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The power of Quantum Computing

One of the exponential technologies that is not yet getting its fair share of love from the general public and media is Quantum computing. In the past few years, I had the privilege of spending time discussing it with people from CERN and the Fermi Lab, but my conversation with Scott Crowder, Vice President IBM Quantum Adoption and Business Development, had the right mix of theory and real-life examples, which will make anyone understand the potential of this field of research and its business applications. AI will keep its hype for a good while, as we see from its pervasive presence in every corner of the internet. Quantum can be the next big thing. This is our dialogue. 

Who are you and what do you do for a living?

My name is Scott Crowder, and I run IBM’s Quantum efforts to boost its adoption, together with our partners and industry clients. Our goal is to build a useful Quantum computing infrastructure and to help the world make a Quantum-safe transition, in the next ten years or so. I am an engineer by training and had worked on semi-conductors in the past, before taking on the role of CTO for IBM Systems. With Quantum, it’s the first time where we have a ‘use first’ attitude, where we try things with partners, we teach and learn with our clients, before we scale-up projects. It’s interesting and it’s fun.  

What are the three ‘killer’ use cases for Quantum, for what we know now?

Firstly, simulating nature, like materials’ science – new materials, or chemistry, for example better battery chemistry, to mention something that is very ‘hot’ right now. We do physics simulations or try to understand how complex proteins would behave. These are operations that entail higher computing power than what we could do with today’s computers. 

Secondly, we try to find patterns out of complex data. For example, a classification of a piece of data as fraud or not. If there is some structure in the data before us, Quantum computing is much better than classical computers to give meaning to it and even pick up things like false positives. This is extremely useful, if we want to make sense of the world.  

Lastly, I would say, portfolio optimization, finding efficiencies, and distribution optimization. There are direct and huge applications here, for multiple industries. Think of the mobility or logistics markets, for example. This third use case is slightly farther out from us, in terms of time to market, when compared to the first two. 

Where are we really, when it comes to Quantum adoption in the real world?

To simplify it: Quantum is better at doing what it does best, namely simulations. For sure, to do it at scale, larger systems are needed. So, we are looking at 2030 and beyond. What we are doing now is, let’s say, algorithmic explorations. We work with a mix of partners: heavy industry conglomerates, banking, pharma, transportation, and startups. And, obviously, universities and research institutions. 

Big Tech is also into Quantum, even though the talk of the town is AI. Intel, Microsoft, Google, AWS: all have investments and programs in Quantum, with different approaches to it.

What is the future business model of Quantum? How are you going to sell it?

It’s hard to say right now. We must make some assumptions. It’s probably going to continue to be, in the medium term, a cloud service, where partners have access to the Quantum capabilities we have built, via API calls, and they can interact with our experts, who help with the prototyping and the training. Basically, it’s going to be the same as a standard cloud business model. There will be ad hoc projects for sure, where the stakes are high, and we can unlock tremendous economic value. In a way, the approach is more like how we weave CPUs and GPUs into a compute fabric, and not via a single application per se, like a Chat GPT for Quantum. 

What would you say is the number one risk associated with Quantum?

Cybersecurity is for sure the number one risk. Future, more powerful Quantum computers will crack at some point the current asymmetric cryptography, which protects public and private information, for example (mobile data, payments, medical records, etc…). The math for that already exists. There are Quantum-safe cryptography solutions, but a full ecosystem of security providers and coding will need to change, to account for the Quantum shift, and to make sure we have a Quantum safe era.

Where can we find you and learn more about Quantum?

A simple search for anything related to IBM Quantum will do. I am also active on social media, like LinkedIn. IBM writes a lot of articles on Quantum. We need to talk about it publicly, and have people understand this is real, and it has great potential to bring tremendous value to society and business, across all industries. You may think this is science fiction, as it’s going to hit us in our next decade, but it is a new way of approaching complex problems. It could help other applications and use cases, as well, like AI, and this is why it’s the right moment to talk Quantum.