With so many other things going on in the world, it was easy to miss how far quantum technology evolved in 2020. Little more than a year ago it was still possible for serious writers in serious publications to doubt that quantum computers would ever take off commercially. Now the debate is more over how much can be done by a quantum computer and when, not whether, practical applications for quantum computers will burgeon. This is, to some extent, what the “quantum advantage” debate is about.
Given what was achieved in quantum technology in 2020, IQT Research believes that 2021 will be even more of a special year. So here are four IQT Research predictions for 2021:
#1 Massive growth in quantum cybersecurity markets expected.
IQT Research foresees a fast moving 2021 for quantum cybersecurity, with new products driven by (1) cyberattacks as a growing national security menace in a number of countries and (2) concerns about the vulnerability of cryptocurrencies in a world in which Bitcoin becomes a normal means of exchange and value storage. [Here there is an emerging debate as to whether bitcoin needs a special quantum-safe add-on or whether it is good to go as it is.]
Quantum-secure phones from Samsung, possibly Huawei, and likely others will also become a hot consumer item by Christmas of 2021 to ward off the usual gang of hackers and protect e-commerce on mobile devices. Meanwhile, quantum safe computing (combining QKD, PQC and QRNGs) will become the stated objective of startups and rebranded products at cybersecurity firms everywhere. These are explosive trends taking quantum technology into realms into which they have formerly feared to tread.
#2 Much talk about desktop QCs in 2021.
IQT Research has suggested for more than a year now that the “next big thing” in quantum computing will not really be big at all; desktop quantum computing. IonQ has said recently that we are only five years away from desktop QCs. Chalmers University of Technology has already built a small quantum computing, although strictly for experimental purposes.
Desktop quantum computing is a controversial stance. But IQT Research bets it will become a meme by the end of 2021, although no commercial desktop will become available for several years; perhaps longer than IonQ thinks, but not decades either. Potentially, this will expand the market for quantum computers in much the same way that minicomputers took premises into the mainstream sixty years ago
A desktop quantum computer would challenge the cloud access paradigm that currently predominates in the quantum computing and it may also mean a shakeup on the quantum technology business front. Not all quantum computer technologies are equally suited to miniaturization. With specific technologies tied to specific companies, desktop QCs would have a profound impact on individual market shares going forward; the firms pushing “quantum minis” may be the new hot new properties. Nothing is certain here other than we will hear more about desktop quantum computers [perhaps under another name] in 2021.
#3 China: Quantum technology gets political next year.
Just under two years ago, the author of this blog spoke at a conference on QKD/quantum networking organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Shanghai. There were representatives there from every technological advanced nation, many considered to be antagonistic towards each other.
My speech wondered aloud whether such a nationally diverse conference attendance would be possible much longer. This comment, incidentally, attracted the attention of a Chinese security lady, who interviewed me to ensure that I wasn’t a threat to the Chinese people. She decided I wasn’t!
IQT Research still believes that the prediction I made will turn out to be true. In 2021 quantum-related matters will play an important role in the growing rivalry between China and the West and will help erect barriers between the two civilizations. The impact of all this will be both positive and negative for the quantum technology business.
Positive: In the West expect more money from the defense and intelligence communities for quantum tech to counter a Chinese quantum threat. More and more grant proposals will cite national security as a reason for funding in much the same way that grant proposals in the past have cited climate change,” in the hope that this reference will make funding committees look on these proposals more favorably.
Negative: Sharing of results between quantum scientists from China and the West will become more and more restricted. On the other hand, quantum technology will be written about more widely in the general business and national press, but almost certainly with little understanding from the mainstream journalists leading to the inevitable misstatements and exaggeration.
#4 Valuations of Quantum Technology Firms Rock
In 2021 IQT Research expects quantum computers to grow substantially in terms of the number of qubits handled (and in terms of other related measures – quantum volume, for example) bringing quantum computing further down the road to threatening standard public key encryption schemes. Quantum-safe technology will boom as a result. Meanwhile, quantum phones and the dreams of a desktop QC will lead to early signs of businesses built around the idea “mass market” quantum.
All this may describe where we are a year from now. But where will the money come from to finance such expansion. As noted we are going to see funding from the defense community leveraged into the quantum technology market as the result of the Chinese threat.
Less obviously, market valuations of quantum firms are creeping up already, IQT Research understands. One of our sources, for example, puts the market capitalization of Rigetti trending up to $1 billion. As these words are being written, the Washington Post has just reported that 2021 will be a big one for IPOs. If this turns out to be the case, then perhaps in the new year the hot stocks will be quantum stocks?
Inside Quantum Technology