Quantum computing — coming soon?

The impact of mature and emerging technologies, from the cloud to artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, are already being felt across the business and social landscape.

But, what about technologies that are going to become viable in the next five to ten years… the futurist technologies?

It sounds like something from the Star Trek universe, but just as already happened with sliding doors and flip top phones,  but unlike transporter devices, quantum computing will soon be a reality.

What is quantum computing? To quote an article in Wired: ‘Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time. Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.’

The technology, when it arrives, will truly transform business and society in ways that we can’t yet imagine — it’s that powerful.

There are those, including IBM and Microsoft, who are working in this space already. Constructing a quantum computer is not a conceptual or a theoretical maths problem — it is an engineering one.

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Chris Lloyd-Jones leads Avanade‘s emerging technology engineering team and is well versed in this quantum realm. His team focuses on technologies that are five to ten years out and are will soon become viable.

“We tend to focus on design-led digital solutions and that’s anything in the Microsoft ecosystem,” he says. “Once upon a time that may have been Windows or SharePoint, but these days we look at quantum computing, virtual agents, chatbots and the Internet of Things.”

Quantum(-inspired) computing

The ‘main’ technology that will disrupt and fundamentally change business and society is quantum computing, “or quantum-inspired computing,” states Lloyd-Jones.

He differentiates between ‘quantum’ and ‘quantum inspired’ because there is a lot of hype — as with any technology — and because of this it has dropped off the radar to some degree.

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“Every now and again companies will announce that they’ve got a number of qubits [a basic unit of quantum information], and this is having a knock-on impact for those in the industry,” says Lloyd-Jones.

In other words, the possibilities of quantum are passing by the rest of the world, but for those in the know, the technology embodies the future — perhaps, not so far away from Star Trek after all.

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Back to reality

Let’s not jump to warp factor eight speed just yet Scottie… (I’m sorry).

To give you a current, or present example, Avanade have been working with a pharmaceutical company to help them compare molecules. Previously, when you’re looking to discover a new drug, it can take up to 10 years: you have to go through a long series of human trials and you weren’t necessarily aware of what the molecule did.

“Now,” says Lloyd-Jones, “you can feed in molecules into a quantum-inspired computer. We’re taking some of the learnings from quantum and applying it to other algorithms and ways of working. As a result, we can more quickly target the molecules pharmas should be looking at by identifying the ones that will have a negative effect.”

But, quantum computing in the enterprise even applies to more mundane things.

Avanade, again, are also working with a quantum-inspired computer f0r telephony company in North America. Why? To optimise supply chain routing.

“It sounds boring,” says Lloyd-Jones, “but I can get you your package quicker; I can get something from A to B so much faster.”

Chris Lloyd-Jones leads Avanade's emerging technology engineering team.
Chris Lloyd-Jones leads Avanade’s emerging technology engineering team.

A cautionary tale

Many people and organisations are quick to brand what they produce as a quantum computer. There is a difference between a machine that just uses quantum effect and a real quantum computer.

But quantum computing is not sci-fi any more…

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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