As traditional computing pushes the limits of what can be achieved through known manufacturing processes, quantum computing is still in its infancy. And still, quantum computing fills geeks with wonder, business people with uncertainty and encryption experts with fear. According to some estimates, the quantum computing industry will be worth about $5 billion by 2020, which means it will go from strength to strength over the next few years. So, how can businesses take advantage of this progress? And which areas does quantum computing excel in? Here are seven areas to explore:
The most common area people associate quantum computing with is advanced cryptography. The ordinary computers we use today make it infeasible to break encryption that uses very large prime number factorization (300+ integers). With quantum computers, this decryption could become trivial, leading to much stronger protection of our digital lives and assets. Of course, we’ll also be able to break traditional encryption much faster.
Quantum technology could enable much more complex computer modelling like aeronautical scenarios. Aiding in the routing and scheduling of aircrafts has enormous commercial benefits for time and costs. Large companies like Airbus and Lockheed Martin are actively researching and investing in the space to take advantage of the computing power and the optimization potential of the technology.
3. Data Analytics
Quantum mechanics and quantum computing can help solve problems on a huge scale. A field of study called topological analysis where geometric shapes behave in specific ways, describes computations that are simply impossible with today’s conventional computers due to the data set used. With quantum computing this can be boiled down to relatively simple calculations.
NASA is looking at using quantum computing for analyzing the enormous amount of data they collect about the universe, as well as research better and safer methods of space travel.
Predicting and forecasting various scenarios rely on large and complex data sets. Traditional simulation of, for example, the weather is limited in the inputs that can be handled with classic computing. If you add too many factors, then the simulation takes longer than for the actual weather to evolve.
Nearly 30% of the US GDP is affected by weather in some way or another, and being able to more accurately forecast it would have great economic benefits.
5. Pattern Matching
Finding patterns in data and using these to predict future patterns is highly valuable. Volkswagen is currently looking into how they can use quantum computing to inform drivers of traffic conditions 45 minutes in advance. Matching traffic patterns and predicting the behavior of a system as complex as modern day traffic is so far not possible for today’s computers, but this is going to change with quantum computers.
6. Medical Research
There are literally billions of possibilities to how something could react across the human body and even more when you consider that this could be a drug administered to billions of people, each with slight differences in their makeup.
Today, it takes pharmaceutical companies up to 10+ years and often billions of dollars to discover a new drug and bring it to market. Improving the front end of the process with quantum computing can dramatically cut costs and time to market, repurpose pre-approved drugs more easily for new applications, and empower computational chemists to make new discoveries faster that could lead to cures for a range of diseases.
7. Self-Driving Cars
Car companies like Tesla and tech companies like Apple and Google are actively developing driverless cars. Not only will these improve the standard of living for most people, but also cut pollution, reduce congestion and bring about a bunch of other benefits.
Currently Google and VW are using quantum computers to develop battery, transportation and self-driving technology. Volkswagen has already optimized the traffic flow for 10,000 taxis in Beijing and are on the way to more improvements with quantum computing.
Where do you go from there then? Today companies can buy the D-Wave quantum computer, already in use by Lockheed Martin, Airbus, Volkswagen and other trailblazers in this space. While we won’t see the full potential of quantum computing for some time yet, the early research and implementations are showing amazing potential and benefits.