Quantum computers have the potential to disrupt conventional computing and offer various interesting insights into how the future of computing might look like. Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers are intrinsically parallel and probabilistic while offering huge computational power. Investments into research and developments now may reap long term beneﬁts for the enterprises.
Need for Quantum computing
Quantum computing is among the ﬁve trends of the industry. Both organizations and governments are investing heavily in the ﬁeld of quantum computing because of the potential it has.
According to Market-watch, a leading market research company, the global quantum market is projected to reach around $ 950 million by 2025 and is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 30%.
The end of Moore’s law
One of the major reasons that quantum computing is increasingly gaining attention is because the digital transistors used in computers are already on the scale of 10-14 nanometers. As these transistors decrease further in size, the transistors no longer behave as gates due to a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling. At the quantum scale, the electron can move from one side of the gate to the other side of the gate without resistance, which renders the gates and the digital circuits based upon gates becomes non-viable and non-functional. The current flows freely and the classical circuits based on gates can no longer hold digital zero or one values.
Quantum computing at a glance
Quantum computers were proposed in the 1980s by Richard Feynman and Yuri Manin.
Quantum computing makes use of extremely non-classical properties of quantum mechanics which is the fundamental theory in physics to describe nature at the atomic and subatomic scale.
Certain computational heavy calculations and algorithms which are beyond the reach of the computational power of current supercomputers can be done via quantum computing.
Quantum computing is exponentially more powerful than modern computing because it is based on quantum phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data.
The conventional computing is based on bits which can be either 0 or 1.
Quantum computing is based on qubit which can be both 0 and 1.
There are various ways in which qubit can be realized physically. They can be in the form of tiny loops of superconducting wire or in the form of trapped ions or silicon quantum dots.
Quantum Computing Key Concepts
A qubit can be in both 0 and 1 state at the same time. When multiple qubits act together, they can process multiple options simultaneously. This allows them to process information much faster than a classical computer.
Another interesting property of qubits is entanglement. Entanglement is an observed physical phenomenon where a pair or group of qubits can be in a quantum state that cannot be described independently. The measurement of the physical properties like momentum, position, spin, polarization are perfectly correlated among entangled qubits; irrespective of the distance between them.
The Quantum computing approach
Quantum computing is quite different than classical computing in many aspects. For example, a quantum computer looks nothing like a classical computer which is based on Von-Neumann architecture and has a CPU (Central Processing Unit, Memory and input/output).
Since the quantum computer works on qubits which might be in superposition and entangled with other qubits, there may be multiple possible outcomes. The quantum computer output is in the form of probabilities (also called amplitude) of these outcomes. A given problem is run multiple times and statistical techniques are used to determine the most probable answer.
Types of quantum computer
There are several approaches to make a quantum computer and how they solve a given problem.
Three of the most common approaches are
It is the most restrictive form of quantum computing with an unproven advantage over classical computing. It is easiest to build yet can only perform a speciﬁc function. Its applications include optimization problems.
It demonstrates quantum speedup over conventional computing and can simulate complex quantum interactions that provides considerable edge over existing conventional computing. It is conjectured that an analog quantum computer will contain 50 to 100 qubits. Its applications include quantum chemistry, material science, sampling techniques and quantum dynamics.
Universal or circuit gate model
It is the most general and ubiquitous form of computing which has the potential to be the most powerful and is exponentially faster than conventional computing. It is also the hardest to build. A lot of progress is made and universal gates for building and manipulating quantum states are now available as software development kits.
The quantum gates form building blocks of quantum circuits similar to the classical logic gates of conventional digital circuits.
Its applications include cryptology, artiﬁcial intelligence & machine learning algorithms, quantum physics, searching and secure quantum communications.
Recently, a lot of software development kits and quantum centric languages has been launched with varied approaches. These software APIs makes it easier for enterprises to deﬁne problems to test with quantum computers, experiment with the processing power and build pilot applications by offering pre-developed algorithms which, in-turn, speeds up adoption of quantum computing.
Real quantum computers are available today and there are quantum programming languages that let anyone with internet access use them.
There are about ﬁfty open-source projects and quantum simulators available. The ones which provide considerable promise for enterprises based on ease-of-use and easy learning curve are IBM Qiskit and Microsoft QDK.
IBM offers the quantum experience via a platform known as “the Q Experience”. The platform includes OpenQASM quantum language, a visual editor called the Composer and python based Qiskit notebooks used to create quantum circuits. It offers to connect to real quantum computers over cloud APIs along with quantum simulator which can be installed locally on the developer’s machine.
Microsoft Quantum Development Kit
QDK features a quantum-focused language called Q# with strong integration with Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code and can simulate quantum circuits. It also provides a trace simulator that is very useful for debugging classical code and proﬁling the resources required to run a quantum program. Microsoft also offers support for quantum simulators over Azure offering.
