A business leader’s guide to quantum technology
Quantum technology is on the brink of becoming a game-changer in various industries. By harnessing the peculiar properties of quantum mechanics, quantum technologies have the potential to revolutionize fields such as drug discovery, financial portfolio management, climate modeling, and behavioral analytics. With billions of dollars being invested by technology giants, governments, and startups, the race for quantum breakthroughs is in full swing. However, amidst the excitement, there is also a looming threat to current encryption technology.
As quantum technologies prepare to enter the business world, it’s crucial for leaders to understand how to navigate this new landscape. In this article, we aim to demystify quantum technology for business leaders and shed light on three key use cases: complex computing problems, communication, and sensing, with a focus on quantum computing.
Quantum computing is often hailed as the next great evolution in computing. It has the potential to solve problems that are currently considered intractable for classical computers, which could take hundreds or even thousands of years to solve. Quantum machines, on the other hand, could crack these complex problems in a matter of hours or minutes. Quantum computers use qubits, which are more versatile than traditional computing bits and exponentially increase computing capability.
However, there are significant challenges in maintaining qubits and keeping them working together. Qubits are highly sensitive to external interferences like temperature and vibration, which can lead to computation errors. Current quantum machines are custom-made and mainly exist in lab environments due to the need for controlled quantum states and extreme temperatures. Developing a fault-tolerant quantum system at an enterprise scale will take time, as it relies on ongoing research and development.
While today’s laptops can solve the same problems as early-stage quantum computers, the capabilities of quantum computing are growing exponentially. It is expected that within a decade, quantum computers will be able to accelerate solutions to a wide range of problems across industries. Once quantum computers can easily solve real-world problems, they could disrupt the traditional relationship between risk and return, requiring organizations to rethink their approaches.
The future of quantum computing is likely to involve coexistence with classical computers, similar to how graphics processing units (GPUs) supplement central processing units (CPUs). Quantum computing is expected to supplement, rather than replace, classical computing. Quantum computing will also coexist with cloud capabilities, and many organizations are planning to leverage cloud-based quantum computing to access specialized horsepower without needing dedicated quantum computers.
The promise of speed in quantum computing continues to drive investment, and the quantum startup ecosystem is flourishing. Research suggests that the quantum computing market could reach nearly $65 billion by 2030, with the potential to give a competitive advantage to 25% of Fortune 500 companies in less than three years. Quantum computing has relevant use cases in almost every industry, making it crucial for organizations to familiarize themselves with these applications to prepare for future investments.
Three key applications of quantum computing are optimization algorithms, data science and mathematical modeling, and quantum chemistry and materials science. Optimization algorithms are essential for industries that rely on assessing multiple potential outcomes with numerous dependencies and constraints. Quantum computing can streamline operations, manufacturing processes, and supply chain optimization by solving complex problems in these areas.
Data science and mathematical modeling are increasingly challenging for classical computers due to the growing complexity and size of datasets. Quantum machines can perform complex parallel calculations almost instantly, making them ideal for industries like financial services, where credit scoring, asset valuation, fraud detection, and investment risk analysis require extensive data manipulation and calculations.
In quantum chemistry and materials science, quantum computers are expected to outperform classical machines in simulating molecular properties, predicting material behavior, and understanding the impact of molecular changes. Quantum computers could help design engineers develop better materials, eliminate the need for time-consuming lab experiments, and accelerate the discovery of new drugs.
Alongside the potential of quantum computing, there are security implications to consider. Current encryption protocols may not be able to withstand attacks from future quantum computers. Postquantum cryptography, which relies on complex mathematical problems that quantum computers cannot easily solve, will play a crucial role in securing communication networks. Organizations need to prepare for this by increasing their crypto-agility, which involves easily and securely replacing cryptographic algorithms and parameters.
Quantum communication provides a hardware-based solution for secure communication networks. Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a mature technique that uses quantum principles to exchange encryption keys, ensuring a high level of network security. While current limitations make QKD impractical for widespread adoption, ongoing advancements aim to improve its speed and reduce costs.
Quantum sensing offers the potential for more accurate and responsive sensors. Quantum sensors can outperform conventional sensors in various applications, including surveying, environmental monitoring, and precise navigation. Quantum sensors have the potential to replace existing sensors in multiple industries, such as oil and gas exploration, construction, and medical diagnostics.
In conclusion, quantum technology is poised to transform industries and businesses. Although it is still in its early stages, its potential impact cannot be ignored. Organizations should be proactive in preparing for the quantum future to avoid falling behind their competitors. While there are challenges and uncertainties, the strategic adoption of quantum technologies, coupled with pragmatism, can position businesses for success in the quantum era.