Companies cannot afford to be left behind in the quantum revolution | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

The writer is founder of The City Quantum Summit and a senior adviser to Multiverse Computing

The last two months have seen a number of headline-grabbing announcements about technology based on quantum physics. US President Joe Biden signed two presidential decrees on quantum information science (QIS) in May. The UK Ministry of Defence bought a homegrown quantum computer in June. And at the end of June, Nato launched its €1bn innovation fund to invest in dual-purpose “deep tech”.

This should be a wake-up call to senior executives, over 80 per cent of whom don’t expect quantum computing to play a significant role in their industry until 2030, according to EY’s recent Quantum Readiness Survey 2022.

Two myths need to be laid to rest. First, it is true that quantum computers are in the early stages of development, but they are already creating value today. Already, quantum-inspired algorithms can be run on today’s classical computers to deliver significant improvements in business and financial processes. But those algorithms will be even more effective when run in combination with the quantum computers of the future.

Another misconception is that a company must own an expensive quantum computer. In fact, the capabilities can be accessed via the cloud. IBM and AWS, plus a host of start-ups, are among over two dozen companies offering quantum computing as a service.

What distinguishes quantum technology, be it software or hardware, is its ability to solve complex problems, especially those with many protagonists or agents. These include credit card fraud, portfolio optimisation, foreign exchange trading and management of electrical grids.

Take the environment. After a pandemic pause, carbon emissions are yet again at a record high. French energy company Total last year announced a multiyear project on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) with Cambridge Quantum, a UK start-up which merged with Honeywell Quantum to create Quantinuum in late 2021. (I was formerly a senior adviser to Cambridge Quantum.) Quantum algorithms are being used to design the optimal materials for CCUS. The French energy company invests a hefty 10 per cent of its annual research and development budget in CCUS.

To achieve net zero by 2050, more efficient supply chains are key. Bosch, for example, is working on supply chain optimisation and predictive maintenance using quantum-inspired software, with the expectation that significant cost savings will accrue within the year.

In the financial sector, Itaú Unibanco announced the first results of its project with Palo Alto-based QC Ware. The largest bank in Latin America reported in May a “substantial increase” in its customer retention models through the use of quantum technology.

Hedge funds are known to be heavily involved in the use of quantum technology, especially in portfolio optimisation, while the Corporate and Investment Bank of Crédit Agricole, a top ten global bank by assets, has used quantum to boost its capacity to forecast loan rating downgrades.

When it comes to risk, a misapprehension exists around the perils that quantum computers represent to encryption. It is true that the existing ones cannot break it, nor are they likely to in the next couple of years. However, data is already being harvested by hostile powers and hackers with a view to future decryption — plus there are measures that can be taken today to improve cyber security using a technique called post-quantum cryptography.

Money is pouring into the sector. In 2021 alone, this equated to $3.2bn in total private funding, including Spacs, according to The Quantum Insider’s specialised data platform. In the year to date, TQI estimates an additional $1.4bn will be invested.

This excludes significant funding from national governments who have earmarked tens of billions of future investments through their national quantum technology programmes and agencies. The US is estimated to be spending over $500mn a year and the UK over £100mn annually on average since 2014. France, Germany and others have announced their own initiatives.

Consortiums of private sector companies, government quantum agencies and quantum computing firms are working together in a number of fields, and across borders to explore the threats and opportunities of the quantum revolution. StarTrek-like teleportation and parallel universes may not be here yet. But real value in real time is. The only mistake for corporate boards is to do nothing.


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