Another noteworthy offering is of Amazon Braket which was launched recently. It is a fully managed service that connects multiple quantum hardware providers in a single place. In addition to the classically-powered simulation environment, Amazon Braket provides access to quantum computers from D-Wave, IonQ, and Rigetti.
Challenges and the road ahead
Quantum Computing is very disruptive and technologically challenging. The quantum computer needs a pristine environment and is susceptible to even slightest of outside environment disruptions. This includes very low temperatures which are even colder than the coldest part of the universe (0 kelvin or -273 °C) besides magnetic and air vacuum.
There is also a lack of talent pool in the quantum computing ﬁeld as the skills required are multi-disciplinary and require deep knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
The Quantum initiative
There is no doubt that the quantum revolution is here. Though quantum computing is yet an evolving ﬁeld; enterprises can begin early by identifying where quantum will impact the business and start preparing quantum-ready applications. This will, in turn, help their clients to gain unique insights into how quantum computing can be applied.
One of the effective ways is to identify viable quantum problems based on existing quantum algorithms, discover if these algorithms are effective replacements for existing classical computing implementations and develop a quantum application to demonstrate the functionality.
To gain a quantum edge; enterprises must start exploring and have to identify potential use cases in respective business verticals. Quantum computing has a deep and disruptive impact on various business domains including Banking & ﬁnance services (BFS), Insurance and Travel domains.
Banking and Finance Services
Quantum computing algorithms lends itself exhaustively to corporate and mathematical ﬁnance. Quantum algorithms can be used to value and analyze (complex) instruments, portfolios and investments by simulating the various sources of uncertainty affecting their value and evaluate risks associated with it.
The Monte Carlo method offers solutions to the problem by directly simulating the underlying physical process and then calculating the average result of the process.
Quantum computing has given rise to new quantum-based algorithms that out-do their counterpart classical algorithms. It is especially useful in probabilistic analysis and scenarios where there are lots of possible outcomes. They can be used to develop strategies for analyzing, developing and implementing quantum techniques for portfolios.
Travel and Logistics
The logistics sector need high computing power to handle enormous volumes of data coming in at high velocities and with a high degree of variability, in order to generate real-time signals that aid supply chain planners in decision making. Quantum computer’s inherent quality of superimposing and entanglement enables them to evaluate large datasets easily than their conventional counterpart which takes an impractically long time.
The Future Road Map
Quantum computing is a relatively new ﬁeld and innovations are happening at breakneck speed. It’s important to have a balanced and deep technology rooted approach because the way quantum works is fundamentally very different than the conventional computing technology available today.
Quantum supremacy (Quantum Advantage)
In Oct 2019, Google's quantum computer research team claimed that they have achieved quantum supremacy. Quantum supremacy is the goal of demonstrating that a programmable quantum device can solve a problem that classical computers practically cannot (irrespective of the usefulness of the problem). A quantum computer with 53 qubits was used that took just minutes to perform quantum computations that would take today’s most powerful supercomputers thousands of years.
Coforge Quantum Labs
Coforge has set up quantum labs initiative to keep pace with innovations in quantum computing. One of the major objectives of the initiative is to identify potential use-cases where quantum computing can help business evolve, innovate and stay ahead in the game.
Quantum labs also helps the Coforge partners to identify potential disruption that may be caused by quantum and helps them prepare better. Since partners are more quantum aware; they can realistically react to threats and opportunities. For example, there are concerning news articles on how quantum can be a threat to security systems since it can used to break encryption algorithms. Clients are more equipped to make better long term decisions with Coforge partnership and subject matter guidance.
Speciﬁcally, Coforge is working on a primarily two pronged approach; short-term and long-term.
Short term plan
- Learning and spreading quantum awareness.
- Identifying and following advancements made in the field of quantum computing and ramping up to stay ahead in the curve.
- Identify various offerings by both quantum hardware and software vendors and forge close relationships.
- Implementing specific quantum algorithms like Grover’s search and Shor’s algorithm to get better insight and expertise.
Long term plan
Quantum computing works on principles of quantum physics and is based on the qubit. Quantum computers can process information much faster than conventional computers and can perform certain optimization and simulations which are beyond the reach of conventional computers. Quantum computers are poised to disrupt many industries like Banking & Financial, Insurance, and Travel drastically and enterprises should gear up now to harness and ride the quantum wave.
- Identify and implement real business use-cases which are good ﬁt for quantum.
- Create quantum ready work force by training and guidance.
- Create best practices and center-of-excellence to foster growth and expertise.
- Have proven expertise via certifications and strategic partnerships with leading firms.