Is It Too Early to Invest in Quantum Computing?

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Intel and IBM are making big investments, but the race to harness quantum computing in the enterprise is still beginning.

Much has been said in recent months about how new technology has helped companies navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling the digital workplace and facilitating remote work. Perhaps a less popular conversation, however, is how other emerging technologies are also gaining traction at the enterprise level.

Quantum computing, for instance, is one such technology that is now regarded as likely to disrupt enterprise computing in the coming years. Quantum computers take advantage of quantum states at the atomic and subatomic level to perform calculations at a speed and sophistication substantially greater than existing computers.

While the technology is still in its early days, tech giants are taking big leaps to try to dominate the market — an indication there could be broader applications for quantum computing in the near future.

There may be no way for enterprise leaders who balk at introducing new technology that could disrupt their already disrupted digital transformation efforts to get away from quantum computing. Big technology companies have already started throwing lots of money at it in hopes of playing a role in this emerging market, if not dominate it.

Big Tech and Quantum Computing

Last December, CBInsights took a deeper dive into the role Big Tech is playing and found that, like many other areas of the digital workplace, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Intel are already starting to carve up the market, leaving little space for smaller, innovative companies. The report is worth a look, especially for tech buyers and strategists in enterprises able to invest in quantum in the next five years.

Among the findings:

  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Intel are all developing their own quantum computing hardware.
  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM have all launched quantum computing services on their cloud platforms, and numerous startups have partnered with these big tech companies to offer remote access to a broad range of quantum computers.
  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Intel all have ambitious quantum roadmaps and are poised to forge ahead with advances in application.

In fact, the report argues that quantum will be so important globally in the coming years that we can expect quantum-forward big tech companies, including China-based Baidu and Alibaba, to be drawn deeper into political debates around computing and national agendas.

Related Article: Rebooting the Future With Quantum Computing

Planning for the Future

The rapid pace of development of quantum computing shouldn’t surprise anyone, though. In 2019, IBM’s “Coming Soon to Your Business: Quantum Computing” report stated that because quantum mechanics describe how nature works at a fundamental level, quantum computing is well suited to model processes and systems that occur in nature.

According to the report, this potent capability could open the door to, for example, electric carmakers developing longer-life batteries, biotech startups rapidly developing drugs tailored to an individual patient, or more efficient fertilizer manufacturing, with exciting implications for growing the world’s food.

All of this is speculative, of course, and part of the reason why the technology is being dismissed by most enterprises at this time. But while no one has yet delivered a mathematical proof confirming that quantum computing will confer an exponential speedup for optimization problems, the report said, researchers are working on demonstrating this heuristically.

“Forward-thinking companies are already exploring solving optimization problems using quantum computing in their quest to leap ahead of competitors. Their foresight may turn to advantage after the first demonstrations of quantum advantage in optimization are confirmed,” the report read.

Related Article: How Close Are IBM’s Quantum Computing Predictions to Reality?

Quantum Computing in Today’s Digital Workplace

There is evidence to suggest that quantum computing is already starting to insinuate itself into the digital workplace.

Jitesh Lalwani, founder of India-based Artificial Brain, which develops a SaaS platform for businesses, said it’s not surprising since many complex problems that cannot be solved by existing computers, including drug discovery, protein folding and last-mile delivery optimization, can be solved by quantum computers. The result is that quantum computers could provide solutions to complex problems across sectors, from finance and healthcare, to logistics and space. 

But Big Tech’s interest in quantum stems from two different possible offerings:

  1. Quantum hardware: The race to develop scalable quantum computers is heating up, not just among big tech companies but also among startups such as IonQ, Rigetti and others, who are bringing the technology to cloud platforms for added convenience and affordability. Based on this, we can expect that the first source of income from quantum is likely to be generated by providing access to quantum computers.
  2. Quantum software: While companies such as IBM and Google publish libraries to access their hardware such as Qiskit and Cirq, several startups like Cambridge Quantum Computing and Multiverse Computing are involved in building quantum software and collaborating with Big Tech on research and development.

So, who will come out on top? Although it is too early to say this, IBM seems to have a considerable lead over other companies when it comes to hardware and software libraries. Additionally, Lalwani said, there are many quantum startups that lead software development in small companies.

Related Article: Rebooting the Future With Quantum Computing

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