The CIO’s guide to quantum computing



About the author

Matthew Brisse is Research VP at Gartner.

Quantum computer technology is full of myths and secrets – which is understandable when you look at the clichés that emerge in the discussion: "Quantum computers work faster than the speed of light". "Quantum computers will replace all conventional systems".

"Quantum computing eliminates all security encryption algorithms." CIOs have been flooded with hype but need to learn how to reduce noise to understand the disturbing power of the quantum computer and its potential applications in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and data science.

While quantum solutions may revolutionize the entire IT industry with significant economic, industrial, and societal impact, they do not work at the speed of light, replace current systems, or eliminate all security encryption overnight.

However, quantum computing should not be ignored. It has tremendous potential in the areas of chemistry, optimization, ML and AI, and will be able to discuss important opportunities in these areas that are currently inaccessible due to the limitations of traditional computer architecture.

What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing is a kind of non-classical computing based on the quantum state of subatomic particles. It is fundamentally different from classic computers that use binary bits. Quantum computing uses quantum bits or qubits. A qubit can represent a range of values ​​called "overlay".

The overlay ensures the speed and parallelism of quantum computers because each qubit can be a quantitative solution to a problem. Qubits can also be linked together (so-called "entanglement"). Each entangled qubit adds two additional dimensions to the system. In combination with the overlay, quantum computers can process a multitude of possible results simultaneously. The number of high quality qubits required to make a healthy quantum computer depend on the problem.

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The ability of a quantum computer to outperform a classic computer is called "quantum supremacy." Experts predict that quantum superiority will become reality in a few years with a limited number of computational problems.

Possible applications of the quantum computer

Since general-purpose quantum computers are unlikely to ever make economic sense, the applications for the technology will be tight and highly concentrated. Yet technology has the potential to revolutionize certain industries. Quantum computing could enable breakthroughs in:

  • Machine Learning: Improved ML through faster structured prediction. Examples include Boltzmann machines, quantum Boltzmann machines, semi-supervised learning, unattended learning, and in-depth learning.
  • Artificial intelligence: Faster calculations could improve perception, understanding, and circuit fault diagnosis / binary classifiers.
  • Chemistry: New fertilizers, catalysts and battery chemicals will improve resource utilization.
  • Biochemistry: new drugs, customized drugs and maybe even hair restorer;
  • Finance: Quantum computing could enable faster and more complex Monte Carlo simulations. for example trading, trajectory optimization, market instability, price optimization and hedging strategies;
  • Healthcare: The sequencing of DNA genes, eg. B. Optimization of radiotherapy / detection of brain tumors, can be done in seconds instead of hours or weeks.
  • Materials: super strong materials; Anticorrosive paints; Lubricants and semiconductors;
  • Computer Science: Faster multi-dimensional search functions; For example query optimization, math and simulations.

The risk of ignoring quantum computers

While many aspects of the future of the quantum computer remain uncertain, such as physics, materials and control, multinational organizations such as IBM, Google, Intel and Microsoft are already investing heavily in hardware and software.

CIOs should consider quantum computing technology as a competitive advantage, as new quantum-inspired algorithms could lead to innovative solutions and novel approaches to product development. This could also significantly reduce time to market and optimize customer delivery.

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In addition, ignoring quantum computing can jeopardize intellectual property (IP) and patent portfolios: early adopters benefit from a competitive advantage by patenting quantum-inspired innovations in specific areas. For example, a competitor could develop a quantum-based solution to improve Monte Carlo simulations by 1,000%, or a pharmaceutical company could significantly reduce the time to market for new drugs.

The realities of the quantum computer

We are currently living through the quantum winter – that is the risk that the hype will outstrip development and potentially negatively affect perception and investment. The media hype raises awareness while setting unrealistic time and performance expectations. This level of hype is guaranteed to give way to disappointment, which is particularly dangerous to quantum computing as it requires sustained and targeted investment in the long run.

Since the fundamental physics of the quantum computer is still in development, consistent results will not appear until after 5 to 10 years. Investments in the use of quantum computers must therefore pay off in monetizable discoveries.

The required logistics for quantum computers is specific: environments must be cooled to 0.015 Kelvin, and processors must be housed in dilution refrigerators shielded to 50,000 times the Earth's magnetic field. They also need to be calibrated several times each day. These maintenance conditions are not feasible for the majority of organizations. Gartner recommends companies interested in quantum computing use Quantum Computing as a service (QCaaS) to minimize risk and reduce costs. By 2023, 95% of companies conducting quantum computing research will use QCaaS.

Overall, it remains safer to invest too little in technology or to invest in professionals who can be fully productive as product managers in revenue-generating areas. As quantum computing becomes possible, these product managers have the skills to address these issues. Gartner has identified a surprising number of proven quantum physicists in product management capabilities.

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CIOs should focus on enterprise value and expect results to be available at least 5 years after graduation

By 2023, 90% of corporate investments in Quantum Computing will involve Quantum Consulting organizations to formulate issues that may involve the use of quantum algorithms. It's a key skill to know how to recognize and extract corporate value from a quantum computing initiative. CIOs should look for potential quantum computing opportunities and be ready to help the business take advantage of them.

These capabilities must be fully integrated into traditional IT and require a new collaboration between scientists, computer scientists and quantum scientists. This new developmental paradigm is critical to the success of any quantum program.

Matthew Brisse is Research VP at gardener,

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