The quantum decade is moving even faster than expected

Recent breakthroughs show how fast technology is changing.

Quantum computing is no longer a futuristic concept. The world has entered the quantum decade, an era in which companies are beginning to realize the commercial value of quantum computing. Unprecedented advances in hardware, software development and services this year reaffirm the momentum of the technology, creating an ecosystem that paves the way for new breakthroughs and helps prepare the market for the adoption of this revolutionary technology. In particular, France is implementing a national plan for quantum computing following its announcement by the President of the Republic in January 2021.

Tracking the progress of quantum computing over the years may seem like the same promises as before. However, if you take a closer look at the advances this technology has made in just the last year, it becomes clear why industries are gearing up for the day when quantum computing can help them solve problems such as the discovery of new materials and chemical compounds in everything from drugs to batteries. , is always going to be beyond the reach of classical computing. At the same time, it makes sense for businesses and governments to prepare for the potential risks that this technology poses.

Innovation alone cannot unleash the full potential of quantum computing. Business and technology leaders must take the leap now or risk being left behind.

Recent breakthroughs

After several decades of research and technical progress, the latest advances allow us to plan the creation of computers with more than 100,000 qubits interacting with each other in a quantum and classical way. In particular, the progress made in just two years, in line with expectations, allows us to consolidate our vision for the coming years, and in particular, the 2025 horizon shows the emergence of scalable quantum computing, practical and “accessible to all”. .

Let’s start from the very beginning. You won’t reach 1000 qubits without first reaching 100 qubits. This is a step that has already been taken in the field of superconductor technologies. Classical computers can to some extent simulate results similar to those of quantum circuits, but each additional qubit doubles the difficulty of this task. Quantum processors with more than 100 qubits are pushing us beyond the territory of classical computers. By 2025, we will talk not only about increasing the number of qubits on individual processors, but also about connecting processors with each other to create systems of several thousand qubits, and in the coming years, tens of thousands.

Of course, practical quantum computing is not possible without a powerful yet flexible platform capable of running increasingly complex quantum algorithms. For this, the hardware architecture as well as the electronic control systems must be redesigned for greater modularity. Likewise, new cryogenic systems and high-density cables will enable next-generation computers, bringing us closer to a true quantum data center.

Ecosystem created

As quantum computing, a task too big for a single entity, moves from the lab to the real world, ecosystems are being formed to support collaborative innovation and open source development. These ecosystems likely include a quantum computing technology partner, quantum computing developers, and academic partners.

Developer communities—not just traditional developers, but also chemists, engineers, and mathematicians—are forming to apply quantum concepts today and prepare for tomorrow.

For example, a community has formed around the Qiskit open source software development environment to create code development tools and libraries needed by quantum developers. This community also allows thousands of quantum computing students to develop their skills.

In particular, since May 2021, this software environment has been equipped with a service called Qiskit Runtime, which provides acceleration of some quantum algorithms up to 120 times, which allows developers to solve certain problems in one day, which used to take months. . The practice of quantum computing is also evolving with increasingly abstract primitives, which are pre-designed programs that allow algorithm developers to easily access the results of quantum computing without having to fully understand the hardware.

Creating a secure quantum world

Collaboration is also needed to ensure organizations are protected from the future capabilities of error-tolerant quantum computers that could “break” existing standard encryption technologies. We see the public and private sectors coming together to provide a “quantum-resistant cryptography” approach to cybersecurity, as evidenced by the globally recognized US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announcement of standardizing algorithms by 2024. But even when the standards for quantum-resistant cryptography are set, organizations will need to act quickly to move towards a future that is secure and immune to potential quantum attacks. The world is increasingly aware of the urgency of this transformation, as evidenced by the recent G7 agreement to collaborate on new standards for quantum-resistant cryptography.

Training the quantum developers of the future

We estimate that there are only about 3,000 qualified quantum computing specialists in the world market today. This base must be greatly expanded in order to fully exploit the potential of quantum technologies in this decade and beyond.

For this to happen, the industry must engage teams of computing developers and students who allow the development of quantum computing skills. This includes certification of quantum developers as well as educational curricula and investments in university curricula that promote resource diversity.

These hands-on programs provide the access and tools needed to create and run quantum computing algorithms on real quantum computing hardware or in simulators.

To stay ahead of the risks of quantum computing, the first step to securing a quantum-safe future for organizations is education: understanding quantum-resistant cryptography and its implications. It is important to develop skills in this area.

Walk straight

Over the past year, we’ve seen several use cases where companies have been able to leverage quantum computing effectively. BP has integrated quantum computing into its workflow to explore carbon reductions, and Goldman Sachs has been able to implement algorithms that explore complex pricing patterns.

Other companies such as HSBC and E.ON are joining this approach and are accelerating the adoption of quantum computing through a structured approach.

What is in store for us in the near future? Undoubtedly, there will be new breakthroughs in hardware and software. There is simply too much gray matter and dynamism in the industry, not to mention research institutes, for the technology not to advance further.

But what is interesting is what we do not yet know. How will governments implement quantum computing as part of their economic growth strategies? What new use cases will researchers discover and implement? Because, make no mistake, quantum computing is a whole new paradigm and no one can understand everything it can do.

What we do know for sure is that from this point of view, the end of the decade will not be like the beginning. We will work with quantum processors with thousands of qubits; we will have professionals with many years of experience in the quantum field, and companies will see the benefits of this technology. Any technology leader who does not actively integrate quantum computing into their plans is in danger of being left behind.

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