Need to Know: Quantum Computing

Image of Kanav Setia

The warp-speed promise of quantum computing has the potential to transform the business world—impacting everything from data security to drug development. Unlike traditional computing power, quantum computing can run multiple processes at once, allowing it to race through calculations.

It’s no surprise, then, that investment in the bleeding-edge tech is skyrocketing. The quantum computing market is expected to grow from US$412 million in 2020 to US$8.6 billion in 2027, according to International Data Corporation.

But all of that spending hasn’t translated into heavy or tangible project activity just yet. With scientists and researchers still trying to harness the immense power of quantum computing—like the need for chips to operate at temperatures lower than -450 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-267 Celsius)—the technology isn’t ready to solve any real-world problems yet.

“At this point, the money is mostly flowing into just understanding what the technology is and what it can do in the near-term,” says Kanav Setia, PhD, cofounder and CEO of quantum computing startup qBraid, Chicago. Until quantum computing hardware matures, “we don't promise that we will solve your problems 1,000 times faster with a quantum computer— just that it's worth exploring, so you don’t miss out on the potential massive gains.”

But Setia and others believe quantum computing will mature quickly, which means project leaders need to begin grasping its possibilities now to ensure their organizations will have a strategic advantage. Already, research centers are making huge project strides, such as the Multi-Node Quantum Network, that are laying the foundation for a quantum computing future. 

Setia explains three things project leaders need to know to understand when—and how—quantum computing will fit into their project portfolios:

  1. Trendspotting Takes Time.
    Right now, the companies investing in quantum computing are doing so not with the goal of delivering a killer app, but of gaining familiarity with the technology to determine whether the promise of quantum computing is applicable to their industry. Current projects are taking up to a year to complete, with a goal to simply determine whether quantum computing has the capacity to solve a given problem—and, if so, whether it demonstrates the potential to do it faster than a traditional computer.
  2. Learning curves should be strategic.
    Organizations can use early project learnings to get their teams acquainted with quantum computing systems and terminology to seed a first-mover advantage. That knowledge also will help project leaders manage up—showing sponsors and other key executives how to maximize the project value of their quantum computing investments.
  3. Complexity means opportunity.
    Early quantum projects often have relied on small teams of physicists who designed and built quantum machines, then wrote software. But as activities such as hardware and software functions and code bases for compilation and applications begin to diverge, there will be a need for project managers to facilitate collaboration among siloed team members and stakeholders. Project professionals who can stare down complexity will become invaluable for teams tackling quantum computing initiatives.

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