Paul Lipman is an experienced cybersecurity CEO. He's passionate about the intersection of quantum computing and cybersecurity.
As a software CEO, Ive witnessed the transformative impact of advanced technologies like machine learning. Quantum computing is poised to have a similar impact in the coming years, as Ive previously opined. While fault-tolerant quantum computers are still several years away, a well-funded vibrant quantum software industry is rapidly emerging to enable near-term devices to deliver value.
Quantum computers utilize quantum effects such as superposition and entanglement to solve classes of problems that are intractable to classical computers. Quantum advantage, in which a quantum computer solves a useful problem significantly faster than a classical computer, has yet to be achieved. Its unlikely to for at least the next few years. The level of investment in quantum computing, however, is a testament to the profound impact this technology will have once that milestone is reached. Early movers like JPMorgan Chase, BMW and Airbus are building quantum teams and making significant investments now to climb the quantum learning curve and be ready the moment the technology matures to the point where it will disrupt their industries.
Developing quantum computing software is hard, arguably significantly more so than developing software for classical computers. For example, the concept of phase kickback is fundamental to many quantum algorithms. It requires a deep understanding of linear algebra, plus a combination of physics and algorithmic intuition. Furthermore, quantum applications attempt to solve complex world-changing problems, which inherently require sophisticated solutions. As a result, the pool of quantum software talent is extremely limited.
Quantum Computing Platforms
Each of the major hardware vendors has developed its own platform: IBM Qiskit is arguably the furthest along, with a rich community, compelling road map and application modules. Other offerings include Amazon Braket, Google Cirq and Microsoft Azure Quantum. These platforms are all open source, and vendors are enabling their offerings to interoperate with competitors devices, lifting all boats and helping each vendor maximize its reach and potential as the various hardware modalities mature. Quantum computing will largely be utilized as a cloud-based service: QCaaS. The value of QCaaS will be accelerated by developments that enable quantum applications and workloads to operate in a device-agnostic fashion that utilizes the unique advantages of each platform. Early cross-device services, from Zapata Orquestra and Riverlane Deltaflow.OS, are promising.
Quantum System Controls
The main challenge in scaling todays quantum devices is qubit noise and errors. Software companies such as Q-CTRL and Quantum Benchmark are developing solutions to algorithmically mitigate these effects. Again, given the cost and complexity of quantum devices, its expected that QCaaS will dominate commercial usage. Like conventional cloud computing, a range of services will evolve to ensure secure usage and protect users data and code. A notable early example is Agnostiq.
Quantum Finance And Quantum Machine Learning
Many aspects of modern finance, such as complex securities pricing, portfolio optimization and forecasting, rely on algorithms that are susceptible to potential quadratic or exponential speedup using quantum computers. Companies such as Multiverse Computing are developing quantum applications for the finance industry. Last year, they published compelling results from a joint study with BBVA. Standard Chartered Bank announced a research project to explore quantum applications, including machine learning.
Machine learning and quantum computing are two of the most buzzworthy topics in computing. The emerging field of quantum machine learning (QML) unites them, incorporating a parameterized quantum circuit into a larger classical ML model to speed up learning and improve its efficacy by leveraging unique quantum computational benefits. QML can also be used to enhance and optimize quantum algorithms. Xanadus PennyLane and Googles Tensorflow Quantum are two of the early leading packages in this field.
Physicist Richard Feynman famously said, Nature isn't classical ... and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you'd better make it quantum mechanical. One of the most exciting applications of quantum computing is the simulation of chemical reactions, which are governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Modeling anything but the simplest of molecules is intractable for classical computers. Algorithms such as VQE enable the simulation of chemical reactions on a quantum computer, which may ultimately enable us to identify new materials and more efficient chemical processes. For example, the HaberBosch process used to manufacture fertilizer accounts for over 1% of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions and energy usage. If quantum computing can deliver even small improvements to this process, the benefit would be enormous.
Beyond The Valley
The classical software industry is concentrated in Silicon Valley. However, quantum software is far more globally distributed, tapping into academic centers of excellence and large-scale government funding. Cambridge (UK) is home to Cambridge Quantum Computing and Riverlane, which between them have raised almost $100 million. Other well-funded start-ups include Qubit Pharmaceuticals (France), Multiverse Computing (Spain), Q-CTRL (Australia), 1QBit (Canada) and Classiq (Israel). The industry will benefit tremendously from this scale and diversity.
Path To Commercial Success
Quantum computing is experiencing a virtuous cycle. Continued progress in improving qubit counts, fidelity and applications is driving interest from early commercial and government adopters who want to get ahead of the learning curve and their competitors as the technology matures. Its also driving substantial increases in venture investment. Governments, which view quantum as a strategic national priority, are following suit with multibillion-dollar funding programs.
Software startups are raising large funding rounds, driven by a land-grab for limited talent, the need to build deep defensible IP portfolios, a desire to position themselves as leading players in the emerging quantum software space and the likely long path to break even. One could argue that investment is far ahead of current commercial demand; however, the potentially transformative impact of quantum computing is so profound investors are willing to place substantial bets today for the promise of outsize returns tomorrow.
Quantum computing promises to revolutionize many industries. The rich evolving ecosystem of quantum software providers will enable early movers to quickly climb the learning curve, differentiate from their competition and achieve exponential benefits to their business.
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