The entire quantum ecosystem sees the issue of “use cases” as a big one. For most quantum computing companies, developing a use case for this future technology may prove more challenging than expected. A recent Forbes article interviewing ORCA Computing’s CEO Richard Murray stated that: “without use cases (and thus, customers) they must not only fund themselves and stay motivated while playing the long game.” While there are a plethora of industries and applications that need quantum computing, developing proper use cases and communicating those with potential clients can create a bottleneck in a company’s growth. “You need some sort of design methodology approach,” explained global quantum technology leader, André M. König. “This is where you really test and retest and keep that fast-prototyping approach alive.” As König is focused on strategies to implement quantum technology, developing the right solutions is a key interest. For König, this means companies should develop multiple use cases, not just one. “To me, I think that may make them blind to everything else. I think it’ll be a missed opportunity.”
Other experts agree that pursuing multiple use cases with multiple clients can be a big benefit. “Use cases develop through a combination of ‘push’ and ‘pull,'” explained Dr. Celia Merzbacher, the Executive Director of QED-C. “Developers of quantum technologies are actively engaging with potential users and customers to understand needs and share the potential business value. End users, especially from sectors that are users of current technologies, are learning about quantum-enabled technologies and are starting to explore how it might apply to their industry.” Because use cases can add to a company’s value and help determine its niche in an industry, it is beneficial for companies to explore multiple use cases, especially with the flexible benefits that quantum computing provides. For many companies, getting to these different use cases comes down to the approach.
Differing Approaches to Use Cases
When discussing the strategies for developing use cases for quantum technology, one of the experts to talk to is Brian Lenahan, the Founder and Chair of the Quantum Strategy Institute. With years of strategy experience and several successful books on the topic, Lenahan hopes to make these strategies accessible to anyone in the industry. To do this he illustrates the three main approaches within a company that apply to developing use cases:
“The Champion Approach. Someone inside the organization identifies a quantum technology that may be applicable to one or more use cases already, or yet to be, identified, or even more simply represents an exciting technology to that individual champion. This is bottom-up, more time-consuming, and often less successful unless supported by a very senior leader. This applies even if the unit is the IT department.”
“The Need Approach: A business problem is too substantial/intractable for any conventional computing solution so quantum options are explored. In most cases, an acceptable version of the Business Use Case (BUC) could be executed classically (while accepting such limitations) and wise business decision-makers demand this comparative analysis. To venture into a QT, significantly more risk analysis must be completed for an untried tech.”
“The Organizational Approach: Business use cases (BUC) of any ilk should be a follow- on action to global organizational annual planning activities regardless of the technology employed. If use cases proposed by a business unit do not align with the organization’s (and business unit’s) mission, goals, strategies, and key performance indicators, they are less likely to be selected, let alone implemented. The BUC can’t be primarily about the technology, rather it must be about the business outcome.”
These three approaches illustrate that developing use cases for a quantum company can come from anyone and be motivated by multiple factors.
Is It Still Too Early?
Because quantum computing is still in its early stages of development, many believe there are not yet use cases for it. This isn’t actually true, as some of this technology has already been applied to various problems. “Quantum-based sensors are available today,” Merzbacher added. “Annealer-based quantum computers have been demonstrated to provide solutions to certain businesses.” Other experts like Lenahan agree. “The literature is increasingly extensive for quantum optimization, sensing, communication, simulation, and cybersecurity use cases whether through early-stage quantum-inspired or hybrid approaches,” he added.
As the technology develops (and use cases along with it), it’s important for companies to make sure their use cases are also being effectively communicated to their clients. As the Forbes article states: “So what is required is not just research and development but also good lines of communication with potential buyers in order to develop the real world applications.” Quantum computing is already a hard enough technology to communicate as is. Use cases can help to “ground” this technology and show its importance. For those developing these use cases, the process may be complicated, but the final outcome is definitely worth it.
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology.