Quantum Computing

Is Quantum Computing Hype or a Home Run?

Rebel Brown

“Is Quantum Computing hype or will it solve the problems I can’t solve well today for my business? Is it really the home run everyone claims it will be?”

That’s the question we hear oh so often. We understand why – there’s so much confusion out there. Which is why I wanted to clarify some things in this post.

If you look at the market forecasts, not to mention the billions invested in quantum, you should believe it’s real.

For example, a 2020 market research analysis estimates the quantum computing market will top $65 billion per year by 2030. That’s just one of many that claim supersonic growth for quantum computing.

Trust me. we have NOT all been duped by a masterful game of hype by hundreds of vendors and investors. Not even.

But will it solve my problem?

The truth is, it depends on the problem and the timing.

Technology Innovation Isn’t Hype

All too often we humans view anything we don’t understand completely as hype. That’s how our minds are trained to function at an instinctual level. What’s new and different is also a potential threat, so we lead with caution and suspicion.

Quantum computing is the next suspect in the evolution of Information Technology.

Here’s an example to ponder. Think about the advent of the internet. Did anyone imagine when we used our first Netscape browser that we would be where we are today with regard to the digital world that’s been enabled by the internet? I doubt it.

That’s the way tech innovation works. We innovate, we learn, we apply and we expand the application of the new technology, based on what we learn in our experience.

Quantum computing is the most advanced technology opportunity we’ve seen in high-tech business. I say that from experience, having been on the leading edge of tech innovation for over three decades. It holds the opportunity for amazing home runs – the only question is when.

Quantum Computing Hype vs Reality

Part of the reason for the emerging claims of hype is that we simply do not know, with 100% certainty, when quantum computers will do what we expect them to do.

Why?

There are a number of entangled causes. None of which are suspicious or out of line with what should be expected in the evolution of a highly advanced technology. Yet human nature leads some to claim that all of the believers are in cahoots, creating quantum computing hype to dupe the masses. Suspicious souls that we are.

So what is the reality, right now? That depends on who you talk to. Let’s face it, different vendors and people have different perspectives, different truths if you will. That’s human nature, too.

Which is why understanding the reality today, and what’s coming tomorrow, is so important to move beyond the hype claims, which are unfounded. Just like when folks claimed the internet was a toy. Uh huh.

First, let’s talk about what quantum computers are expected to do, and not do.

  • Consequently, quantum computing supporters believe they will accelerate complex computational based applications such as machine learning and AI, simulations of complex problems in fields including chemistry, neuroscience, medicine and economics, and solve complex optimization problems (e.g., the traveling-salesman problem) in ways that classical computers simply can’t achieve.
  • Quantum computers will not replace classical systems. They do not process transactions (they don’t have a database,) or run spreadsheets, word processors, websites or CRMs, to name a few. They simulate complex scenarios and solve complex computations. Period. So anyone who talks about quantum replacing classical is creating hype that isn’t feasible.
  • The most likely scenario for the majority of quantum computer use is as an “assist” to classical computers. Meaning a blended or hybrid solution that uses quantum to “power up” classical systems to be far more effective in their work. Standalone quantum systems will most likely appear for science and for very high-end computations, but we don’t see that being the primary implementation.

So what does that mean for today? Here are some answers to some questions that we hear often.

  • Why don’t we know exactly what quantum computers do well? Where are the benchmarks? We haven’t built a quantum computer that scales to a large enough data capacity to actually run the problems that we expect them to solve. Quantum computers must import their data into the actual qubits within the system. They do not use databases to move data back and forth.
    • That means that to solve a problem with 500,000 data points, we need a quantum computer able to import and hold 500,000 individual data elements. Today, we can process between 150-5600 data elements, depending on the type of quantum computer you use. We have a way to go – but we are scaling and learning every day.
  • Why aren’t there any programs for quantum computers? Why do I have to invest so much time and money to learn about QUBOs, circuits, gates, algorithms and more? Developing quantum programs is not the same as classical programming. At all. We have to build highly complex quantum programs to run the computers; programs that only highly skilled, hard to find and very expensive quantum experts can create using today’s quantum software development kits.
    • That’s a huge challenge that often is lost in the discussions and focuses on the quantum processing unit (QPU) hardware itself. Yet it’s a significant challenge, one we solved for optimization problems with Qatalyst, since it’s ready-to-run software for today’s SMEs and programmers, not just quantum scientists.
  • When will I be able to run my problems on a quantum computer? The truth is, we don’t know. It depends on the size of the problem (e.g., the volume of data that has to be processed,) whether you are creating your own application or using a ready-to-run software like Qatalyst, and how fast QPU vendors can scale their systems. Which leads to the next question….
  • When will we reach quantum advantage? That depends on the problem. But what’s important is that everyone understands what reaching quantum advantage really means. As we all know, quantum advantage is defined as running a real-world problem on a quantum computer with better performance than a classical computer.
    • We will reach that stage as QPUs expand their ability to solve larger, more production problems. That said, everyone should understand that when we do reach quantum advantage, it will not be with a better price/performance than classical systems. Most likely, it will be with an extremely high price/performance ratio. Once we reach quantum advantage, we can and will begin to focus on improving price/performance as the technology moves into more and more production instances.
  • What’s so hard about scaling these systems? That’s a complex question, but here’s a simple answer about a critical challenge. As you scale QPUs, the potential for error increases. Which means we need powerful error correction capabilities to reach the scale required for “production” problems.
    • Large investments are being made to define and productize these techniques, but we are not there yet, and we won’t be in the near term. We will get there, and when we do – the power of quantum will be available for businesses.
  • What can I do today? How do I get ready for quantum? Do I even need to do anything? One of the misrepresentations that seems to have crept into the quantum computing hype is the idea that it’s all or nothing. Quantum has to be ready or we can’t benefit from it. That’s not the case. There are many things we can do today to prepare for quantum.

QPUs are available for us to use right now as we explore simple problems to learn about quantum and how it works. We recently announced our SaaS solution for quantum constrained optimization with AWS as our infrastructure, for both classical and quantum processing. Today, you can run small optimization problems on Qatalyst as a SaaS application, no quantum programming or expertise required.

You can also apply quantum methods to today’s classical programs and reap significant benefits. In all the quantum computing hype, there’s a focus on that all or nothing approach. In fact, right now Qatalyst applies quantum methods to constrained optimization and solves these problems on classical machines – faster, more accurately and with a diversity of answers that give businesses deeper and better insights to drive more informed business decisions.

The Bottom Line

Quantum computing is not hype.

It’s an advanced technology that’s evolving along the same path as other new technologies. The difference is it’s the biggest innovation any of us in high technology has seen in our lifetimes.

Quantum will change our lives.The only question is when we will be able to take full advantage of it. I expect that to become more clear over the next year or so.

You can take advantage of quantum right now. For better business decisions, more effective logistics and supply chains, improved customer satisfaction, and more.

To learn more about how you can prepare for quantum, check out our Executive Brief, 3 Ways to Make Your Business Quantum-Ready.