How Useful Are Quantum Computers?
Quantum computers today are in a state similar to that of classical computers in their infancy. The first devices took up whole rooms and could perform only simple calculations. People were also skeptical about these machines living up to the promised potential. No one seriously predicted that we would end up with devices with a 5-inch display and more computing power than what was necessary to launch the first rocket into space.
Today quantum computers promise a major increase in performance compared to even the most powerful supercomputers. Due to the phenomenon of superposition, the state space of a quantum computer grows exponentially with a linear increase in the number of qubits. This allows algorithms to operate with large amounts of data much quicker than classical computers.
Although discussions of quantum computers often seem to quickly lead to cybersecurity talk, the world of big data continues to grow each day, and with it so does the set of problems that arise, making quantum computers more and more appealing as a means to solve them. As a result, Inside Quantum Technology is predicting that within a few years, the focus of quantum computing may be a little less on security matters and more on matters that are more prosaic. Two areas that Inside Quantum Technology’s research indicates will be early revenue generators from quantum computing are Optimization and Simulation.
A State of Optimization
Solving complex optimization problems is highly important for firms working in industries like finance, energy, transportation and security, and several of them have already shown interest in harnessing the power of quantum computing.
- Quantum annealers, while technically not being universal quantum computers, have already proven their use in solving complex optimization problems. Google and NASA have reported a massive increase in performance on certain optimization solutions while using D-Wave’s quantum annealing machine, compared to analogous classical techniques.
- Quantum computer capabilities can increasingly be accessed through cloud technology. IBM, for example, launched the IBM Q Network in December 2017, collaborating with startups such as Zapata Computing, Strangeworks, and QxBranch. QxBranch is a firm that provides predictive analytics to firms in the banking and finance industries. [Note all four of the companies mentioned above are speaking at the Inside Quantum Technology conference in March.]
Simulation in Silico
In our opinion, simulating physical systems will quickly become an important application for quantum computers:
- Precise and efficient understanding of the behavior of molecules has massive implications for the pharmaceutical industry and design of new materials. Allowing researchers to test new designs in silico will provide not only a quantitative but also a qualitative enhancement of their work, be it creating a stronger material for airplanes or better pharmaceuticals.
- Google released OpenFermion – software designed to interpret problems about chemical and material systems for quantum computers – in October 2017. It is already being used in existing hardware, allowing researchers to reap the benefits of a faster discovery pipeline.
To learn more about quantum computers and their applications, visit the Inside Quantum Technology Conference, which will be held at the Hynes Convention Center, Boston, March 19-21. Also, note that Inside Quantum Technology will be publishing a report on quantum computer applications in the near future.