Quantum computing is not hype, but heralds a new era

Renata Jovanovic

The author is head of energy and chemical consulting at Deloitte in Germany and a global quantum computing ambassador.

(Photo: Rigetti, private)

What we know about quantum technology today is like driving a car at night: we currently only see as far as the headlights allow. And that applies to everything: hardware, algorithms and industrial applications.

But the road ahead is full of promises. So let’s take a look at the hype, the reality, and why companies can’t afford to be left behind on this exciting quantum journey.

The hype: Headlines keep making the rounds about how quantum technology will fundamentally change the chemical industry, shape the innovative power of entire countries or influence cyber security. As start-ups, corporations, and governments continue to invest and explore, we are still years away from a universal quantum computer powerful enough to solve complex scientific, economic, environmental, and societal challenges.

And this statement comes from the author, a true quantum enthusiast. However, that doesn’t mean that companies should wait to explore and embrace the possibilities of quantum technology.

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Quantum computing is relevant to numerous business areas

The reality: Technology companies are making great strides in unlocking quantum computing. However, the competition for qubits – which, unlike bits, store more information than just one and zero – is in full swing.

It remains to be seen what will prevail: artificially created modalities such as semiconductor-based qubits or natural modalities such as neutral atoms, trapped ions or others. It is also conceivable that there will be different modalities for different applications.

With the current power of quantum computing, a chemical company can already simulate small molecules such as lithium hydride or carbon dioxide. This would eliminate the need for expensive and time-consuming experiments previously used to test the behavior of molecules in new drugs. But it is also a fact that we need thousands to millions of qubits for meaningful simulations of complex molecules or for real-time optimization of multivariate networks.

>>Read here: Chip industry in Germany wants to play an important role in quantum computers

The business relevance: While some applications seem obvious, others are as far off as asking the inventors of the CRT TV to predict today’s Netflix business. The search for potential applications is intense, with about 80 cents of every dollar generated by quantum computing going to end users and only 20 cents staying with hardware vendors.

So it is no wonder that leading companies from various industries are already conducting their own quantum research and forming alliances such as QTAC to search for relevant industrial applications independently of quantum hardware suppliers.

Since companies can already open up many potential use cases, it is advisable to take a strategic view of the topic of quantum. Its economic relevance lies not only in research and development (e.g. of new materials), but also in production (production planning), in logistics (network optimization) and in sales (price simulations).

In addition, quantum technologies are used to solve complex societal challenges, such as improving carbon capture using metal-organic frameworks.

We need more quantum technology professionals

So why start quantum computing now? Simplified representations state that quantum computing only means faster calculations.

That’s true in essence, but it also opens up completely new ways of solving complex problems. So the sooner companies start researching the applications that are important to them, the better.

Some simulations of strategic scenarios, looking at the impact of quantum computing on corporate income statements, have shown that those who are late to quantum will not be able to up the pace and outperform the early adopters.

One reason is the availability of workers with quantum expertise. There needs to be more graduates in quantum technology (hardware and algorithms).

We also need more professionals who connect quantum technology with business value. As a solution, the US government proposes, for example, training STEM professionals.

For companies to move forward on their journey into the quantum world, it is necessary to develop use cases, collaborate in the ecosystem and hire and train a “quantum workforce”. This is the best way to differentiate between hype and reality and see the value that quantum computing can bring to business.

The author:

Renata Jovanovic is Head of Energy and Chemicals Advisory for Deloitte in Germany and Quantum Computing Ambassador on a global level.

More: The science fiction technology of Google and Co.

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