Author: Edward Rothberg, PhD
Quantum computing, which has been around for decades, has been generating a lot of buzz in the business world recently. The hype surrounding quantum computers has hit a fever pitch, and investment in these emerging technologies is soaring. According to a recent report, the quantum computing market is forecast to grow from USD472 million in 2021 to USD1.77 billion by 2026, representing a CAGR of 30.2%.
Companies and governments are pouring money into the research and development of quantum computing technologies with the hope that these new supercomputers — which aim to exploit the power of subatomic phenomena such as superpositioning, interference and entanglement to process information and perform tasks — will be able to:
- Address intractable problems that classical computers can’t.
- Achieve a substantial computational performance boost over their classical counterparts, operating at a far greater speed and scale.
- Revolutionize the IT and business landscape, unlocking new opportunities across various industries, including healthcare, biochemistry, logistics and financial services.
Expectations are sky-high, but by most accounts, quantum computers are still decades away from potentially becoming widely available technologies that can deliver tangible value and impact in the business world. The hardware is still playing catch up with the theory (and the hype), and it will take some major breakthroughs on the R&D front for quantum computers to become commercial products that we could use to consistently solve critical, everyday business problems.
Indeed, the outlook for the quantum computing future is hazy, as nobody knows for sure how long quantum computers will take to develop, what they will actually cost and what their ROI and real-world business benefits will be.
Still, many businesses today (that are perhaps afraid of missing out on a possible quantum revolution) are scrambling to become quantum-ready and looking to lay the foundation for quantum computing in their organizations. Gartner predicts that by 2023, 20% of organizations will be allocating part of their budgets for quantum computing projects.
Ensuring Your Business Is Quantum-Ready
One question that is on the minds of many C-level executives today is: What does my organization need to do to become quantum-ready? Broadly speaking, this means preparing your company to be able to apply quantum computing capabilities if and when the technologies become available for business use.
So, the logical next question might be: What are the main future applications of quantum computers? According to numerous recent studies, optimization is the most promising application, accounting for the lion’s share of the total quantum computing market.
As the CEO of an optimization software firm, I find these studies to be both encouraging and a bit puzzling because:
- They give the impression that solving interesting optimization problems will require quantum computers. However, the reality is that existing optimization technologies, which run on today’s computers, can tackle many different types of complex, real-world business problems and have delivered billions and billions of dollars in cost savings and revenue growth for companies across many different industries.
- Thus far, quantum computers haven’t demonstrated that they’re capable of solving optimization problems with greater speed or accuracy than classical computers.
So, the thought struck me: If quantum-readiness is about identifying problems that could benefit from quantum computing in the future, wouldn’t it make more sense for companies to utilize the existing (and highly effective) optimization software technologies to address the business problems they are facing today? This would serve two purposes:
- It would empower these companies to realize the significant business value that optimization delivers right now.
- It would ultimately enable them to put in place the right processes and best practices to use quantum computers (or, in other words, apply optimization) in their organizations.
Taking The First Steps Toward A Possible Quantum Computing Future
How can optimization help your organization prepare for a possible quantum computing future? There are two key ways:
1. Identifying use cases in your business: During the process of implementing an optimization application, you will have to take a hard, quantitative look at your business in order to:
- Develop a deep understanding of your constraints and drivers of growth, costs and complexity.
- Identify those areas that could be transformed and the problems that could be addressed with this new technology.
If the day comes when quantum computers are actually able to be employed to address a wide range of optimization problems, your company will have a headstart as you’ll have already honed the ability to pinpoint these problems and identify the use cases for optimization in your organization.
2. Learning to leverage advanced analytics software: Implementing and utilizing optimization (or, for that matter, any other advanced analytics software solution) will enable your company to cultivate:
- The capability to state your business problems in a software language so that computer hardware (classical today and perhaps quantum tomorrow) can understand those problems and solve them.
- A culture of optimal, data-driven decision-making across your organization.
This ability to leverage optimization software will benefit your business today and if and when a quantum computing revolution comes to pass.
Prospering Today While Preparing For Tomorrow
Will quantum computing be the next big thing? Only time will tell — we need to wait and see if quantum computers can evolve from conceptual into commercial technologies that will revolutionize the IT industry and produce real ROI for companies.
While waiting for a possible quantum era to commence, why not make use of existing technologies that can help your business prosper from the opportunities of today and also prepare for the possibilities of tomorrow?
This article was originally published on Forbes.com here.