Which industries will be most impacted by quantum computing?
There has been a lot of talk about a new era of supercomputers — known as “quantum computers” — that will infinitely expand the capabilities of traditional computers and outperform them on various axes, from speed to efficiency. For years now, I have been actively involved in the world of AI. Because quantum computing could have such a profound impact on how AI will grow in the future, I have followed the latest developments in quantum computers’ abilities.
Tech giants like IBM, Microsoft and Google have already taken big strides in the race to create the most potent quantum computer and achieve quantum supremacy — and their confidence in their own achievements is so high that Google, for example, has gone so far as to make a claim that the company has already achieved quantum supremacy, while IBM has made a promise to create a 1,000-qubit computer by 2023.
There is a fundamental difference between how traditional and quantum computers operate — and this difference can explain the new horizons that quantum computers could reach that were impossible to consider previously.
This essential difference comes down to the elements that computers operate on: Traditional computers operate on bits that only take the value of 0 or 1 — but never both at the same time. Traditional computers operate based on a binary system that, in many cases, does not match the uncertainty that the real world operates in despite a computer’s promised operational speed. Quantum computers, in contrast, operate on “qubits” — or “quantum bits” — that are not bound by traditional computers’ limitation to one of two states. Instead, qubits are able to take on two or more values at the same time — a quality otherwise known as “superposition.”
Without these traditional boundaries, quantum computers could operate at speeds faster than ever before, complete more tasks in shorter periods of time — and all simultaneously, as they’d hypothetically be freed of any limitations that traditional computers operate under.
With these new open doors and possibilities, there are a few industries that have the potential to undergo a significant transformation in the near future.
According to McKinsey, the capabilities of quantum computing will open the possibility of modeling particles “such as molecules, polymers, and solids, at a totally different level of precision. It would thus be possible to identify the most effective molecular designs or structures to accomplish specific tasks and achieve required effects — before synthesizing a single molecule in the lab.” For example, Cambridge Quantum Computing and JSR Corp have already used quantum computing to “model multi-reference states of molecules. Multi-reference states are often needed to describe the 'excited states' arising when molecules interact.”
Quantum computing could offer immense support to research and development in the chemical industry and could support the development of new products — as well as the discovery and study of the properties and behaviors of various molecular structures, according to Honeywell.
Healthcare And Drug Development
Drug discovery and development is a lengthy, costly process — it may take 10 years and over $2.5 billion to complete the process from discovery to commercialization. And even then, the success of the therapeutic drugs are not always guaranteed — in fact, by some estimates, the risk of failure is quite high.
Quantum computing could make it possible to minimize the risk of failure by accurately simulating and experimenting with various molecular compositions in order to evaluate the theoretical effectiveness of a therapeutic solution before full inception. Quantum computing could also accelerate the process of end-to-end testing and drug creation, making it possible to achieve breakthrough solutions more frequently and effectively — all while potentially decreasing the costs of drug testing and production. A number of companies, including Cloud Pharmaceuticals and ApexQubit, are already using quantum technologies for drug discovery and development.
Financial services have the potential to benefit from the efficacy and speed of quantum computing — especially in the areas of risk analysis, dynamic portfolio optimization and pricing, according to Bowery Capital.
While traditional computers can only search one file at a time or run single simulations of a portfolio at a time, a quantum computer could perform these operations simultaneously and suggest optimization options at a much higher speed. Quantum computing may also allow for greater prediction accuracy. Traditional algorithms calculating probabilities are far from infallible; quantum computers, due to their alleged ability to operate at lightning speed, could provide much faster and more accurate predictions. They could estimate risk in a more informed manner and continuously monitor behaviors and activities to identify anomalies or even prevent them from happening at any time.
With quantum computers’ ability to analyze and decode data at very high speeds, the security of encrypted data known for being unbreakable today could render itself obsolete in the future. Quantum computers could simply break those with ease due to their power.
The solution to this risk may be quantum encryption — known as QKD, or quantum key distribution — which could maintain the privacy of data in a quantum-driven world. QKD relies on the properties of quantum physics to ensure that data can only be interpreted by two key parties and cannot be intercepted by a third party. Startups like QuantumLR are already offering quantum key solutions and services. Essentially, QKD uses photons to send data from one party to another. Only the two principal parties are able to decipher the properties of the photons; if a third party intercepts the transmission of data, the photons change their state, making it virtually impossible to decode the information exchanged between the two key endpoints.
Originally published in Forbes