Financial Times: The Quantum Revolution: First Port of Call

Financial Times: The Quantum Revolution: First Port of Call

March 31, 2023


We hear from truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles; Matt Schrap, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association; SavantX co-founder Ed Heinbockel, who helped bring quantum computing to the port; and Alan Baratz, president of D-Wave Systems. Plus, John and FT artificial intelligence editor Madhumita Murgia discuss what optimization at the Port of Los Angeles tells us about the future of quantum technology.

Quantum Computing Doesn’t Only Equal Gate Model

While some define quantum computing solely as the gate model modality, there are, in fact, two main types of quantum computing—annealing and gate model. Currently, the only available quantum computing technology able to handle today’s real business problems is quantum annealing. Quantum annealing is able to find the lowest point in a multi-dimensional landscape, and that makes it very well suited to solve the myriad of complex optimization challenges commonly faced by businesses. Annealing quantum computers are also easier to scale, which is why our company's own Advantage system is at over 5,000 qubits currently, and they’re much less sensitive to errors, meaning they deliver good solutions to hard problems without the need for error corrections. Due to the pervasiveness of optimization problems in the enterprise, quantum annealing represents a significant portion of the overall quantum computing TAM.

However, many critics are still keen to downplay the importance of quantum annealing, suggesting a commercialized quantum future will only arrive once the alternative gate-based model is fully developed.

Many quantum developers are struggling to create gate-model solutions and are overlooking the commercial value of quantum annealing. Gate-model systems do present exciting possibilities for solving a specific category of problems, which is why we at D-Wave chose to pursue building both gate-model and annealing quantum systems. But gate-model systems are at least seven or more years of R&D away from seeing advancements that can handle real-world size problems, while quantum annealing is doing so today.

Annealing Quantum Computing Is Unlocking Value Today

While there may still be some naysayers, businesses and governments are not waiting. Many are looking at how to utilize today's quantum technologies to solve a myriad of optimization problems and unlock everything from operational efficiencies to cost-cutting to accelerated innovation and revenue growth.

In fact, a recent Hyperion survey of quantum computing early adopters that our company commissioned showed more than 80% of respondents planned to increase their commitment to quantum computing in the next two to three years. And more than one-third of respondents will invest $15 million or more annually toward quantum computing efforts.

Nearly every industry can benefit from applying quantum annealing technology to business problems today. In financial services, today’s quantum solutions can be applied to developing customer loyalty and rewards allocation applications. While loyalty rewards programs represent a strong revenue driver for banks, ensuring that customers receive the most relevant rewards and offers is an extremely complex challenge, largely due to the vast amounts of data that need to be navigated. Using quantum-hybrid solutions, financial services companies can optimize customer loyalty programs by tracking and refining how budget is used, how offers are distributed, and how many offers are allocated to each cardholder.

Another industry ripe for adopting today's quantum annealing solutions is supply chain and logistics. We're seeing global manufacturers and shipping ports explore quantum to help optimize the packing, loading, shipping and distribution of goods. Given the high volume of traffic, optimizing how shipping containers are loaded, sorted, sequenced and delivered by as little as a few percentage points equates to millions of dollars saved each year.

In the public sector, governments around the world are doubling down their investments in near-term quantum technologies and starting to explore a multitude of quantum annealing-based applications to address problems ranging from public transit optimization to airport personnel scheduling to energy grid resilience. We're also seeing an uptick in interest of quantum annealing technology to help today's military with national security and missile defense optimization efforts.

The Commercial Era Of Quantum Computing Has Begun

While many equate QC solely to gate model systems and thus downplay its viability today, that perspective is one-dimensional and not accurate when you expand your focus to understanding all types of quantum computers and the benefits of quantum-hybrid applications. The fact that we’re actively witnessing annealing QC solve a significant set of computationally challenging problems right now proves the industry needn’t wait until gate model solutions arrive to start benefitting from quantum technology.

While it’s important to remain measured and realistic in discussions around QC’s future, it’s exciting to see the near-term applications it’s driving right now.

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