CIO's Guide to Quantum Computing

by Kelvin
CIO's Guide to Quantum Computing

About the Author

Matthew Brisse is Vice President of Research at Gartner.

Quantum computing technology is shrouded in myths and mystics, which can be understood when considering the cliche that was discussed in discussing it: "Quantum computers will work faster than the speed of light." "Quantum computers will replace all conventional systems."


"Quantum computing will make all security encryption algorithms obsolete." CIOs have been flooded with publicity, but they must learn to reduce noise to understand the disruptive power of quantum computing and possible applications in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and data science.

While quantum solutions can revolutionize the entire IT industry with considerable economic, industrial, and social impact, they will not operate at slow speeds, replace current systems, or make all security encryption overnight.

Quantum computing should not be ignored. It has great potential in the fields of chemistry, optimization, ML, and AI, and will be able to overcome key opportunities in fields that are currently inaccessible due to the limitations of classical computing architecture.

What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing is a type of non-classical computing based on the quantum state of subatomic particles. This fundamentally differs from classic computers, which run on binary bits. Quantum computing uses quantum bits or qubits. A qubit can represent a range of values, known as 'overlays'.

Overlapping provides the speed and parallelism of quantum computers, because each individual qubit can represent a quantitative solution to a problem. Qubits can also be linked together (known as "tangle"). Each tangled qubit adds two additional dimensions to the system. In combination with overlapping, quantum computers are capable of processing a large number of possible results at once. The number of high quality qubits required to make a decent quantum computer depends on the problem.

The ability of a quantum computer to outperform a classical computer is called "quantum supremacy." Experts predict that quantum supremacy will come true in a matter of years for a small number of computing problems.

Potential application of quantum computing.

Because general-purpose quantum computing might not make economic sense, the applications for the technology will become narrow and highly focused. However, technology has the potential to revolutionize certain industries. Quantum computing can allow advances in:

  • Machine learning: greater ML through faster structured predictions. Examples include Boltzmann machines, Boltzmann quantum machines, semi-supervised learning, unattended learning, and deep learning;
  • Artificial Intelligence: Faster calculations can improve the perception, understanding, and diagnosis of circuit / binary error classifiers;
  • Chemistry: new fertilizers, catalysts, chemical batteries will drive greater use of resources;
  • Biochemistry: new drugs, special drugs, and perhaps even hair restorer;
  • Finance: Quantum computing can enable faster and more complex Monte Carlo simulations; for example, trade, trajectory optimization, market instability, price optimization, and hedging strategies;
  • Health: DNA gene sequencing, such as optimizing radiation therapy / brain tumor screening, can be done in seconds, not hours or weeks;
  • Material: super strong material; corrosion resistant paint; lubricants and semiconductors;
  • Computing: a faster multidimensional search function; for example, query optimization, math, and simulation.

The risk of ignoring quantum computing

While many aspects of the future of quantum computing remain uncertain, such as physics, materials, and control, multinational organizations such as IBM, Google, Intel, and Microsoft have invested heavily in hardware and software.

CIOs should consider quantum computing technology as a competitive advantage, because new quantum-inspired algorithms can produce innovative solutions and new approaches to product development. This can also significantly reduce time to market as well as optimize customer shipments.

Also, ignoring quantum computing can put intellectual property (IP) and patent portfolios at risk: Early adopters will enjoy a competitive advantage by patenting quantum-inspired innovations in certain domains. For example, a competitor could develop a quantum solution to increase Monte Carlo simulations by 1,000%, or pharmaceutical companies could significantly reduce the time to market new drugs.

The reality of quantum computing.

We are currently experiencing a quantum winter, that is, risks that exceed development and potentially have a negative impact on perception and investment. Exaggeration of the media raises awareness while setting unrealistic capabilities and deadlines. This level of sensation is guaranteed to give way to disappointment, which is especially dangerous for quantum computing as it requires sustained and focused investment over the long term.

Because the basic physics of quantum computing remains in development, at least no consistent results will appear for 5 to 10 years. As such, any investment made in pursuing quantum computing opportunities must pay for monetizable discoveries.

Logistics Needed for Specific Quantum Computers: The environment must be cooled to 0.015 Kelvin, and the processor must be placed in a diluted refrigerator that is protected up to 50,000 times smaller than Earth's magnetic field. It also requires calibration several times a day. This maintenance condition is not possible for most organizations. Gartner recommends that organizations interested in quantum computing use quantum computing as a service (QCaaS) to minimize risk and bear costs. In 2023, 95% of organizations that are researching quantum computing strategies will use QCaaS.

In general, it is still safer to invest less in technology or invest in qualified employees who can be fully productive as product managers in fields that generate income. When quantum computing opportunities arise, this product manager will have the skills to overcome them. Gartner has identified a surprising number of quantum physicists graduated in product management roles.

CIOs should focus on business value and expect the lowest 5-year-old results

In 2023, 90% of the company's quantum computing investment will involve a quantum consulting organization to help shape problems that can be improved by quantum algorithms. Knowing how to identify and extract the business value of quantum computing initiatives is an important skill that must be developed. CIOs need to look for potential opportunities in quantum computing and are ready to help companies take advantage of them.

These opportunities should be fully integrated with traditional IT, and will require a new cross-collaboration by research scientists, computational data scientists, and quantum data scientists. This new development paradigm is very important to the success of any quantum program.

Matthew Brisse is Vice President of Research at Gartner.

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