Regular readers of this Blog will be familiar with our mantra that data have no value unless they are stored, secured and analysed. Look around and there is ample evidence that data volumes are only accelerating with no current signs of ceasing. In order to avoid drowning in data, we need solutions. Quantum computing might provide the answer.
Satya Nadella, the Chief Executive of Microsoft, certainly believes so. He has said that quantum computing will be one of three technologies that will “radically reshape the world,” along with artificial intelligence and augmented reality. IBM’s Chief Executive, Arvind Krishna, is in the same camp. He announced last week that the company would host an investor event dedicated to the topic in November. 2021 has also seen the first pure-play quantum computing business list on the New York Stock Exchange (albeit via a SPAC structure). IONQ is currently capitalised at c$1.6bn. Press reports suggest that another business active in the field (Rigetti Computing) will list imminently, also via a SPAC, with a likely c$1.5bn valuation.
We first wrote specifically about the topic in 2017 and were attracted to the potential embedded in quantum. Using the principle of exponential acceleration, quantum systems have the ability to identify all potential answers to any given problem simultaneously, rather than in a binary fashion (how conventional computing systems operate). Theoretically, it has been possible to do this for some time under laboratory conditions but retaining practical stability in the real world has proven much more challenging.
It’s reassuring then that quantum computing has been one of the five largest areas where new patents have been issued in the US over the last five years (the others have been computer systems based on biological models, electrical smoking devices, angiosperms and machine learning; see here). Microsoft launched Azure Quantum earlier this year, where anyone with an interest in quantum computing can start experimenting with the service from a little as $10/hour. IBM’s System One has been commercially available for longer – since 2019 – but based on a recent interview with Krishna, he feels that quantum will “take off like a rocket ship” over the next decade. Many of the technical problems that have previously plagued quantum are apparently “solvable” per Krishna, while within the next two years, the processing power of IBM’s systems could increase by 50-fold. Here’s looking forward to what more we may learn in November.
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