It’s a common joke among futurists that quantum computing will be a couple of decades away. Even if the technology won’t be fully mature (and widely used in business) for another decade or two, certain organisations may get a head start and reap the benefits now. Even a basic grasp of quantum computing is required for this.

## The distinction in ‘quantum’

Digital computers, as we know them, have nothing on quantum computing. For computations and simulations that would be impractical on a non-quantum machine, it takes advantage of the quantum physics capabilities.

Due to its lack of binary bit restrictions, the quantum computer possesses tremendous capability (the ones and zeros of traditional computer processors). In place of conventional bits, quantum bits, or qubits, are used to represent a one, a zero, or both at the same time—a superposition state’ that includes a near limitless range of possibilities.

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To put it another way, quantum computers address issues in a very novel way: rather than sequentially. Quantum entangled qubits are used to simultaneously test a large number of solutions rather than one at a time, rather than one at a time When addressing specific types of problems, this results in a significant speed boost.

## Quantum computers of the first generation

I find it instructive to compare today’s quantum computers to the growth of digital computers. Quantum computers, like early classical computers, are difficult to handle because of their complexity and unwieldiness. The qubits are kept in their entangled state by complicated mechanical engineering.

Current techniques to solving optimization challenges like supply chain fine-tuning are being pursued in quantum computing. In general, the universal quantum computer and adiabatic (or annealer) quantum computers, such as those provided by D-Wave, are very different. Today’s first-generation quantum computers employ a range of physical states to form qubits, rather than valves and vacuum tubes. Qubits need to be stabilised so that they can do computations and repair mistakes, which is why materials like nitrogen-vacancy diamond and trapped ions are used to achieve this.

The machine must be cooled to near-zero degrees Fahrenheit and the quantum devices must be kept in a vacuum at all times in order for this to work. They appear more like mainframe computers than something that would fit on a desk or in a handbag. Quantum computing, on the other hand, is already benefiting from innovations and miniaturisation that began with valves in the 1950s and led to the development of silicon chips with over a billion transistors.

## Inquiry into the qubits

Physical qubits in today’s first-generation quantum devices are unstable and error-prone, despite their intricate architecture. There are several physical qubits that can be used to stabilise and repair mistakes in logical qubits. Businesses require a minimum of 49 logical qubits for a system to be useful. Complex applications, such as those simulating real-world occurrences, will need a CPU count of at least 150. Currently, the most powerful processor is Google’s 72-qubit Bristlecone processor, which is hampered by the fact that each logical qubit requires thousands of physical qubits.

Quantum computers today, however, offer a platform for exploring new quantum algorithms. If quantum supremacy, the moment at which a quantum computer can execute a task better than a digital computer does occur, testing now will make the transition easier.

## What is quantum computing capable of doing now?

When it comes to simulating or modelling complicated real-world processes, quantum computing has a true edge over traditional methodologies. As an illustration, consider the fields of pharmaceutical drug development, oil and gas geophysical analysis, weather and financial forecasts, and chemical and materials science research. Some companies, like Volkswagen, Renaissance and DE Shaw, and Biogen, are already investing in quantum capabilities in these industries.

An early advantage is to get familiar with quantum algorithms and to find the people who can construct them as soon as possible. Quantum computing infrastructure isn’t required for this. Cloud-based access to IBM’s quantum devices, processors and simulators, for example, is available. Companies might also cooperate with quantum software start-ups like Dow Chemical Company and 1Qbit. Another possibility is to form collaborations or sponsorship agreements with academic institutions that are exploring the technology, as the US Army Research Office has done with Yale.

More businesses will be able to benefit from the first generation of quantum computing as it progresses through cloud computing and specialised and standardised algorithms. Nonetheless, for those who have already jumped on the bandwagon, there are still plenty of possibilities to take.

## Making financial services more efficient

The financial services industry currently employs a significant amount of computational power to predict markets and produce higher returns in a highly competitive marketplace. Complex market simulations might be done more quickly and in parallel with quantum computing, allowing for even quicker transaction optimization.

It is possible to use quantum computing to improve dynamic portfolio optimisation, option pricing, and risk management. Restrictive assumptions and heuristics that are imposed by the constraints of traditional machines can also be improved.

Quantum computing in financial services is still in its infancy, but the business is expected to develop quickly as technology advances. Experiments to see if quantum computing can improve arbitrage have already begun.

## Creation of new medicines; advancement of the study of new materials

Drug development is a thorny undertaking. It takes strong computers to model the molecular interactions of proteins and molecules. A rising need to estimate the impact of new pharmaceuticals on individuals is being driven by breakthroughs in genetic sequencing and a shift toward personalised treatment.

New medicines can be discovered more quickly and cheaply using quantum computers’ capacity to examine thousands of variations simultaneously and eliminate those that fail.

Quantum computing’s advantages extend far beyond the search for new drugs. By simulating interactions at the quantum mechanical level, such modelling might aid computational chemistry and materials science in developing new materials and improving the performance of current ones.

## Supply networks and logistics that are perfectly synchronised

The goal of quantum computing is to crack the toughest mathematical puzzles that can’t be cracked by traditional computers. Travelling salesman problem: a salesperson wants to visit several places in the shortest period utilising a range of modes of transportation. Global supply chains, logistics, and transportation systems stand to benefit greatly from solving this type of optimization issue. This year’s Volkswagen experiment in Beijing took less than a second, compared to about an hour for the same task using a digital computer.

It is possible to respond to everything from the weather to big crises in real-time with these optimizations.

## Future of Quantum computing

It’s difficult to know exactly how the quantum computing revolution will emerge, as it is with most things in the future. Quantum supremacy – the capacity of quantum machines to solve problems that classical computers realistically cannot – is the area of greatest uncertainty. This may be possible by early 2019, but some say it would take at least a decade before this is possible for practical use.

Nonetheless, quantum computing has the potential to offer major benefits to several industries. Organizations would be wise to begin experimenting with the first generation of quantum computers immediately to gain a better grasp of the technology. Those who don’t understand how to utilise the technology now should maintain tabs on its progress, otherwise, they may miss out on this revolutionary and interesting technology.

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