Sam Mugel, Ph.D., is the CTO of Multiverse Computing, a global leader in developing value-driven quantum solutions for businesses.
Quantum computing promises computational resources that far exceed the capabilities of classical computing. It is projected that a fault-tolerant “universal” quantum computer will solve many of the intractable problems currently limiting commercial and scientific progress.
No one is certain when an incredibly powerful universal quantum computer will arrive. However, in what is known as today’s noisy intermediate-scale quantum computing (NISQ) era, the use of increasingly clever quantum-based and quantum-inspired algorithms that take full advantage of current NISQ systems and quantum annealers is already producing incremental benefits. Some organizations in finance, manufacturing and other sectors are already deriving value from insights and non-trivial solutions for a small set of industry-relevant problems.
The quickening pace of the development of quantum applications and architecture will only accelerate the incremental benefits being discovered in niche areas, even at this early stage in the development of the quantum computing industry. That’s why it’s more critical than ever for businesses to begin considering ways to explore how quantum computing may help them solve complex problems now and into the future.
How Does Quantum Computing Introduce New Solutions?
Classical computing relies on transistors to represent either 0 or 1, and computational power increases linearly with a one-to-one ratio between transistors and the speed of time. Quantum computing introduces new solutions by leveraging the special physical properties of quantum particles like ions and photons to solve computational problems. A quantum device manipulates these quantum digits (qubits) for computational purposes.
Owing to a quantum property called superposition, a qubit can be 0 and 1 or any value on this continuum when an operation is applied. And by entangling qubits, another special quantum property, the number of operations natively run in parallel grows exponentially. At the point of 330 logical qubits, more operations are possible in parallel than there are atoms in the visible universe, creating a massive superiority in computational performance over even the most powerful classical supercomputers.
Best Problems To Resolve With Quantum Computing
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. The suitability of specific quantum computing hardware and applications depends on the business problem you are trying to solve.
Currently, quantum-inspired algorithms are being used on classical computers to accelerate complex simulation, machine learning and optimization tasks. Still limited in the number of entangled qubits, the NISQ computers will be suitable in the near-term for optimization tasks as well as many supervised machine learning tasks that offer benefits in such areas as vehicle routing, securities trading, image recognition tasks and medical image processing.
In the mid-term, the best applications will become disruptive for complex chemistry simulations, enabling new material and drug discoveries through the modeling and analysis of more complex molecules and compounds. They will enable advancements in battery technology and organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), help solve partial differentiated equations (PDE) that can improve weather forecasting, and facilitate the understanding of fluid dynamics. They will also enhance Monte Carlo applications used for risk simulations and solving pricing problems.
In the long-term, perhaps 10 years from now, limitations due to noise and lack of resources will have been largely resolved and quantum computing will be used habitually for complex unsupervised machine learning problems. This will offer solutions for personalized medicine, autonomous vehicles and enable the decryption of common encryption algorithms.
Matching Quantum Solutions To Your Problem
Certain kinds of problems are particularly well-suited for quantum computing, and organizations should focus on high-value problems that need to be solved frequently. You should limit your search to problems with small inputs or dimensions, as current quantum computers have limited resources. Finally, the problem should be difficult to solve on a classical computer. Problems we can only solve through brute-force computations on classical devices are ideal targets for quantum computing applications.
Once you have identified a suitable problem, how do you match your problem to a quantum solution?
• Consider your time frame. If you want to see an immediate benefit from quantum applications, invest your time in finding a suitable business problem, as today’s quantum computers can only provide value for some specific problems. You may want to achieve a reduction in computational time and resources, better accuracy or a combination of each.
• Think outside the box. Do not simply try to accelerate a pre-existing solution, but find an entirely new way of approaching the problem itself.
• Keep an open mind. We are still discovering the potential of quantum computing and can run into solutions for problems we hadn’t initially set out to solve. Breakthroughs are constantly happening.
How To Drive Quantum Adoption In Your Company
Here are the first steps to consider when embarking on a path to quantum computing exploration:
• Hire or train a quantum expert for your organization and begin assembling a small in-house team. Create a budget and task them to research use cases or proof of concepts with problems that are difficult to solve on a classical computer. Compile a list of problems and start building a roadmap for adoption as machines become more powerful.
• Start looking for high-value problems to solve. Ask engineers about computational bottlenecks that, if resolved, would translate into a win of potentially huge value.
• Consider approaching a quantum startup for help looking for solutions to these problems. The quantum ecosystem is evolving rapidly with industry and researchers working collaboratively to advance quantum capabilities.
The learning curve is steep, but the most important thing is to join other leading-edge organizations and take that first step on your quantum journey. By leveraging the growing number and power of quantum applications in the near-term, your business will get a jump-start on solutions that will help it realize the real-world competitive advantages that drive a return on investment as the disruptive quantum era unfolds.