Quantum Computing May Be A Reality Sooner Than You Think

On March 3, Honeywell published a paper claiming a new quantum computing technique which can dramatically increase the rate of future developments.  Quantum computing power is often described by the metric “quantum volume,” which is a measure of quantum bits or “qubits,” as well as their connectivity and gate and measurement errors. Honeywell uses trapped ions to create their qubits, manipulating these with lasers and microwave signals. The resulting qubits reportedly have high stability and longevity.  Prior to this announcement by Honeywell, the general perception was quantum volume would double each year. “We’re on a trajectory to increase that quantum volume 10-fold every year for the next five years,” Tony Uttley, Honeywell’s president of quantum solutions said.  This is a bold claim and would dramatically alter the timelines many thought possible to practical application of quantum computing.

What is quantum computing and why do we care?

Traditional computers use bits (1’s and 0’s) for computing.  Quantum computers use qubits, typically subatomic particles.  Manipulating properties of the qubits yields exponentially more computing power than traditional bits. However, the challenge is the qubits are very fragile and difficult to maintain, and typically require extreme environments such as super cooled or high vacuum environments. Thus, there have been engineering challenges to making powerful systems.

Quantum computing will be able to solve problems not currently possible with traditional computing methods.  When quantum computing becomes mature it also will make many of today’s encryption methods obsolete and easily cracked in short amounts of time. On the defensive security side, companies are going to find themselves in a new arms race to stay ahead of quantum decryption capabilities. It is time to start thinking about crypto agility and assessing changes that will be necessary. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is currently evaluating algorithms to replace those that will be at risk.

So, if quantum computing is closer than we think, what does that really mean for businesses?  Quantum computing is not easy and requires significant training on new engineering and programming techniques. There will be a shortage of talent to take advantage of quantum computing if companies wait too long to start developing these skills. We need to start planning now, or resource challenges will prevent some from realizing the benefits of quantum.  Organizations should start thinking about the types of business and technology issues they are unable to tackle today but may be able to with quantum computing.  Understanding these issues and preparing for how to solve them could yield dramatic business advantage and business disruption. To harness the power of quantum, you will need resources that can envision the problems to be solved as well as developers that can code using quantum algorithms and resources. Developing these resources could take years, so start planning now.

And don’t forget the threat to cryptography. Organizations should not wait to start planning to deploy quantum-resistant algorithms, especially when considering future investments or developments.

What should you do?

Organizations should start to think about how to become post-quantum ready now.  Ask:

  1. Do I know what quantum computing is?
  2. Are there critical processes and technologies we have today that rely on encryption that will be obsolete due to quantum?
  3. Are there business challenges we are unable to solve today that quantum computing will be well suited to solve?
  4. How might we leverage quantum computing to gain competitive advantage in the future?
  5. How might my industry be disrupted by quantum computing?
  6. Do I have resources I should train in quantum computing and how long will it take?
  7. Where will I find quantum computing talent in the near future?

How Protiviti can help

We help organizations embrace new technologies and leverage the power of the cloud; enabling them to scale on demand, improve resiliency, minimize infrastructure investments, deploy solutions rapidly and do it securely.  We also help clients set a strong foundation to harness the power of technology to transform and innovate.

For more information on Protiviti’s work with quantum computing and other emerging technologies, contact us.

Scott Laliberte

Global Lead
Technology Consulting – Emerging Technology Solutions

Konstantinos Karagiannis

Associate Director
Senior Quantum Computing Technologist
Technology Consulting – Security and Privacy