If you want to get ahead of your competition, there are ways to get started right now.
Can quantum computing help business leaders make effective decisions — and a lot of money? That’s the trillion-dollar question. I have good news. The answer in our present state of reality is yes. In fact, doing so will allow you to make a quantum leap over the competition.
This may seem hard for some to believe. So many people, even people working for companies selling leading-edge technology, think that quantum computing is like a fusion reactor, faster-than-light travel or cloning dinosaurs for a real-life Jurassic Park. It’s theoretically possible. However, as the decades pass, it is always another five, 10 or 20 years away. The scientists are always “working on it.”
In contrast, the quantum computing era is here, and it may matter quite a lot for your business going forward. Early adopters will be able to out-compete others that don’t adopt it.
Companies that have the mindset to prepare for the next big thing should be looking very closely into this area. I’m not saying that quantum computing will deliver instant miracles for your bottom line. But the barrier to entry is not the technology itself — it is understanding how it can be used. Even if quantum computers are not better or faster than classical computers right now, it is only a matter of time before the technology gets there.
Using quantum computing, you can get answers to critical business questions faster than companies that don’t use it. The early adopters can enjoy a “first-mover advantage” over their competitors.
I compare this to how we used to talk about big data and machine learning only a few years ago. Before, the question was, “Should we start looking into machine learning for our business?” Today, companies are asking a different question: “How do we implement AI or machine learning for our business as soon as possible?” Let me run you through that.
How companies can actually use quantum computing?
This may seem very abstract. Let me show you some examples of how companies, right now, are using quantum computers for profit.
Quantum computers help innovators find solutions where the number of options is so great that it is not feasible to calculate with today’s technology.
That’s why biotech is particularly interested in quantum computing technology. For instance, Menten AI, aside from looking for a cure for Covid-19, is looking at discovering new drugs that sit between small molecules and large biologics.
Going beyond what classical computers can solve, among other problems, the knapsack problem — basically, trying to fit the most (or best) stuff efficiently into a limited space — applies to logistics companies, loading container ships, packing aircraft, financial institutions and more. For instance, Amazon is providing access to the technology and providing the collaboration environment between industry and academia.
For logistics companies, you then have the facility location problem: Even if you aren’t interested in mathematics, the problem is often exactly what it sounds like. Where should you locate a warehouse so it can most efficiently take materials and distribute them to retailers or end users? Did we say distribution? Optimizing the whole supply chain management can save the operator millions (and also reduce costs and annoyance of the people whose trips are minimized).
Who are the players in quantum computing?
I have made a very large claim that you can start using quantum computing today, and I have provided examples of problems that fit into the new paradigm. The next question many business leaders would ask is very straightforward: “If I want to buy quantum computing technology (or hire a service provider to do it), where do I get it?”
After all, if you wanted to buy a smartphone, you might name Samsung, Apple or any number of companies. If you want to buy a computer, you might buy it from HP, Lenovo, Dell, etc. If I am correct that quantum computing is not just available but ready for your company, who could you buy this quantum computing technology from?
You have many choices, though not all quantum computing companies are the same. Quite to the contrary, there are many different offerings. However, I can quickly give you a lay of the land.
IBM Quantum partners with companies like Daimler, which is using quantum computing to develop next-generation batteries. Honeywell claims to have built the highest-performing quantum computer to date. Google has made similar claims of a major breakthrough in this space. Microsoft has built Azure Quantum, letting companies test out new innovations such as in cybersecurity. There is D-Wave, which is looking to disrupt automation in the world of car manufacturing. And engineers at MIT have created the world’s largest quantum chip.
My point is simple: If you want to get ahead of your competition, there are ways to get started right now: Test out innovation on a quantum computer through the cloud, and build an internal team to start solving difficult problems.
First published on Forbes.com