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Proof of concept quantum computers are here. Many businesses are getting ‘quantum ready’ — that is, exploring how this technology could give them a competitive advantage.
Working for a quantum computing company, of course I’m going to say getting quantum ready is a savvy move. But just as we’ve seen with the likes of AI and cloud computing, forward-thinking businesses are often the ones to reap the early rewards of such technical innovations.
But quantum computing is different. It’s not just another technical innovation, it’s a completely new way of carrying out computations in the future.
Quantum computers work in a fundamentally different way to today’s computers. While traditional machines use ‘bits’ that are either a 0 or 1, a quantum computer’s quantum bits (qubits) can exist in a superposition and, effectively, be a 0 and 1 at the same time.
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This quantum quirk unlocks a vast amount of computational power, allowing us to tackle a new range of problems that would take billions of years to solve on today’s supercomputers.
As quantum computers mature, a vast number of applications will be unlocked across multiple industries in everything from drug discovery to financial services and climate change. And most of these use cases we cannot begin to imagine yet.
That’s also why it is important for businesses to start interacting with quantum computing now. Because by getting ‘quantum ready’, the world can understand the real impact of these machines on society. And you can start to understand and prepare for the potentially significant impact that this disruptive technology will have on your business.
What is quantum readiness?
Quantum-ready is effectively understanding the opportunities and threats of quantum computing and learning how to use this technology to your advantage.
Being quantum ready does not mean you need to understand everything about quantum computers or have your own machine.
Quantum readiness will look different to different organizations, depending on your processes, requirements and industry.
A high-level quantum ready framework may include the following steps:
- Learn and reach out: Get a high-level view of where quantum is, and where it is going. Start to establish both your internal champions and engage with quantum companies to find thought partners that are right for you.
- Map your computational impact landscape: For many, the journey involves gaining an understanding of your current computational challenges. What does your problem landscape look like? Plot your computational challenges against “impact on the organization” and “computational difficulty”. Are there any high value, yet computationally intractable challenges facing your company? These problems might be suitable for quantum computers. Collaborate with quantum experts to map this to quantum computing capabilities. Consider reaching out to quantum computing companies to learn more about what’s possible, but also to help with this mapping exercise.
- Build skills: Build an internal capability in quantum that is appropriate for the business’s opportunity in this area. Or rent time on today’s small-scale machines to start solving toy problems and getting to grips with how these machines work.
- Be patient: Commit to the longevity of the development of quantum computers and reap the rewards as quantum computers become more powerful.
Once this initial exploration phase is complete, then the truly interesting conversations around quantum computing can start.
A lot of work needs to be done between industry end-users and quantum companies to prepare for the world of quantum computers. Crucially, this should be done in tandem with the actual development of these machines.
Get ready for the future
There’s one issue that’s particularly important to understand to futureproof your quantum strategy: scalability. Over the last few years, quantum computing companies have hit the headlines, growing their machines one qubit at a time.
Every step forward is important. But to unlock the commercial potential of quantum computing, we need to make a machine with millions of qubits. Today’s biggest machine has 127 qubits.
So, when you start to reach out to quantum computing companies, there’s one question to always ask: “can you really get me to one million qubits?” Because a long-term, “million-qubit” mindset is needed to make sure you protect any investments in this technology.
It’s important for businesses to understand this and work with a company that’s aligned with this ambition. Because when quantum computers are ready, you need to be ready too.
Ilan Elson is VP of operations at Universal Quantum.