The promise of unlimited computing capabilities that can solve problems in just a second – problems that would take a modern supercomputer thousands of years to solve.
Quantum computing proposes a real transformation with an enormous social impact. The recent edition of COP27 highlighted the importance of accelerating the processes to face the climate crisis. In this context, the application of quantum computing has the potential to bring significant advances in reducing emissions.
Unlike what is often believed, this is not classical computing with enhanced capabilities but a new paradigm that applies quantum mechanics concepts to define algorithms capable of simplifying computational complexity.
The units of measurement are no longer bits but qubits. A quantum computer of "barely" 216 qubits has achieved the performance described in the first sentence of this article. Imagine the possibilities to access when we reach the development of computers with thousands or even millions of stable qubits. The future will not be quantum or classical but hybrid. Standard applications, which can work with traditional computing systems, will remain the same.
Research, Optimization, Intelligence
Beyond the climate change issue, the use cases for quantum computing have been identified into three categories, which can positively impact the planet, society, and business.
The first category involves simulating physical, chemical, or biological processes. We can create new materials, pharmaceutical drugs, or chemical products using highly complex mathematical models and significantly reducing laboratory experiments.
A second axis lies in optimization to solve operational problems in applications across all industries: from the creation of intelligent supply chain solutions - even in highly complex structures - to logistics and energy distribution, the optimization of telecommunications networks, or the scaling of any industrial process. Solutions that enable business efficiencies and play a key role in sustainable models.
Finally, there are numerous opportunities in machine learning and artificial intelligence, potentially creating faster and better-performing tools.
A Better Quality of Life
In practice, this translates into technological tools enabling us to drastically improve the quality of life and the planet's health. Consider quantum computing being applied to create new materials to improve battery performance, develop efficient synthetic alternatives to fossil fuels, or launch solutions for carbon dioxide absorption. Some other examples include accelerating the development of medicines and health treatments or helping to prevent meteorological disasters.
Some computers inspired by quantum computing, such as D-Wave and LASOLV from NTT, are already being used to solve business problems. There are still some challenges ahead for full quantum computing. The first one is technology maturity. Although quantum computers already have limited capabilities, they are only estimated to be released commercially in 2029. The second one is skills development, which, as mentioned, is not an evolution of classical computing but a new development field requiring professionals engaged in a new set of skills.
Beyond these challenges, which are already being addressed, the outlook for the future is quantum and is highly encouraging - the full potential of technology will be to generate a positive impact on society.