Quantum computing is subject to a great deal of hype as it is at an early stage of maturity, but businesses need to be prepared to take advantage of its disruptive impact to remain competitive.
That’s the conclusion of a report by consultancy Arthur D. Little, “Quantum Computing: The state of play and what it means for business."
The report indicates that there has been an acceleration of activity in quantum computing, with venture capital increasing 50% to more than $1 billion from 2020 to 2021 and estimates of total global investment now reaching $25 billion.
Quantum computing reaches pivot point
The U.S. remains the leading country in quantum computing development, but China is aiming to catch up, with $10 billion of investment claimed in the period to 2030.
In Europe, Germany, the U.K., France and the Netherlands are the main players. Outside of China, Japan leads Asia-Pacific with Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia also active.
The report identifies three main use cases for quantum computing: simulation, optimization and machine learning. While some solutions providers suggest practical quantum computing is as little as five to 10 years away, the report concludes that it is possible but unlikely.
“The technologies underlying quantum computing are still far from being mature and we have noticed that there is a significant gap between the announcements made by vendors and relative capability,” said Albert Meige, one of the report authors and founder of industrial innovation consultancy Presans, now part of the Arthur D. Little Group.
“Despite this, one of our key findings is that the impact will be so important when quantum computing becomes mature, and the topic is so technically complex, that it will be too late for the companies that have not prepared themselves.”
A system for quantum computing adoption
Meige likens the current status of quantum computing to the beginning of classical computing. At this point, it was not just a question of buying a computer and installing it to make it work. Hardware and software were very much intertwined, and programmers had to understand the hardware principle to be able to program the machine.
“With quantum computing, it's going to be similar, meaning that as a company you need to understand the use cases which are relevant for you as a company or in your industry,” he said.
“But you will also need to understand the main principles of how it works to be able to develop the algorithms and the code to leverage it as a product.”
Meige said the language that has developed to explain quantum computing may be one of the barriers to understanding it and the report set out to rectify that.
“Many reports stay on the surface of the technology. People explain that in conventional computing you have zeros and ones and then some magic happens, and you get those cheaper, faster computers,” he says.
“At the other extreme is the academic world, where the theoretical physics and mathematics that you need to understand this stuff is very powerful. The challenge was to go beyond the magic and the buzzwords to understand the underlying technologies sufficiently because we wanted to understand the current level of maturity and the gap between the announcements and the reality of the field.
“We are positioned at the crossroads of strategy and deep science and technology. We have to find the right level of simplification to make it understandable to businesspeople, yet we don't want to end up telling lies.”