Quantum computers have the potential to transform industry value chains
Quantum computers are expected to transform industries because they have the potential to address exponentially complex problems that classical computers cannot. Future quantum computers could help achieve product breakthroughs in areas such as chemistry, biology, healthcare, finance, AI and materials science, enabling rapid market share gains and greater profitability for the visionary companies that adopt them. In this way, quantum computing’s problem-solving capabilities could dramatically redefine competitive advantage, transforming business operating models and value chains that revolutionize entire industries.
For example, the optimization of logistic systems is typically based on a “hub and spoke” network model. The problem of optimally designing individual point-to-point routes satisfying various requirements on a large-scale logistic network is very complex and can quickly become out-of-reach for classical supercomputers. If one were to explore all the possibilities in such an optimization problem, it could take billions of years even with just a few hundred terminals in the network. Quantum computing may be able to explore the space of possibilities much quicker. For example, in the context of airline scheduling optimization, quantum computing may be able to create daily ad hoc flight schedules, specifically tailored for the thousands of passengers flying to hundreds of destinations on a specific day, reducing customer travel time, air traffic congestion and airline fuel costs. If an enterprise were to develop a quantum solution for logistic network design optimization, it could swiftly aim to become a market leader in every industry where logistics are critical to success.
A fast-follower approach may only produce laggards that have overspent
Unlike with more linear or incremental technological advancement, a fast-follower approach is less likely to be effective for adopting quantum computing. This is due to:
— Quantum computing’s steep learning curve
— Excessive costs associated with “catching up.”
Consider a use case that a quantum computer could solve exponentially faster than a classical machine – designing a purpose-built material for the electronics or transportation industries that is significantly lighter and stronger than current substances (see Figure 2). The accelerated development of such a revolutionary material would position a manufacturer to outflank its competitors in short order. Moving up the learning curve, this newly “quantum-enabled” market leader could quickly gain increasing advantage over competitors by fine-tuning its breakthrough material, as well as by expanding into new materials customized for other applications.
While hypothetical, this example illustrates how a steep learning curve could make it extremely difficult even for so-called fast followers to quickly catch up with firstmover businesses, potentially resulting in winner-take-all” scenarios in certain industries. Even if catching up were possible for a specific use case, it would likely be associated with extortionate costs related to, for example, buying in-house expertise, procuring access to the best infrastructure, funding advantageous partnerships and/or acquiring a company with the necessary capabilities.
Building an in-house Quantum Center of Competency will take time
Although most businesses have heard about quantum computing by now, many do not have the talent or expertise required to take advantage of its impending business transformation – and acquiring it won’t be easy. The supply of quantum computing talent is limited, with fierce competition for skilled resources.
Once the right people are on board, it will likely take years to develop a deep understanding of quantum computing’s potential impact on a given business. Recent technological shifts, such as the almost decade-long migration to graphics processing units (GPUs) to accelerate big data workloads, underscore the time it takes to build competency when adopting a new technology.
Given quantum’s potential for radical industry transformation, exponential problem-solving capabilities and the difficulty to obtain quantum-skilled resources, leading enterprises should consider acting now.
Seizing quantum advantage for your business
What could the commercialization of quantum computing mean for your business? In the near-to-medium term, quantum computing could confer business benefits in three areas: quantum simulation, quantum optimization and quantum-assisted machine learning (see Figure 3).