Quantum computing (QC) is becoming more common across the enterprise and industrial landscape. Its growing use has led many vendors to begin productizing QC software and hardware solutions. We've been talking about QC for years now, but the actual development and availability of products has taken a long time to reach the market.
With QC becoming more widely available, companies now need to decide what products and what use cases suit their specific circumstances, to support innovation in general and larger transformation efforts such as The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0.
Steering the Right Use-Case: A Model for Maximum Impact
Quantum computing is currently reliant on quantum data, which is created by representing binary data qubits (aka, quantum bits). The challenge is qubits are not always reliable and can be vulnerable to unstable environments. The amount of work needed to prepare qubit data for enterprise use means quantum computing has limited use cases. Therefore, when evaluating possible solutions and products, companies need to see if the solutions correct and solve for the noise of the quantum qubit data they will be using.
We’re essentially in the Model T era of automobiles with QC at this point. Qubits are often filled with errors. Companies can still make progress with QC, but they need a strategy for dealing with the errors and the noisy intermediate scale data. The noise with this data occurs when it is translated and made ready for QC.
To determine whether your data is reliable, you have to know how many qubits of data you have available. The greater the volume of the data, the more reliable and the less noise there will be. As in most uses of big data, more data leads to better results.
However, it’s not as simple as a company saying it will just increase the number of available qubits. Most systems aren’t prepared for quantum workloads, so companies have to work within their available frameworks and systems.
Of course, as with everything else with QC, the field is still developing and we'll likely see a lot of change in the next few years. Groups like the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Quantum Computing are helping make QC more transparent for the business world, which is vital to the development of QC innovations.
All of this context is essential to understand before evaluating what products might work for an organization. Once the nature of QC is understood, companies then need to identify specific problems that only QC could address — usually the problems are compute bound and require tremendous speed.
With QC, problems that used to take years to solve can now be solved in hours. And QC can tackle complicated problems like space exploration, material sciences, oil exploration and chemical predictive modeling. QC can solve any problem a traditional computer can, but these traditional problems are generally not the best way to use QC.
Governing Quantum Computing Partnership Choices
Once companies have pinpointed why they need QC, it’s the time to explore the options available on the market. There are actually quite a few companies already trying to productize QC in both the hardware and software spaces, so it’s easier now than before to match needs to product solutions.
It’s important to talk through specific use cases with individual vendors and get a sense of how they can address the needs of your organization. The available vendors range from end-to-end providers who offer a complete QC-based solution to a problem along with hosting and professional services. Vendors offer products and services from the top to the bottom of the QC stack, from services to QC hardware.
End-to-end providers offer the greatest range of QC capabilities. They provide solutions for every layer of the QC stack and can provide everything from development kits to subscription services.
Hardware and Systems Players
Vendors in this category offer solutions for the hardware and systems layer of the QC stack. These vendors provide the technological hardware to make running QC in your business a reality, by enabling companies to build quantum computers or construct quantum circuits.
Software and Service Players
Vendors in this category specialize in products for the system software layer, applications layer and service part of the QC stack. These products allow companies to use QC in the cloud and to use QC software to drive rapid innovations.
Vendors in this category can offer products at all levels of the QC stack. They offer specialized solutions for the unique QC needs of companies.
Related Article: Quantum Computing: Challenges, Trends and the Road Ahead
Responsible Innovation Mapped to Selection Choices
When trying to settle on the right product and vendor for a specific QC challenge, companies should create a rubric or vendor assessment tool to determine whether a vendor is right for them or not. Ask vendors questions such as “what are the differentiating features of your QC product as opposed to others on the market?” and “does your product use a hybrid model?”
As companies go through the vendor selection process, look for signs of QC whitewashing and overselling. To understand the real value of QC, companies must first understand the background context of how QC technology works most effectively — namely, that it must be a problem that cannot be solved easily by traditional computing and that is either compute bound or requires tremendous speed to achieve. Companies also must have sufficient qubits of data to really make the most of QC — insufficient quantities of data will lead to unreliable results.