Which technology is making quantum computing easier to access and adopt

Quantum computing is an exciting new technology that promises to revolutionize certain types of computing tasks. By harnessing the power of quantum mechanics, quantum computers can theoretically perform calculations far beyond the reach of even the most powerful supercomputers we have today. However, developing practical, general purpose quantum computers has proven extremely challenging. But new advances are making quantum computing more accessible and easing adoption.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing basics

To understand what’s making quantum computing adoption easier, let’s first briefly review what quantum computing is and why it’s so difficult to achieve. Classical computers encode information in bits with binary values of 0 or 1. Quantum computers utilize qubits which can exist in a superposition of 0 and 1 simultaneously, allowing quantum systems to perform multiple calculations in parallel. However, qubits are extremely fragile and interacting with them causes the superposition to collapse. The fragility and sensitivity of qubits have made building useful quantum computers very difficult so far.

The promise of quantum computing

If the challenges can be overcome, quantum computing promises to offer exponential leaps in processing power for certain types of problems like optimization, machine learning, and simulation of quantum systems. Applications could include things like optimizing transportation networks, predicting chemical interactions for drug discovery, or advancing artificial intelligence. Many experts believe quantum computing will never fully replace classical computing but will augment it, accelerating certain specialized tasks for breakthrough insights and discoveries.

Recent hardware advances lowering barrier to entry

For years, quantum computing hardware was limited to university and corporate labs. But that’s now changing with systems commercially available from companies like D-Wave, IonQ, and Rigetti. While still expensive, commercial systems are making quantum computing accessible to more businesses, government agencies, and research institutions to start exploring applications and upskill workforces. Cloud access options from AWS, Azure, and IBM Quantum are also expanding access substantially.

Lowering maintenance requirements

In addition to availability, new systems are reducing some previous barriers like extreme cooling needs. D-Wave’s latest Advantage system operates at 15 millikelvin, eliminating complex dilution refrigeration requirements. Trapped ion systems operate closer to room temperature further easing maintenance. While still highly complex systems, maintenance requirements are becoming less demanding.

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Hybrid algorithms optimized for current hardware

Fully realizing the promise of quantum computing may require millions of logical qubits and full error correction which could be decades away. But new hybrid algorithms optimized for today’s limited, noisy systems are yielding benefits now in areas like optimization and machine learning. By keeping computation sequences short and repeatedly sending results to classical computers for error correction, early applications are being demonstrated on existing hardware.

Rise of quantum software stacks and services

To ease the learning curve and help businesses start applying quantum, software stacks and cloud services are emerging to abstract away low level hardware details. Microsoft, AWS, and IBM all now offer quantum development kits and services enabling access to quantum resources without hardware expertise. Startups like Zapata Computing and ClassiQ also offer software platforms to help design and execute quantum algorithms. These stacks and services lower barriers for developers and businesses to start building skills and exploring use cases.

Integration with popular languages and tools

Quantum software platforms are also integrating with familiar classical programming languages like Python and JavaScript along with popular tools including Jupyter notebooks. By lowering the need to learn specialized quantum languages, these platforms enable easier onboarding for classically trained developers. Integration with popular data science and machine learning tools is also enabling simpler testing of quantum machine learning pipelines.

Rise of quantum computing cloud services

Enabling remote access is also critical for mass adoption across businesses and organizations. IBM Quantum, AWS Braket, Azure Quantum, and D-Wave Leap allow users to run experiments on real quantum hardware and simulators without needing any on premise systems. Research institutions like Oak Ridge National Lab even provide free public access to quantum sandbox environments for education and upskilling. As with classical cloud computing, quantum cloud services enable easier exploration of benefits before on premise investments are required.

Expanding industry and research collaborations

Access to quantum hardware and expertise remains limited overall. But expanding collaborations, consortia, and research partnerships are providing more organizations early access. Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Samsung are all engaged in partnerships expanding their quantum knowledge. Industry groups like the Chicago Quantum Exchange also foster cross organization skill building. Cloud access and partnerships enable more “quantum test driving” critical for understanding practical business applications.

