When will we have quantum computing on a commercial scale?

Quantum computing was invented in 1980 by the British Paul Benioff, the creator of the theory of quantum mechanics applied to the Turing machine. In 1998, the first experimental quantum computer was created, starting the race to make quantum computing a reality on a commercial scale. In recent years, there have been many public and private investments and, as a consequence of this scenario, great technological progress has been achieved.

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Interest in quantum computing would stem from the existence of a “quantum advantage”, namely that quantum computing would have the ability to perform tasks that would not be possible in a classical computer. We have identified several cases where the use of quantum computing could have disruptive potential. They can be divided into three categories:

  • simulation, in experiments related to chemical, biological and physical processes. It would represent a very powerful tool for creating new materials, drugs and chemicals, significantly reducing the need for laboratory experiments. It can also be used in simulations of mathematical scenarios, as an application for risk calculation in financial institutions.
  • optimizationsolving operations research problems with applications for all industries, such as optimization of complex supply chains, applications in logistics and energy distribution, optimization of telecommunications networks and optimization of industrial processes.
  • machine learning, quantum computing will have a great impact on the creation of artificial intelligence applications, making them faster and with better results. The benefits apply to the multitude of use cases that already use AI.

The applications mentioned above have the potential to play a key role in the fight against climate change. For example, to improve the energy storage capacity of batteries, to create efficient synthetic alternatives to fossil fuels or to create solutions for the absorption of CO².

When will quantum computing become a reality?

The quest for “quantum advantage” is an important aspect of the technological race we live in. Every now and then one of the great technicians claims to have been able to demonstrate a “quantum advantage” with some application. In 2019, Google claimed for the first time that it had achieved a quantum advantage; was immediately challenged by IBM, which demonstrated that the application in question could be run on a traditional supercomputer. Recently, in June, Xanadu announced the “quantum frontier”.

Demonstrations of “quantum advantage” are still highly questionable. Quantum computers are still very limited, with a few qubits (maximum 150 qubits). To enter the quantum age, they would have to have at least a million qubits. The road is long and the challenges are numerous, such as controlling the error in the calculations and maintaining the stability of the qubit. So far, no technological standard has been defined; various companies are testing technologies to implement qubits and perform quantum operations, such as superconducting loops (Google and IBM), photonics (Xanadu) or ion trap (IonQ).

Current data shows that in this decade, quantum computing should become a reality on a commercial level, according to McKinsey, by 2028, investments by governments and companies in the field of quantum computing will reach 4 trillion US dollars. Google plans to have a commercial version of a quantum computer by 2029. Gartner says 40% of large companies will launch quantum computing initiatives by 2025. existence of quantum hype or technology bubble.

In the near future, computing will not be quantum or classical, but a combination of both, which will make it possible to get the best out of both technologies. Quantum computing is still an experimental technology, but growing, and has a valuable ecosystem that allows it to work with different vendors and techniques, there are some quantum-inspired computers like NTT’s D-Wave and LASOLV that are already used to solve certain problems. There are problems desks of open development similar to those applied in machine learning. The transformative capacity of quantum computing in large industries and the existence of ecosystems requires organizations to prepare and develop a “quantum blueprint”.

Luis Quiles is the Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer at NTT DATA Brazil

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