-domain, passive (i.e., no need to transmit anything) and impervious to things that can confound other navigation approaches. “It solves a national security and a military problem, and a commercial problem as well – and it’s relatively near-term.”

But how can you transform individually complex, sensitive quantum instruments into a full-stack application-ready system which can operate in real-life settings? That’s exactly what SandboxAQ aims to learn through our collaboration with commercial customers and with the U.S. Air Force. Together, we successfully completed testing of a quantum-based magnetic anomaly navigation system in an operationally relevant and realistic setting.  Using AI and physics to filter out interference and improve the navigation quality, we hope to prove through future tests that this navigation alternative is not merely possible; but practical, economical, and reliable for civilian, commercial, and military use.

A Quantum Leap in Delivering Medical Diagnoses

On the healthcare front, medical imaging technologies, such as MRIs, CAT scans, etc., have saved countless lives over the last several decades. However, millions of people around the world still succumb to diseases and misdiagnoses that could have been prevented if faster, more accurate medical imaging capabilities were available. Advanced quantum sensing has the potential to greatly improve the confidence and speed of medical diagnoses, and also to improve patient care and financial outcomes. 

As with quantum navigation, SandboxAQ uses AI to remove the background “noise” that’s prevalent in a hospital environment, enabling these highly sensitive devices to deliver insights and images with greater fidelity than ever before. 

We recently completed a feasibility study of our prototype magnetocardiography (MCG) device, or heart sensor, with a prominent research hospital. Unlike EKGs, whose electric signals could be distorted as they pass through body tissue, magnetic fields are unimpeded by the human body, allowing MCGs to capture more intricate and accurate data with every heartbeat.

Because it’s more effective than EKG or biomarker tests, and smaller and more cost-effective than PET or CAT scans, we believe MCG has the potential to truly make a difference in rural or low-income communities that would otherwise require patients to travel to larger or more distant urban centers for advanced diagnosis during a cardiac event. Our goal is to make the MCG small enough to be used in ambulances or field hospitals, and to expand its application to other organs and tissues.

These are just some of the breakthroughs that we’re pursuing at SandboxAQ, but there are many other applications for this amazing technology. For a more in-depth look into how this technology could transform our world, check out our Quantum Sensing page or send us an email at

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