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Growth in related jobs and educational programs

While still early days, “quantum” is becoming a more common keyword in tech job listings from major companies seeking engineers and researchers with at least baseline knowledge. Training programs are also expanding like the IBM Quantum Developer certification to help address skill gaps. Higher education programs focusing on quantum information science are likewise growing with NSFIEI centers at universities like the University of Illinois. Educational access will help more organizations begin preparing their workforces to leverage quantum advances down the road.

Investment growth fueling new quantum startups

While most quantum hardware companies remain small, investment is accelerating with over $1 billion invested already since 2011. New quantum focused VC funds like Quantum Valley Investments are also emerging dedicated to funding startups across the quantum ecosystem. Increased funding and dedicated investors focused on quantum signal growing momentum. The opportunities are seeding innovative new startups tackling hardware, software, applications, training, and other support areas that will continue advancing the ecosystem.

Supporting auxiliary technologies

In addition to core hardware and software, funding growth also enables startups developing auxiliary technologies like connectivity, electronics, cryogenics, and materials that support continued progress. Advancements across the full technology stack will collectively improve control, reduce errors, and inch systems closer to fault tolerance thresholds enabling meaningful applications. A robust startup ecosystem will help drive faster maturation of quantum enabling technologies.

Standardization allowing interoperability

As multiple hardware architectures and software stacks emerge, lack of standardization could slow broader adoption. But active standards development is already underway to prevent this. IEEE recently launched an initiative to develop standards that support interoperability across quantum ecosystems. Emergence of standards will prevent vendor lock-in concerns that could inhibit adoption across organizations otherwise reticent to commit to specific platforms or providers during such an early development phase.

National strategic initiatives accelerating progress

Given the potentially transformative advantages of quantum, over 25 countries have now launched multi-billion dollar national initiatives to accelerate progress in quantum research and position themselves as leaders. The US National Quantum Initiative Act enacted in 2018 designates over $1.2 billion towards quantum research, education, and infrastructure advancement. Similar strategic efforts in China, EU, UK, Australia, and Canada also signal growing national prioritization and funding that will speed global advancement.

Patent incentives driving corporate R&D

Patent filings related to quantum computing have increased rapidly highlighting rising corporate R&D. Recent analysis shows IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Honeywell, and startup Rigetti among leading patent holders. Expanding patent portfolios incentivize established IT companies and emerging startups to advance hardware and software R&D to stake claims in this emerging landscape. Increased corporate competition serves to accelerate innovation benefiting the overall ecosystem.

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Conclusion

While full scale, universal quantum computers likely remain years if not decades away, recent advances across hardware, software, services, education, investment, and more are beginning to make quantum computing demonstrably more accessible. Organizations can now start experientially learning via cloud access and partnerships. The overall momentum signals quantum computing is transitioning from pure science fiction to more mainstream reality everyday businesses, governments, and individuals can start tapping into. We remain early, but advances are bringing quantum computing closer to meaningful accessibility and adoption with each passing year.

FAQs

What companies offer the easiest entry point to start exploring quantum computing today?

Some of the easiest entry points are cloud services from IBM Quantum, AWS Braket, Azure Quantum, and D-Wave Leap which allow getting started with real quantum systems without needing any specialized expertise or on premise hardware.

How expensive is it for a business to get started with quantum computing?

Businesses can get started without major investment by utilizing free sandbox environments from providers like IBM or Oak Ridge National Lab or via cloud access services with hourly rates comparable to conventional cloud services. This allows exploration and skill building without large upfront costs.

What programming languages are best to learn for quantum software development?

Python is one of the most popular languages for quantum programming today given its widespread use for conventional software and data science applications. Languages like Q# and Qiskit also offer extensions to .NET/C# and Python specifically for quantum development.

How viable are quantum computers today for practical business problems vs experimental research?

The vast majority of quantum computing work remains experimental demonstrations today, but practical applications are emerging in areas like optimization, simulation, and ML using hybrid algorithms designed specifically for today’s noisy, intermediate scale quantum (NISQ) systems.

Which industry sectors are expected to benefit the most from quantum computing advances?

Sectors expected to benefit significantly cover finance, transportation, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, utilities, AI/ML, cybersecurity, communications, defense, and more. Essentially most data intensive sectors can find exponential speedups from quantum for certain use cases.

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