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Understanding the Extraordinary Potential of Quantum Technologies

Julian van Velzen
April 14, 2023

What if…… The impossible were possible? Understanding the Extraordinary Potential of Quantum Technologies.

Harnessing the immense power of quantum could appear to be a distant fantasy – the stuff of science fiction – a world of potential, but with little clarity of how it could be realistically used. But we argue that with an open mind and a clear reason to explore and invest, quantum is on the verge of delivering real advantage to business and society.  

We live in a digital world – one that runs on 1s and 0s – a binary system that has, over the past 50 years, made an extraordinary difference to so many aspects of our lives, our work, and our society. But, despite Moore’s Law, this system does have inherent limits. For example, our inability to model interesting chemical reactions or complex financial risk, indicates that there are some economically important computations that classical computers struggle with. However, these so-called intractable problems may, in time, be solvable for a greater benefit – with the application of quantum.  

Why quantum?

Well, it has been around for a number of years, so this is not a new discovery, but as with so many technologies, it takes time to find its relevance in the working everyday world, rather than residing in the labs of academic research.  

Certainly, harnessing the immense power of quantum could feel like a distant fantasy – the stuff of science fiction. But as head of the Quantum Lab at Capgemini, I believe that we should make what might seem like the magic of quantum both understandable (as far as quantum is explainable) but also, more importantly, demonstrate its relevance to our world – both society and work.

Coming out of a post-Covid world, with its many restrictions, I believe now is the time to take an inventive, creative, and explorative approach to how the power of quantum could be used in the future. This is letting our minds embrace possibilities rather than “definitives”. Our Lab’s ambition is to explore the breadth of what is possible.

Accelerating quantum advantage

From our work in the Lab, we see that achieving a quantum advantage is getting ever closer, certainly closer than many of us thought a few years ago. Investment is a considerable part of this speedup – with venture capital being sucked into the development of key hardware, but there’s more to it than that: the funding of specific use case algorithms and also the use in conjunction with AI and machine learning. And there are also the near-term steps of quantum inspired – such as in life sciences

Quantum often gets conflated with quantum computing – obviously they are not one and the same, but let’s look at some of the most promising applications of quantum computing, which I think help to demonstrate the practical application – maybe not tomorrow, but definitely in the foreseeable future.

What if complex problems were solved in days, not years? Could faster scientific discoveries lead to medical breakthroughs?

One of the major future applications of quantum computing is the accurate simulation of molecules and their interactions, which could have transformational potential in life sciences R&D. Simulating whole drug molecules is a few years away, as too is accurate simulation of interactions for human biology, which requires improvements in the scale, quality, and speed of quantum hardware. But research shows we can start with modelling fragments of molecules in silico, and, looking ahead, one day it may be possible to access molecular properties such as solubility, surface area, and molecular weight.  

The current iterative process of drug discovery – design, synthesize, test, and analyze – repeated until the desired outcome is reached takes a lot of time. We’re in the early days, but pharma pilots are investigating how quantum can optimize molecular subsets to find the potential sets of drug compounds that have the most potency and efficacy against certain pathological conditions.

Or help us manage unforeseen risks?

The Financial Services sector is one that is, by default, dominated by risk, uncertainty, and the need to respond quickly to changing situations in the environment. Will the promised, albeit modest, speedups of quantum Monte Carlo one day offset quantum hardware challenges in speed, scale, and quality? Current hardware is not powerful enough to run practical applications, but progress is rapid, and the financial industry is determined to reach quantum advantage. Besides, minor quantum improvements could lead to significant gains in the massive financial markets, and the need for real-time solutions make quantum computing an exciting opportunity. 

Being curious

This is a just a taste of what is ahead of us in the field of quantum computing and what we – at Capgemini’s Quantum Lab – are working on, with commercial organizations, consortia and pan-government research initiatives.  Our team of experts is translating the use cases with the most potential into quantum algorithms that can run on today’s hardware, to really see what is actually possible and how the world might look like in the future.

If my words have not inspired you as to the world of possibilities of quantum, maybe our video will!

About the author

Senior consultant | Netherlands
Julian likes to pioneer. Equipped with a master degree in physics, he put Capgemini’s quantum technology efforts on the map, and now leads the computing futures (bits/qubits/neurons) domain from within the group’s CTIO++ community. Furthermore, he initiated and led project FARM, a big data solution for small-holder farmers in developing countries.

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