Quantum Computing

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Quantum Computing

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00018043

Publication Date: 2211

Publication Type: TUTORIAL


A quantum computer is a computing device that leverages certain
phenomena, like superposition and entanglement that occur at the subatomic
level, to solve problems. The quantum process, which is complicated and
somewhat counter-intuitive (just like quantum mechanics itself) enables
quantum computers to solve multi-variable problems more rapidly than their
conventional counterparts, facilitating complex operations involving
machine learning and cryptography.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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A quantum computer is a computing device that leverages certain
phenomena, like superposition and entanglement that occur at the subatomic
level, to solve problems.

Faulkner Reports
Cryptography Overview and
Background Tutorial
Encryption Basics Tutorial
Supercomputing Tutorial

As described by the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of

  • Superposition is essentially the ability of a
    quantum system to be in multiple states at the same time.
  • Entanglement is an extremely strong correlation that
    exists between quantum particles – so strong, in fact, that two or more
    quantum particles can be inextricably linked in perfect unison, even if
    separated by great distances.”1

While conventional computers process bits, which possess one of two
discrete states, 0 and 1, quantum computers process quantum bits (or
“qubits”), which possess an infinite number of possible states.

As explained by Accenture Labs, conventional computers are deterministic:
“repeated computations on the same input will lead to the same output.” In
contrast, quantum computers are probabilistic:
“measurements on superposed states yield probabilistic results,” with
confidence established through repeated computations. Rather than arriving
at a result, quantum computers very quickly “converge” on a result.2

The quantum process, which is complicated and somewhat counter-intuitive
(just like quantum mechanics itself) enables quantum computers to solve
multi-variable problems more rapidly than their conventional counterparts,
facilitating complex operations involving machine learning and

According to the US Department of Energy, “Researchers expect quantum
computers to be particularly good at calculating properties of physical
systems that are inherently quantum mechanical. These applications include
molecules used as chemical catalysts, which despite their large size are
subject to quantum mechanics. They also include the quarks and gluons that
clump together inside the nuclei of atoms. Quantum computers may also be
especially good at solving optimization problems, which involve choosing
the best alternative from a huge range of options. The quantum computers
available today are small, noisy prototypes, but the field is progressing
rapidly. Quantum computers may soon become a critical part of the
computing landscape as we move beyond cutting-edge exascale computers.”3

Fifth Generation

As reported by Accenture, “Many people believe that quantum computing is
one of several technologies that will enable the “fifth generation” of
computers,” as described in Table 1.

Table 1. Computer Generations
Generation Components Period

First Generation

Vacuum Tubes

1940 – 1956

Second Generation


1956 – 1964

Third Generation

Integrated Circuits

1964 – 1971

Fourth Generation


1971 – Present

Fifth Generation

Quantum Elements

Present –

Source: Accenture Labs4

Commercial Viability

While quantum computing (QC) is finally having its coming-out party, the
technology is still largely developmental. In terms of a quantum timeline,
McKinsey reports that a number of manufacturers have announced plans to
produce “fault-tolerant” quantum computing hardware by 2030. While experts
disagree on the importance of fault-tolerance, some argue that “fully
error-corrected, fault-tolerant” quantum computing is the only path to
providing “exact, mathematically accurate results.”5

In terms of current availability, “Most providers of cloud-computing
services … offer access to quantum computers on their platforms, which
allows potential users to experiment with the technology. Since personal
or mobile quantum computing is unlikely this decade, the cloud may be the
main way for early users to experience the technology until the larger
ecosystem matures.”6

The Market

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Market Expansion

International Data Corporation (IDC) projects that the customer spend for
quantum computing will grow from $412 million in 2020 to $8.6 billion in
2027, representing a truly remarkable compound annual growth rate (CAGR)
of 50.9 percent over the 2021-2027 forecast period.

IDC also predicts that quantum computing investments necessary to fund
essential research and development will grow to $16.4 by the end of 2027,
a six-year CAGR of 11.3 percent. “For many critical problems, classical
computing will run out of steam in the next decade and we will see quantum
computing take over as the next generation of performance-intensive
computing,” said Peter Rutten, global research lead for performance
intensive computing at IDC.7

Prominent Players

In the US, the prominent players in today’s quantum computing market, not
unexpectedly, are:

  • IBM (the current technological leader)
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Google
  • Microsoft8

Major Drivers

As observed by analyst James Dragan, the major challenges and
opportunities driving today’s quantum computing market are:

Security – “Worries that
criminals are ‘harvesting data now … to decrypt later’ when we reach
quantum computing functionality have got many companies and organizations
prepared to turn to quantum-proof security alternatives for data

QCaaS – Providers like Amazon
Web Services, IBM, and Microsoft can offer their users quantum computing
as a service (QCaaS) now.

