Rebooting the Future With Quantum Computing
Businesses continue to navigate uncharted territory as the unpredictability of 2020 lingers. A growing number of problems have emerged during the crisis which require a major breakthrough to resolve. New market dynamics are continuously demanding new responses, with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive automation and machine learning rising to the challenge.
This new world poses a challenge for how businesses can move into the future — a future that demands sustainability and resiliency driven by solutions to address global health, financial risk, climate change, supply chain logistics, drug research and development, the fight against terrorism and cybersecurity. All of this requires a different approach that can factor in multiple dimensions and stretch the limits of existing high-performance computing resources. This is where a fundamental change in computing is evolving, led by quantum technology.
Quantum Computing's Potential Hybrid Future
Quantum computing landed in the Top 10 trends lists of many analysts last year, along with AI, autonomous things, digital twins and digital ethics and privacy. When these technologies, in addition to analytics, automation and cognitive intelligence, intersect with quantum computing they will create exponential synergies, intelligence and innovations. For a world accustomed to the binary bits of 0 and 1 in classical computing, quantum computing presents a new way of processing data. It uses the probabilistic laws of quantum physics to process data, rather than the certainty of a mathematical formula. Quantum bits (called qubits) can have a fluid, non-binary identity. The fuzziness allows the technology to use uncertainty to its advantage.
The research around Quantum is exploring multiple paths to build a quantum computer capable of realizing computations beyond the reach of modern supercomputers. One such research dimension is superconducting qubits vs. atomic qubits. While the superconducting qubits-based approach seem to be a top contender, every other step is also helping this seismic shift in technology to move forward. An important aspect to mention here is that researchers may be looking towards a hybrid classical-quantum system which would have near real world applicability. We believe this co-existence between classical and quantum computers will drive the foreseeable future.
Besides appropriate usage scenarios, there is a far more immediate and urgent driver of interest in this technology. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are headed for a long period of turmoil, placing before businesses the single-largest crisis in living memory. Leaders will, naturally, work towards building systems and processes that realize their vision — and perhaps foremost in the consideration list will be quantum computing.
Related Article: Quantum Computing: Challenges, Trends and the Road Ahead
The Quantum Gold Rush
The science of quantum computing has come a long way since the early '80s and is fast approaching practical and large-scale application. It holds the promise of being the post-binary computing tool businesses have been waiting for. Several nations including the US, China, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan have recognized the game-changing potential of this science. It is viewed as a key determinant of national security, economic progress and the global power balance.
Several technology leaders are investing to take quantum computing services to market and to incorporate it into business processes. Nature, the leading international journal of science, calls it the “quantum gold rush.” The applications of the technology — and its impact — are noteworthy:
- Financial Services: Banks are exploring ways to work with quantum hardware and software players to explore and develop applications specific to their bank. This will lead to quantum algorithms that increase speed of transactions for portfolio optimization, trading, asset management, risk management, option pricing.
- Manufacturing: Enterprises are optimizing routes and in-stock part placement in their factories, enabling workers to successfully reduce distance traveled by up to 45%, significantly increasing productivity.
- Pharma: This industry is using the technology to predict the right molecular structures leading to reduced development time.
- Cybersecurity: Quantum cloud platforms will provide low-cost access to quantum machines, quantum key distribution (QKD) to secure data from quantum hacking.
Although the headlines around quantum computing are large and bold, there's a ways to go before it can be commercialized and put into the hands of a large number of users. Thanks to the experimental systems available for testing, the evolution of quantum computing today is similar to where Linux was at the start of the century or where cloud was 10 years ago. From here, the rate of evolution would be exponential — but needs demystification, affordability and talent availability.
Related Article: Cloud-Based Quantum Computing Shows Increasing Enterprise Interest
Preparing for the Early Impact of Quantum Computing
Current trends show that this technology will become widely available to businesses as a cloud-based platform. This has three immediate implications for businesses:
- Early identification of competent technology partners who not only understand how the science is evolving but also can identify the value proposition for businesses and build quantum computing roadmaps. Essentially, the goal is to become quantum ready.
- Identifying areas in which quantum computing can be applied and how it will change your industry. While this is generally true for industries of every nature, organizations related to defense, healthcare and finance need to know the severe disruption this technology will trigger for practitioners.
- Building in-house quantum computing champions who work to build business-specific foundational capabilities. These champions will emerge from the set of employees familiar with data and at times quantum sciences. For the moment, given the paucity of quantum computing skills, building quantum champions must be done in collaboration with technology partners, research labs, universities and quantum communities.
For most businesses, the allure of quantum computing lies in its ability to accurately simulate a variety of industry-specific scenarios. For industries such as financial services, telecom and transportation that struggle to optimize solutions, quantum computing has just heralded a new era in agility and responsiveness. The most aggressive businesses will gravitate towards adopting quantum computing, that provides systems the superpower to squeeze complex processes and algorithms.
About the Author
Kalyan “KK” Kumar is the corporate vice president & CTO, IT services of HCL Technologies and the company’s business line leader for Digital Foundation (Infra & Platform Modernization, Hybrid Cloud, Digital Workplace, Enterprise Networking & Telco Cloud, Integrated IT Ops) & the DRYiCE.AI Software Division.