Value of quantum computing remains uncertain for next decade

Monday, 29 June, 2020

Value of quantum computing remains uncertain for next decade

As innovation continues to accelerate, quantum computing has become an increasingly important technology to monitor as part of the broader wave of digital transformation — but how long will it take to prove its value? In the report ‘Preparing for Quantum Computing’, Lux Research addresses what businesses need to know about quantum computing, including when it will become available and how a company should engage with it.

Quantum computing aims to solve complex problems that are impossible to address with today’s supercomputers. As noted by lead report author Lewie Roberts, Senior Research Associate at Lux, “Today’s supercomputers tackle difficult problems including weather modelling, genomic analysis and computational fluid dynamics, but even the best supercomputers will always be limited in specific areas. They’re still unable to handle some important problems in areas like chemical product design, protein folding or supply chain optimisation.

“It’s our belief that quantum computing will one day enable multiple industries to address some of these key problems, moving past today’s barriers and enabling further innovation,” Roberts added.

Quantum computing has strong potential across multiple industry sectors — including pharma, energy, finance, logistics, manufacturing and materials — targeting problems including the simulation of quantum systems, machine learning and optimisation. But quantum computing faces many barriers that limit its near-term development, and will continue to challenge developers over the coming years. There are, for example, major challenges in hardware development, which severely limit further software development.

Quantum bits, or qubits, are inherently unstable, thus reducing the accuracy of any computation that relies on them; for this reason, problems that lack clearly defined answers (like machine learning) but still benefit from improved solutions are the best problems to target with quantum computing. Hardware developers hope to increase the stability of qubits but will ultimately have to build fault-tolerant quantum computers that can correct any errors that result from this instability. Lux Research doesn’t expect a fault-tolerant quantum computer to become available for at least 10 years, so it remains uncertain if quantum computing will consistently outperform today’s supercomputers for useful business-related problems over this timeframe, if at all.

“Quantum computing is not currently providing business value that could not be achieved with today’s existing computers, and it’s not clear when it will,” Roberts said. “For this reason, we advise companies not to make it a priority right now, unless your work is already bottlenecked by today’s supercomputing.”

For companies that must pursue quantum computing now, research projects that estimate when quantum advantage can be achieved will be key. Lux Research advises forming partnerships for these projects based on the level of internal expertise, as this greatly affects which players will be most helpful for your unique projects.

To view the report, click here.

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