Five Things to Know About Quantum Computers
1. Quantum Computers Already Are in the Wild
The first commercial quantum computer was sold by D-Wave Systems to Lockheed Martin back in 2011. Both IBM and Rigetti offer online access to quantum computers to the public through the IBM Quantum Experience and Rigetti Cloud Quantum Services. Other providers, including Google, Microsoft and Amazon, have announced plans to provide similar access.
2. New Algorithms are Needed Before Widespread Use
One of the key problems holding back quantum computers today is that they require entirely new software and ways of thinking. That’s slowing down development when combined with the relatively few quantum computers available today.
3. Error-Correction is a Big Problem
Near-term quantum computers are error-prone and do not have the error correction capabilities the industry hopes to develop, according to Wallman. These errors can be suppressed with software, but they still hold back widespread commercial application until a better solution can be found for handling error-correction.
4. Early Applications Will Be Complex Modeling and Weighing Options
The first use cases for quantum computers will likely focus on two broad categories, according to Tim Zanni, global and US technology sector lead for consultancy KPMG. “One is analyzing huge sets of alternatives and identifying the best solution. This capability can apply to traffic routing, supply chain and portfolio management, for example,” he says. “The second category will be creating complex simulations to replicate and study real-life environments that usually have a vast number of variables, such as drug discovery, material science and market forecasts.”
5. Co-Processors and Cloud Services Are Where You’ll See Quantum First
Because quantum computers are expensive to maintain, and are best-suited for computing tasks that juggle many variables, don’t expect a quantum computer to show up in the office any time soon. First quantum computing will come as a cloud service, then probably as a co-processor that kicks in for specialized calculations.