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Is Your Business on the Quantum Computing Super Highway Yet?

Vidyut Navelkar

Quantum computing is a completely new paradigm of computing based on the principles of quantum mechanics, which in turn is based on the behavior of atomic and sub-atomic particles.  Simply put, unlike classical computers that represent information using bits that are binary in nature, quantum computing represents information using qubits that can assume an infinite number of values between 0 and 1.  This fundamentally different way of representing information along with certain other characteristics of quantum behavior results in tremendous computing power. 

The promise of quantum computing

With the performance of classical computers likely to plateau due to physical limitations on the number of transistors that can be packed on a microchip, quantum computing promises a breakthrough that could provide the power required to solve problems that are characterized by complexity that cannot be practically handled by even the most powerful supercomputers of today.  Such problems, typically referred to as intractable or NP-complete, are widespread across domains, and include diverse use cases such as portfolio optimization, vehicle routing, drug discovery, chemistry simulations and so on.  Quantum computing technology thus has the potential to impact and transform a wide range of industries and create new opportunities for businesses to gain competitive advantage.

The flip side

On the other hand, however, it has been established that the power promised by quantum computing will make it easy to break current cryptographic practices and render these ineffective.  It is therefore important for businesses to not only look at the opportunities that quantum computing would enable for them, but to also concurrently ensure that they are ready with the right measures to protect them against any new threats that may arise as a result of this technology.

Where are we today?

The last few years have seen a multifold increase in the number of hardware and software players in the quantum computing space – both established giants as well as startups.  Current quantum computers are however severely constrained by their limited number of qubits, and their sensitivity to temperature and other ‘noise’ leading to decoherence.  Different technologies and approaches are being tried out and tremendous progress is being made on multiple fronts.  The technology is evolving faster than what was thought possible and it is safe to say that the future of quantum computing holds exciting competitive promise for business and industry overall. 

The journey of quantum value discovery

Given the above developments and trends, we believe that quantum computing is now entering the mainstream.  Many organizations, across verticals, have already started investing in exploring this in the context of their businesses.  While the technology itself is evolving, the time is right to start investing in experimenting with this new technology to understand the opportunity that it may hold. Here are a few pointers on how you could kick off your journey to quantum value discovery:

  • Build awareness among key stakeholders
  • Identify one or more champions to own quantum adoption
  • Identify opportunities and threats resulting from quantum in the context of your business
  • Shortlist a couple of use cases around these opportunities, and threats for further exploration
  • Build low-cost proofs of technology (PoTs) and proofs of concepts (PoCs) for the selected use cases
  • Iteratively build on these initial PoTs and PoCs to evolve a solution
  • Develop a point of view and a roadmap for quantum computing

The role of a technology ally

Considering that most of the current work is likely to be of an exploratory and experimental nature, the right approach for most organizations would be to remain open on decisions related to investments in specific technology stacks, and instead focus on decisions related to investments in specific use cases.

Most organizations will therefore benefit from having a technology neutral partner who could help them navigate through this early journey of exploration and experimentation without binding long-term commitments to specific technologies. Such a partner will not only bring in tremendous value as a collaborator in the steps proposed above, but also significantly reduce the risks of experimenting with an evolving technology of this nature.

Considering the nature and state of the technology, here’s what we recommend an organization should look for while choosing their technology transformation partner:

  • Investments and capabilities in research that provide an indication of the partner's ability to solve new and challenging problems that may be encountered during the journey
  • Capabilities in the quantum computing area as evidenced by its pool of trained resources, paper publications, patents, demonstrators, and so on.
  • Synergistic technology and domain capabilities in areas such as optimization, machine learning, chemistry and simulation, and security
  • Knowledge of the industry domain and contextual knowledge of its business
  • An ecosystem of partners across established technology providers, startups, academia and research institutes – indicating the ability to pool in the right capabilities and support from the ecosystem in an unbiased manner
  • Readiness to invest time and efforts in collaborative exploration
  • Focus on reducing investments and costs, and mitigating risks for the customer
  • Proven ability to deliver across technologies, industries and geographies
  • Track record of enduring relationships with customers through all times

Having said this, there’s just one little question that begs to be asked:

Is your business on the quantum computing super highway yet?

About the author

Vidyut Navelkar
Vidyut heads Quantum Computing – Strategy and Consulting at TCS and is responsible for incubating quantum computing as a potential big-bet business for TCS. In his career spanning over 30 years, Vidyut has played multiple roles in the intrapreneurship, innovation, learning and development, and software development areas, where he has been responsible for leading a variety of functions, programs, and projects. He has also been an active participant in various industry and academic forums. A senior member of IEEE and a life member of the Computer Society of India, Vidyut holds M.S. degrees in Computer Science, and Industrial and Management Systems Engineering.