How to solve the toughest quantum computing problem: Access to brainpower
janvier 19, 2023 / Salvatore Sinno
Short on time? Explore the key takeaways:
- After years of anticipation, companies are now using quantum computing to solve real business problems.
- Unlike previously, access to quantum computing is no longer the main issue.
- A different kind of issue stands in the way of progress, namely access to brainpower — the skills and knowledge that cluster around physics and mathematics departments at universities and R&D departments worldwide.
- Organizations that work with companies or hire people who have subject matter expertise and well-rounded quantum computing and algorithm skills can gain a competitive edge.
- These resources can help your organization understand how to take advantage of quantum computing technologies, provide consultancy, and build tools for quantum technologies with long-term impact.
If you haven't followed the news in enterprise computing, you may have missed the latest developments. After years of anticipation, companies are now using quantum computing to solve real business problems.
This development is exciting news since computing vastly increases processing power. It uses quantum bits (or qubits) instead of the bits used in traditional computing, enabling organizations to calculate solutions to problems much faster while simultaneously completing complex calculations. For example, here is how several organizations are applying quantum computing:
- Toshiba and Dharma Capital are testing how to use quasi-quantum technology in financial trading.
- D-Wave Systems and Mastercard announced a multi-year strategic alliance to champion the acceleration and adoption of quantum computing solutions.
- BBVA used quantum hybrid algorithms to solve portfolio optimization problems infeasible with the classical computing approach.
- Mitsubishi Estate used quantum annealing algorithms to optimize waste collection.
- Volkswagen and Daimler are researching ways to improve the chemical composition of their electric car batteries.
- Delta Airlines is developing blueprints for its applications.
These organizations are harvesting the benefits of quantum computing using quantum annealing, which tries to find the best solution to a problem by considering all possible solutions simultaneously, using the principles of quantum mechanics. Quantum annealing already competes against classical computers and addresses real rather than theoretical problems. For that reason, the goalpost has shifted.
The question is no longer whether or not quantum computing is available. It’s how can you seize the opportunities it presents? This is where technology and humanity converge — and that is what this post will explore.
So, how do you seize quantum computing opportunities?
The reality is that to achieve your organization’s quantum goals, you need to find the right talent — whether that’s through internal or external means. You’re looking for people with expertise in physics, mathematics, computer science, quantum algorithms and high-performance computing. Why? Because quantum computing is a long way off from becoming a desktop application — the kind of application that masks the complexity of the underlying technology and allows less technical users to benefit. We’ll reach this point for quantum computing — eventually. But first, the technology needs to advance along the maturity curve.
We’ve seen this before. Take artificial intelligence as an example. It wasn’t so long ago that AI was considered a near-space-age technology. But today, it is pre-packaged and bundled with common enterprise applications. It’s entirely possible that if you’re analyzing business data today, you’re leveraging AI on the backend without knowing it.
Is quantum computing following a similar course? In some ways, it already is. Consider the fact that the access to technology issue has already been solved. Today, multiple companies — including D-Wave, AWS and Google — offer access to quantum libraries via the cloud for less than the cost of a cup of coffee (per minute, that is). Access is no longer an issue if you want to run code on a quantum computer.
Solving the quantum talent equation
When an organization wants to expand into new markets, it considers a build, buy or partner business model. Access to brainpower follows the same thinking – you can build a workforce with the required skills or partner with a firm that can deliver the resources needed. Either way, the objective is to find people who can identify relevant business problems, understand the potential of quantum computing technologies to solve them, and then translate them into quantum algorithms capable of harnessing the power of a quantum computer.
A word of advice: Don’t add quantum computing to your top developer’s core job functions — no matter how skilled they may be with classical computing models. You need someone capable of working directly with the organization providing the quantum computer resources. For instance, your counterpart at the quantum platform provider will be a scientist. Your people — or your partner — must have a similar level of understanding.
Your talent should be familiar with basic quantum mechanics, computational physics and algorithms. Your go-to quantum expert needs:
- A background in multiple areas of study, such as physics, mathematics and computer science
- Knowledge of exponents, vectors, sine waves, linear algebra as well as probability and stochastic processes
- The ability to understand the mathematical description of quantum states and basic quantum operations
Your resources — whether in-house team members or external partners — should be able to identify performance gains vs. classical algorithms, understand engineering challenges currently faced by developers of quantum computers, and determine technical requirements for quantum computers to run realistically large quantum algorithms.
None of this suggests that the knowledge and application of classical computing are irrelevant. Probably the most common approach today is a hybrid approach in which quantum computing and classical computing are combined to solve challenges. After all, quantum computing isn’t necessarily better than classical computing. It’s just that quantum is well-suited for a particular problem set that classical computers cannot solve, such as the traveling salesperson's dilemma of calculating the most efficient route for visiting several customers.
Sharpen your quantum competitive edge
As quantum computing becomes more widely used, organizations will increasingly need access to quantum brainpower. Your organization can gain a competitive edge by working with companies or hiring team members with the required foundational knowledge. These resources can help your company tap into the potential of quantum computing, provide consultancy on its application, and build tools with long-term impact.
Explore how Unisys is developing next-gen computing capabilities to help you maximize the business value from emerging technologies.