Should IT leaders plan for the quantum computing era?

More than half of UK business leaders believe quantum computing is overrated, according to new research from KPMG. The One Poll survey of 750 business decision makers found that 55% think it’s an overrated technology.

However, the study also found that many companies are actively investigating quantum computing projects. A quarter of business decision-makers in the survey said they already had quantum computing projects underway, a third had an internal team or external consultants investigating how they could use the technology, and 31% of the organizations said they are discussing how they will take advantage of the technology in the future.

Only 9% of those surveyed said they are not thinking at all about how they can take advantage of quantum technology, KPMG reported.

Surprisingly, 55% of those who participated in the survey believe they have a vast amount of knowledge about what quantum computing is, and 27% described their understanding of technology as “fair.” However, KPMG found that responses varied widely by industry sector. More than three-quarters (77%) of people in the tech sector said they are highly knowledgeable about quantum, compared to just 17% in the charity sector, 26% in the public sector, 29% in hospitality and 29% in the public services sector.

A number of recent developments in quantum computing show just how far the technology has developed. For example, Quantum Brilliance, a German-Australian manufacturer of quantum computing hardware, has begun work on a joint research project with the IAF Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid-State Physics. The collaboration aims to develop atomically precise techniques for the fabrication of quantum microprocessors.

The research will also investigate new methods for selective initialization, reading and manipulation of qubits in quantum computers with multiple processor nodes. The research teams believe that solving these challenges will be an important milestone on the path to mass commercialization of quantum computing technology.

IBM has also unveiled some new work it has done to run simulations on quantum computers. “We demonstrated a method that in many cases will allow you to run larger problems on your quantum processor than you could otherwise,” said Andrew Eddins, a researcher at IBM Quantum and lead author of a recent paper looking at the concept of forging. interlacing.

“Entanglement forging provides an efficient method of applying classical computational resources to quantum problems in a way that, in a sense, doubles their capacity,” he said. “It effectively increases your number of qubits by a factor of two, which is really remarkable.”

Such techniques take the development of quantum computing a little further, but in a recent conversation with Computer Weekly, Universal Quantum’s chief scientist, Winfried Hensinger, said he believes the development of quantum computers is equivalent to where computers were. computers in the 1940s. During World War II, for example, the world’s first programmable computer, Colossus, was used to automate the breaking of Germany’s Enigma code at Bletchley Park.

But first business computer, Leo (Electronic Headquarters of Lyon), it was not operational until 1951. It has taken many years to get to the point where today, any software developer can access immensely sophisticated algorithms running on complex hardware simply by using a relatively simple application programming interface (API). .

The technology for quantum computing is also at a stage where error correction is a limiting factor. Today, quantum computing is in the “noisy” intermediate scale quantum (Nisq) era, which requires large amounts of error correction. John Morton, co-founder of Quantum Motion and professor of nanoelectronics at UCL, said: “If you don’t use error correction, you’re short on depth.”

This means that there are fewer quantum gates. As a consequence, Morton said, the applications that can be built without bug fixes are “very limited.” He calculated that the ratio of logical qubits that can be used in quantum algorithms to physical qubit hardware can be as high as 1,000:1, so up to 1,000 physical qubits are needed for each logical qubit.

Since IBM’s 1,121-qubit Condor quantum processor Not debuting until 2023, the company’s recent research into interlocking forging suggests one direction the technology could take.

From conversations Computer Weekly has had with experts in the field of quantum computing, the technology is at a level where experts in quantum mechanics and people who understand the lower levels of a quantum computer architecture are needed to help. programmers to create optimized algorithms for a quantum computer. Quantum computing is still in an early stage of development and no single architecture is emerging as the best approach.

Quantum superiority is where a quantum computer can run algorithms that would be impossible to run on a classical architecture. According to Morton, some recent examples of quantum superiority are similar to the mechanical Turk of the late 18th century, in which the public was tricked into believing that it could play chess autonomously. However, quantum computing can offer scientists the computational power to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems.

Ian West, head of technology, media and telecommunications at KPMG UK, said: “While companies spend a considerable amount of time and money on their quantum projects, the data hints at their concern. I engage with countless organizations who are unsure how best to take advantage of this emerging technology and wonder if it’s worth the investment.

“But it’s important for business leaders to educate themselves on how it can be applied for specific use cases so they can take advantage of the exciting opportunities it presents.”

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