An article this week, Technology or Use Case:What Will Drive Quantum Computing? , included some baseline realities regarding the state of quantum today, the challenges to its production use in the near term, and its potentials in the future. Even better, it asks the question that seems to be on everyone’s top of mind.
What can we do with Quantum Computing?
There are so many different opinions and visions, without hard evidence in many cases to support the statements. That’s why we have so many claims of “hype” around quantum computing and everything quantum. The technology is so different, so wildly different, that we simply don’t know for sure, yet.
The Drivers for Quantum Computing
The drivers are both technological and use cases. I don’t think you can separate one from the other.
Quantum Computing Technology
There’s so much focus on driving the quantum processing unit (QPU) hardware forward that it seems all consuming. The technology is evolving rapidly, yet has many steps until it becomes truly ready for production processing work.
That said, there’s another aspect to technology that will serve as a driver for quantum computing; classical technology. Our classical machines are beginning to struggle with the volumes of data and coincident complexity of problems that we need to solve.
As we capture more and diverse information regarding everything from customer behaviors, to supply chain operations, from specific health attributes of individuals to transactions that reflect fraud or more, our classical machines are reaching their capacity to offer the solutions we need to optimize our operations, innovations and decisions.
We believe that quantum computers, working with classical computers, will initially serve to significantly extend and enhance the ability of classical computers to process the computations we need to drive forward. This is driving the demand for hybrid classical/quantum that has also become the latest focus of the quantum computing “hype.”
Quantum computers will scale to reach the ability to perform in hybrid models much more quickly than they will to deliver “pure” quantum systems. In reality, any of the problems we need to solve will be solved by hybrids for the near term, and probably for the longer term.
New solutions to problems we can’t solve today will come from hybrids as well as pure quantum technologies as the systems scale and error correction and other technology requirements are delivered.
Quantum Computing Use Cases
There are a wide range of use cases that will drive quantum computing, especially the hybrid approaches we expect to be first to market.
I often ask customers and analysts what they believe the first priority use case will be. The answer is the same; optimization.
That’s because optimization has taken center stage for so many diverse organizations. From the supply chain and logistics use case requirements driving global operations, shifting buying behaviors, and the disruptions we saw with Covid-19, our traditional optimizations are driving the need for quantum. Related use cases include the increased complexity of military operations and logistics, to the analysis of communities to better define and deliver new drugs, optimization is increasingly key to a wide range of use cases that are critical in our evolving world.
Then there’s the other end of the use case spectrum: the problems we can’t solve today and the problems we haven’t even thought about solving tomorrow. To me, these are the intriguing opportunities for quantum computing to literally change our world and the way we think about things.
I personally include encryption and cybersecurity in this category. We are in a dramatically changing world, where cyber attacks are replacing traditional war tactics, where information and infrastructure become targets for disruption. Our current methods are obviously not sufficient. The daily hacks make that apparent. Quantum computers have the potential to change the way we create and deploy these security methods to ensure our safety and the safety of our nations.
Then there’s the world of drug discovery, where models are increasingly complex and sophisticated as we evaluate hundreds of options in a chemical formula to identify the best combination and profiles needed to treat a variety of illnesses. These models and explorations are so elaborate that it takes an average of 10 years to “discover” a new drug. And then, only around 15% of these drugs actually pass clinical trials. Imagine the lives saved and costs of pharmaceuticals lowered when we compress that timeframe and increase the clinical success rates? That’s a powerful use case for quantum computing.
The Bottom Line
Is it really a question of technology vs use cases driving quantum computing? I don’t think so. I believe the critical need for a more powerful approach to processing complex information is already front and center in our world. The use cases of demand for better approaches, decisions, and results are all around us.
The only questions are when and how will we first deploy quantum computing to support these growing needs? And that, indeed, does rest in the question of how quickly and how successfully we develop the quantum computers of today to meet the critical needs already waiting for their power.