Quantum computing is easier to access than you think
Author: Michał Jankowski, Head of Emerging Technologies at Objectivity
The cloud impacted the way business leverage IT resources in many ways, including democratising high-performance computing (HPC). You no longer need to have your own computing centre. Instead, you can temporarily leverage cloud provider’s resources to run your calculations. You will only pay for the time you actually use this environment. However, this approach still has some drawbacks. It can be expensive, and the energy consumption of HPC centres can be demanding.
All these challenges can be solved with the right technology. Quantum computing promises revolutionary breakthroughs in computation, especially for specific classes of problems. While this technology is still in an early stage, it’s already being implemented and delivering business value.
From the HPC perspective, quantum computing should be used as an innovation accelerator. You should use it when there’s an opportunity for improvement in your calculations: time reduction, better accuracy, or other performance-related refinement. You should use the current approach of computation for the problems that are suitable for classical computation or that are not difficult to solve.
Some examples of applications that should be considered promising candidates for quantum computing include complex optimisation problems, modelling large-scale systems (like weather forecasting, fluid dynamics) or quantum systems simulations (drug discovery, protein folding). It is worth mentioning that quantum computing will not replace classical computing entirely. It will extend its capabilities, and with this synergy, we will overcome the challenges I mentioned earlier. A great example of that is using classical computers to prepare and optimise parameters of the quantum system and leveraging a quantum computer for calculations.
In this article, I want to share three main reasons you should begin investigating quantum computing and consider introducing it in your organisation. Moreover, I’ll show you it’s accessible to everybody.
Before jumping into details, let's look at the predictions. According to the EY Quantum Readiness Survey 2022, nearly half (48%) of responders believe quantum computing will play a significant role in their industries by 2025. The vast majority (97%) think quantum will disrupt their industries and the UK economy to at least some extent by 2027.
Those significant indicators should put this technology on your radar. From the technical perspective, I see three main reasons why this is a great time to start looking into this technology. First, thanks to the availability of cloud quantum computing, the quantum technology is more accessible than ever. Second, aggressive roadmaps mean quantum processing units (QPUs) are rapidly emerging into commercial usefulness. Finally, innovative scaling techniques will soon apply quantum to much larger-scale business problems.
Cloud Quantum Computing
The possibility of running your quantum application in the cloud is a game changer for this technology. You don't need to secure millions of pounds in your budget to add quantum capabilities to your data centre. Instead of that, you can run your quantum application in the cloud. You have two options — either using the quantum hardware vendor's cloud directly, or leveraging a quantum service offered by one of the general cloud providers (like AWS, Microsoft Azure or others).
If you're interested in the costs, you can find examples on the AWS Bracket page. Running your project on a quantum computer can be cheap, depending on the devices you want to use and the type of problem you would like to solve. Those numbers are minimal when compared to the mentioned cost of adding quantum capabilities to your data centre.
Rapid Increase of Quantum Processing Unit Performance
During the last few years, there’s been a rapid increase in QPU performance. The past roadmaps published by quantum vendors have been delivered successfully, so it's reasonable to believe that this trend will remain true. Most quantum vendors predict an increasing number of qubits and improved quality of their processors in the following years.
Check different quantum vendors' roadmaps to see how fast this technology is growing. For example, at the beginning of November 2022, IBM announced the 433-qubit IBM Quantum Osprey and managed to deliver on their promises. They believe that with the next generation QPU — Condor, the number of computations for which quantum computers outperform the traditional ones will grow significantly, and that by 2030 we will see widespread adoption. According to the roadmap, this 1121-qubit processor will be released next year.
Interconnectivity on Quantum Chips
The last reason I would like to mention is the changing way QPUs are being built. Scaling quantum computers is challenging; simply increasing the size of the chip comes at the cost of a higher likelihood of failure and a lower manufacturing yield. The solution is to build a QPU out of multiple interconnected chips. This will allow you to tackle much larger-scale business problems.
Returning to the IBM roadmap, Condor is the last single-chip QPU included there. The following year, IBM will change the architecture to multi-chip units. This step will open the way to building QPUs with 100k+ qubits by 2026. A similar trend can also be noticed in other vendors' roadmaps.
The Next Steps
Put quantum technology on your roadmap and plan high-level verification. Try to find the applications to verify on a quantum computer. They don’t need to rely purely on quantum; they can use a hybrid approach. This way, a part of the calculations is done classically and another part, by using quantum. Please verify the results and think about how they can support your organisation. You will be surprised by how easy it is to run your first experiments on quantum devices.
For an extended and slightly refocused version of this article, go to: Onboarding Quantum Computing in Your Organisation — a Technical Perspective.
Future of Compute Week 2022
During this week we will deep-dive into a number of themes that if addressed could develop our large scale compute infrastructure to support the UK’s ambitions as a science and technology superpower. To find out more, including how to get involved, click the link below
Laura is techUK’s Head of Programme for Technology and Innovation.
She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies, including Quantum Computing, High-Performance Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies, across the UK. As part of this, she works alongside techUK members and UK Government to champion long-term and sustainable innovation policy that will ensure the UK is a pioneer in science and technology
Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.
Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.
Rory joined techUK in June 2023 after three years in the Civil Service on its Fast Stream leadership development programme.
During this time, Rory worked on the Government's response to Covid-19 (NHS Test & Trace), school funding strategy (Department for Education) and international climate and nature policy (Cabinet Office). He also tackled the social care crisis whilst on secondment to techUK's Health and Social Care programme in 2022.
Before this, Rory worked in the House of Commons and House of Lords alongside completing degrees in Political Economy and Global Politics.
Today, he is techUK's Programme Manager for Emerging Technologies, covering dozens of technologies including metaverse, drones, future materials, robotics, blockchain, space technologies, nanotechnology, gaming tech and Web3.0.