My TechDecisions asked Robert Liscouski, president and CEO of Quantum Computing, Inc., all about quantum computing and how organizations can harness its advanced computing power before it reaches full maturity. Here’s what Liscouski had to say:
Q: What is the state of quantum computing in the enterprise?
Liscouski: There is no question that quantum computing will be a game changer across industries, with practical use cases for supply chain, logistics, financial services, manufacturing, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and more. Quantum computers will handle incredibly complex optimization calculations far beyond what classical computers can do. This is crucial for enterprises that want to analyze complex processes requiring vast data and sophisticated optimization in order to identify key insights that drive profitable business decisions.
While quantum computers today are in their early innovation stages, the technology is maturing rapidly. We know that quantum works – it’s apparent in the world around us. We humans simply need to learn the methods and nuances of how to harness the power in a computational process as computers to bring quantum computing to its full power and potential.
That’s why forward-thinking enterprises won’t want to wait until quantum computing reaches full maturity over the next five-to-ten years. Quantum computing is a completely new computing paradigm that will take significant time to understand in order to accelerate an organization’s ability to harness its noteworthy advantages. Organizations that act now to explore and learn will gain lengthy and significant competitive advantages as successful quantum adopters.
Q: What factors are holding up its mass adoption?
Liscouski: Current business experts and software developers do not have the quantum expertise or skills to program new complex quantum applications. The software development kits (SDKs) provided by the vendors require highly skilled quantum experts, mathematicians and physicists to even begin to attempt to develop and code the needed programs, workflows, and algorithms; not to mention the mathematical and physics expertise. Plus, each QPU requires specific low-level coding to lock the software to their specific hardware— which results in vendor lock-in for any software development.
Even experts can’t readily use these SDKs. One quantum physicist told us it took him eight months to find the specifics of a popular SDK to write their first quantum program. The result is that organizations must recruit and hire an elite and hard-to-find workforce, then commit months or years to develop and model quantum programs, which are locked to a specific QPU vendor.
To overcome these factors and democratize access to these powerful systems, software companies are developing ready-to-run quantum software that eliminates the need for complex quantum programming and enables subject matter experts with no quantum expertise to solve real-world business problems. With this type of software, organizations can tap the power of the technology in a much more accessible and affordable way, with their current business experts able to leverage quantum systems for computations without the support of an elite quantum workforce.
Q: With most of the focus on hardware, what role will quantum computing software and services play in moving the industry forward?
Liscouski: Software has always been the key to the maturity and mass adoption of computing. Software is flexible and adaptable; it delivers the application logic, workflows and interfaces humans need to get the most out of any computing system. The same is true for quantum.
Perhaps most powerful in the software evolution is the step in which software masks the complexity of the hardware and the problem challenging a user, delivering true applications seamlessly to users. Once this step is overcome, developers can get creative and more advanced in their approaches. Some vendors have already arrived at this juncture with quantum. Ready-to-run, vendor-neutral quantum software exists and is empowering non-quantum experts to take advantage of quantum in a number of ways, including:
- Delivering powerful application logic, computational algorithms and the orchestration required to manage the interplay between classical and quantum computers that forms the baseline of quantum processing. This includes the proven quantum algorithms and techniques that enable immediate, optimized computations with no need for complex development.
- Allowing users to test and measure different kinds of quantum processors to identify the one that best fits their specific needs.
- Providing the ability to easily leverage the latest hardware innovation by not requiring an update every time the processor is expanded or upgraded.
In short, software is a critical path to putting the power of quantum computing into the hands of business experts in retail, manufacturing, energy, pharmaceutical, cybersecurity, government and banking institutions — not just an elite quantum workforce.
Q: What are some real-world business applications of quantum computing, both today and in the future?
Liscouski: Real-word quantum computing application can include:
- Supply chain and logistics – Imagine a company with 500 trucks that must be loaded with 500 different orders, all within three hours each morning. Optimizing each truck to ensure fast and accurate delivery is crucial, but without quantum computing, it is challenging and time-consuming to solve the complex computations required each day in the timeframe they are needed.
- Automotive design – As demand increases for technology-driven electric and autonomous vehicles, the manufacturers that succeed will be those that stay ahead of the curve. Quantum computing can help with sensor placement, aka determining optimal sensor configuration, which is critical to the development of autonomous vehicles.
- Wind energy – Quantum computing can solve the computations needed to optimize wind farm effectiveness, reducing both wind farm costs (capital and operational) and the costs associated with offshore wind construction and operations. It can deliver options for the best real estate options, how many wind turbines to construct, and where to place them for optimal energy production at the lowest cost.
- Fraud Detection – Quantum computing abilities promise to transform our ability to detect financial fraud by identifying patterns, creating classifications and offering probabilities for what may happen in the future.
- Research – Quantum computing can assist in a wide range of application areas where understanding the interrelatedness of common attributes is key to discovery. For example, it can help the life sciences/pharmaceutical industries more efficiently and effectively identify patient attributes and subpopulations in clinical trials, optimize the parameters of biological models to improve accuracy of results, and analyze networks to compare molecular substructures.
Q: How can enterprises get started?
Liscouski: Investment in quantum technologies will grow from $412 million in 2020 to $16.4 billion by 2027, according to research firm IDC. Since the learning curve for quantum is significant, enterprises that get started now will have a significant competitive advantage over those that continue to wait.
One way to get started is by employing Path2Quantum (P2Q), a four-phase framework designed to help organizations explore, measure, and strategically plan their quantum computing adoption. Outlined below, P2Q can guide enterprise users to explore quantum in the most effective and productive manner possible. Each step builds on the exploration and lessons learned from the one prior:
Step 1: Define Quantum Opportunities – The first step involves identifying the organizational expectations, evaluating quantum-possible use cases, and prioritizing quantum-possible opportunities.
Step 2: Define Quantum Infrastructure – In this step, the organization explores different quantum hardware and software options in order to identify the infrastructure best suited for testing and measuring for specific quantum-possible problems.
Step 3: Measure Quantum Potential – Here, the organization tests quantum problems and infrastructures across diverse configurations (from quantum-ready classical to hybrid to pure quantum), tunes the problems, and measures the potential. This helps the user identify the best possible strategic phases for moving forward with quantum, including target infrastructures, the timing for each phase as QPUs advance, and expected results at each stage.
Step 4: First Production Quantum Results – The user can now begin initial processing based on the plan resulting from Step 3. This involves testing, refining and continuing to advance, as they identify the next quantum-possible opportunities defined in Step 1.
Following this framework enables enterprises to define a comprehensive and strategic plan for quantum computing adoption. It is designed to allow for flexibility and can be started on any step, depending on the company’s needs and readiness.
Quantum computing technology is accelerating far beyond the industry’s early expectations—the time is now for enterprises to start exploring their options.