Quantum Computing: What It Is, And Who The Major Players Are

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" -- Max Planck, Father of Quantum Physics

We are in a computer age where computing devices are an integral and inseparable part of our lives. However, these machines consume a certain amount of energy per bit to perform any operation. Going by current energy consumption trends, it is predicted that by 2040 computing will not be sustainable, as the energy required will exceed the world’s estimated energy production. This calls for a fundamental reduction in consumption and this is where quantum computing enters the fray.

Here’s an overview of the market and the players working on this revolutionary technology.

Understanding quantum computing

Quantum computing harnesses the unique ability of subatomic participles, which allows them to exist in more than one state at the same time. By leveraging this feature, quantum computers can handle operations at speeds exponentially higher than conventional computers while consuming much less energy.

“While the classical computer is very good at calculus, the quantum computer is even better at sorting, finding prime numbers, simulating molecules, and optimization, and thus could open the door to a new computing era,” a Morgan Stanley report notes.

It is believed that quantum computing will have a huge impact on areas where “computing power is becoming a limitation for R&D such as commerce, finance, military affairs, intelligence, pharmaceuticals (drug design and discovery), aerospace (designing), utilities (nuclear fusion), chemicals (polymer design), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Big Data search, and capital goods, especially digital manufacturing.

The market for quantum computing is projected to be around $5 billion to $10 billion a year by Morgan Stanley in the next 10 years, while a report by Homeland Security Research estimates that theglobal marketfor quantum computing and technologies will grow at a CAGR of 24.6% throughout 2018-2024.

By 2024, products and services market would be $8.45 billion while government-funded research and development would be $2.25 billion. According to CIR, revenue from quantum computing could reach $8 billion by 2027.

Major Players

IBM (IBM) recently predicted that quantum computing will be mainstream in five years. Last year, IBM announced its “industry-first initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems,” dubbed “IBM Q” to be delivered via the IBM Cloud. In November 2017, IBM announced significant upgrades for its quantum systems, including the development of the first working 50 qubit processor (a "qubit" is a unit of quantum information).

In December 2017, 12 of its initial clients (including names like JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, Barclays, Honda, Oxford University, among others) joined the IBM Q Network to explore practical applications of quantum computing to solve previously “unsolvable” problems across industries.

For example, IBM’s association with JPMorgan Chase is to apply quantum computing to different aspects of financial industry such as trading strategies, portfolio optimization, asset pricing and risk analysis. Or take Samsung, which is working with IBM to study use cases on the semiconductor and electronics industry.

Google (GOOG, GOOGL), NASA and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) collaborated to set up the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab (QuAIL) project in 2013. The project primarily aims to use quantum computing to improve the NASA’s ability to “solve difficult optimization problems for missions in aeronautics, Earth and space sciences, and space exploration.”

In 2013, the facility installed the D-Wave Two quantum computer by D-Waves Systems, the world's first quantum computing company. In 2017, the D-Wave 2000Q system, by far the most advanced quantum computer available, was installed at QuAIL.

In March 2018, Google unveiled Bristlecone, its new quantum processor. Google believes, “Bristlecone would then be a compelling proof-of-principle for building larger scale quantum computers.”

Microsoft (MSFT) established Station Q, a research lab in 2005 to focus on studies of topological quantum computing to perform computations. In recent years, Microsoft has intensified its efforts towards quantum computing. The company’s approach to building a quantum computer is “based on a type of qubit – or unit of quantum information – called a topological qubit.” In December 2017, Microsoft released a free preview version of its Quantum Development Kit and updates to it were announced in February 2018.

Some other big names in the quantum computing space include, but are not limited to:

  • Alibaba (BABA)
  • Nokia (NOK)
  • Intel (INTC)
  • Airbus
  • HP (HPQ)
  • Toshiba
  • Mitsubishi
  • SK Telecom
  • NEC
  • Raytheon
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Rigetti
  • Biogen
  • Volkswagen
  • Amgen

The segment of quantum computing has attracted huge venture capital investments, government support, strong research and involvement by technology giants — together all of these place quantum computing among the most sought-after technologies of the day.

The quest to harness this power is on, and the advancements made each day are reducing the distance between research and reality. Its importance is reflected by this line from the National Review in 2017: “Let’s make no mistake: The race for a quantum computer is the new arms race."

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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