Quantum Internet – Though
“some time away,” the quantum internet promises to be very fast and very
secure. A possible national security concern, China is “[making] inroads”
into the technology.9

Use Cases

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“Accelerating advances in quantum computing
are powerful reminders that the technology is rapidly advancing toward
commercial viability.”

– McKinsey & Company10

As illustrated in Figure 1, the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory is using a sophisticated cooling system to
keep qubits – the heart of quantum computers – cold enough for scientists
to study for use in quantum computers.

Figure 1. Keeping Qubits Cool

Figure 1. Keeping Qubits Cool

Source: US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory

Quantum computing will likely impact multiple applications and


Artificial Intelligence
Quantum computing can expedite machine learning operations. As analyst
Chisom Ndukwu explains, “One of the biggest hurdles for artificial
intelligence today is training the machine to do something useful. For
example, we might have a model that can correctly identify a dog in a
photo. But the model will need to be trained with tens of thousands of
images for it to recognize the subtle differences between a beagle, a
poodle, and a Great Dane. This process is what AI researchers call
‘training’. They use it to teach AI algorithms to make predictions in new

“Quantum computing can make this training
process faster and more accurate. It will allow AI researchers to use more
data than they have ever used before. It can process large amounts of data
in 1’s and 0’s and the combination thereof – which will enable quantum
computers to come to more accurate conclusions than traditional

Cyber Resiliency – IBM
announced its intention to “take cyber resiliency to a new level and
protect data against future threats that could evolve with expected
advances in quantum computing. There is significant concern that data
considered securely protected today could already be lost to a future
quantum adversary if stolen or harvested now for future decryption. All
data – past, present, and future – that is not protected using
quantum-safe security may one day be at risk.”12


McKinsey & Company research reveals that several sectors –
specifically Pharmaceuticals, Chemicals, Automotive, and Financial – stand
to reap the benefits of a quantum computing-enabled information

Pharmaceuticals – “Quantum
computing could make R&D dramatically faster and more targeted and
precise by making target identification, drug design, and toxicity testing
less dependent on trial and error and therefore more efficient.”

Chemicals – “[Quantum]
computing can be used in production to improve catalyst designs. New and
improved catalysts, for example, could enable energy savings on existing
production processes – a single catalyst can produce up to 15 percent in
efficiency gains – and innovative catalysts may enable the replacement of
petrochemicals by more sustainable [compounds].”

Automotive – The automotive
industry can benefit from quantum computing in its R&D, product
design, supply-chain management, production, and mobility and traffic
management. The technology could, for example, be applied to decrease
manufacturing process-related costs and shorten cycle times by optimizing
elements such as path planning in complex multi-robot processes.”

“[Quantum-computing] use cases in finance are a bit further in the future,
and the advantages of possible short-term uses are speculative. However,
we believe that the most promising use cases of quantum computing in
finance are in portfolio and risk management. For example, efficiently
quantum-optimized loan portfolios that focus on collateral could allow
lenders to improve their offerings, possibly lowering interest rates and
freeing up capital.”13


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For most enterprise officials, planning for quantum computing offers a

First, is QC planning premature given the
present state of QC development? Unless an enterprise is engaged in
high-performance computing (HPC) operations, the answer is probably yes.

Second, how should QC planning be prioritized
versus planning for other high-profile technologies/capabilities, such as:

    • Artificial intelligence/machine learning,
    • Edge computing,
    • Internet of Things (IoT), and
    • 5G communications?

Third, how should QC planning proceed?

In terms of getting started, enterprise officials should consider the
following first steps:

Appoint a QC Champion

Select an individual (or team, as appropriate) who will be responsible –
and accountable – for:

Studying the science and engineering of
quantum computing.

Following QC industry developments and best

Identifying possible QC use cases.

Identifying potential QC solution providers.

Calculating the return on any viable QC
investment. (“Does the economic value achieved by the quantum speedup – or
the resolution of a previously unsolvable problem – justify the

Periodically reporting to senior management on
the state of quantum computing and its relevance to enterprise business
and technical interests.

The QC champion should work in concert with other technology champions,
including those charting the course for enterprise use of AI, IoT, Edge,
and 5G.

“Get Your Feet Wet”

Encourage the QC Champion (or her designee) to acquire first-hand
experience with quantum computing planning and operations by trying out a
quantum computing as a service (QCaaS) offering.

One popular possibility is Amazon Braket which, according to the vendor,
“is a fully managed quantum computing service designed to help speed up
scientific research and software development for quantum computing.”

Be Flexible About QC

Remember that quantum computing is still a nascent technology. While
enterprise use cases may not present now, or be financially or technically
attractive, the situation may change next year or the year after,
especially as venture capitalists and government entities continue to
funnel money into QC R&D.15

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About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 40 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at jgbarr@faulkner.com.

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