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It’s time to decide how quantum computing will help your business

Sharon Gaudin | May 18, 2017
As the tech advances and investments grow, what seemed out of reach is now possible.

Credit: IBM Research

If you're not ready to start using quantum computing in your enterprise, you should at least be planning how to do so.

Researchers say companies may be less than five to 10 years away from turning to quantum computing to solve big business problems.

David Schatsky Deloitte 
David Schatsky, managing director, Deloitte LLP. Credit: Deloitte LLP

"Quantum computing has the potential to not just do things faster but to allow companies to do things entirely differently," said David Schatsky, managing director of Deloitte LLP, a global consulting and financial advisory company. "If they have certain analytical workloads that could take them weeks to run and they could do it almost instantaneously, how would that change the way they make decisions, or the risks they're willing to take or what products and services they can offer customers?"

That means corporate execs and IT heads should be thinking now about the strategic and operational implications of having quantum computers in their tech toolbox.

There is much buzz around quantum computers because they are expected to surpass even the most powerful classic supercomputers in certain calculations -- especially handling problems that involve sifting through massive amounts of data. Quantum computers, for example, might be able to find distant habitable planets, the cure for cancer and Alzheimer's disease or revamp complex airline flight schedules.

Quantum machines offer a different kind of computing power because instead of relying on ones and zeros - or bits - they use qubits, which can be both ones and zeros.

One of the rules of quantum mechanics is that a quantum system can be in more than one state at the same time, meaning it's not known what a qubit is until it begins to interact with -- or entangle -- other qubits. Unlike classic computers that operate in a linear or orderly fashion, quantum computers gain their power from qubits working with each other, allowing them to calculate all possibilities at the same time, instead of one by one.

"It's an incredibly promising new paradigm in computing," said William Martin, a math professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass. "We have examples of things a quantum computer can do that we don't know how to do with a normal computer. It's going to be a game-changing phenomenon, if we can actually build it."

WPI professor William Martin 
WPI professor William Martin. Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

In a report released late last month, Deloitte noted that quantum computing is close to realizing its promise and having an enormous impact on fields from healthcare to pharmaceuticals, space exploration and manufacturing. As researchers continue work on building powerful, fully functional quantum machines, interest is growing.


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