Quantum technology includes quantum computing, quantum cryptography, quantum networks (quantum internet), and quantum sensors, all of which are making returns today. With the exception of quantum sensors, they are all interconnected, with the potential for commercial quantum computing driving much of the investment in the emerging quantum technology market. (Quantum sensors use the sensitivity of quantum devices to increase the effectiveness of medical imaging, global positioning, and other applications. It’s real and with us today, but I won’t have much to say about it in this article.) Quantum computing: The state of play as recently as two years ago, articles emerged from serious critics saying that Quantum computers were practically not buildable. Today, much of that suspicion has been dispelled. Tier 1 companies are investing in quantum computing. Quantum computers or their components / access networks were already developed by Alibaba, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Google, Honeywell, and Intel. New well-funded companies such as Rigetti, ionQ and D-Wave are also playing in this market. Sharing household names like IBM, Google, and Amazon not only adds credibility to quantum computing, it also popularizes quantum computing. With such companies participating in this market, it is easy to get quantum computers on the front pages of news outlets that do not usually cover advanced physics or supercomputing. How quantum computers work and the applications that can solve them This seems like a good place to try to explain how a quantum computer works. A full explanation is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that quantum computers perform calculations based on the probability of an object’s quantum state before it is measured. This compares to what a classic computer does – computed as zeros or hyperbolic zeros. On a practical level, this translates into the ability of quantum computers to process orders of magnitude more information than conventional computers can in the same time period. So quantum computers embody the promise that quantum computers can solve problems that traditional problems cannot solve in a reasonable period of time. Although quantum computers are already in use, there is some agreement that there are still no practical problems that can be solved by a quantum computer that cannot be solved by a conventional computer. This is a very controversial issue, but this alleged quantum feature is assumed to have elucidated classes of theoretical problems. The areas in which quantum computers have been particularly useful so far have been optimization software, artificial intelligence, machine learning, as well as in simulation. None of this is intended to indicate that advances in quantum computing technology will be easy. While the power of quantum computers is measured in units of qubits (not bits, like classic computers), the quality of qubits also matters. The quantum states of qubits are difficult to maintain, as they are subject to quantum decoherence. Quantum computers require significant error correction because they are more error-prone than traditional computers. Some of the companies mentioned above manufacture quantitative devices and sell them to the end users. Some sell access to their computers via a dedicated cloud, which makes quantum computers more expensive ($ 10 to $ 15 million) within the reach of thousands of users. There are also a large number of companies (including Intel) that are developing processors for quantum computers in the future. Banking, Investment, and Quantities Perhaps the biggest markets for quantum computers in the past few years have been research and development, and government (including the military and the intelligence community). This is typical of new computing products. But from an Inside Quantum Technology point of view, the market where we believe quantum computing will first have significant commercial success (the “killer application” of quantum computing?) In the financial services sector (banks, insurance companies, investment firms, etc.). We are particularly optimistic about this sector for several reasons. First, in the big banks, quantum computing is already well established. What we’re seeing there is actual use of quantum computers now, not just experiments. Some major banks even employ experts in quantum computing to help spread quantum technology throughout their organizations – an example being JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs. And many large banks and other financial services firms that can harness the power of quantum computing are also making financial services a market with high potential. This does not apply to all banks of course. We’ve heard many mid-sized banks say about quantum computing that it’s brilliant but more than it needs right now, but that could change over the next five years or so. Pharma: Profitable use of quantum computers Another area in which we see a high potential for quantum computers at present is the specialized chemical and pharmaceutical industries. These two areas are similar in that they attempt to create complex materials. Quantum computers allow chemical and pharmaceutical companies to bring products to market faster through simulations and improvements. It is difficult to explain the importance of time to pharmaceutical marketing in this era of COVID-19. An example of how this sector has evolved from the quantum computer market is BASF Ventures’ recent investment in Zapata Computing. Meanwhile, most of the big pharmaceutical companies (Roche, for example) are starting to experiment with how quantum computers can help them with drug discovery procedures. An app to fear: QKD and Quantum Internet, Most people consider most efficient banks and pharmaceutical companies a good thing. However, one of the types of applications that quantum computers seem to promise is the fear: the ability to crack common key cryptography (PKE) technologies. Quantum computers will not be a threat for some time; However, long-term information – medical records and plans for aircraft – needs protection now because it can now be stolen and decrypted when a powerful enough quantum computer is available. As a result of all this, the crypto community is working hard to produce so-called Post-Quantum Cipher (PQC) algorithms, which are currently standardized by NIST. PQC algorithms are intended to be less vulnerable than traditional PKE algorithms to be broken by quantum computers. Another way to protect information in the quantum age is to send it over a quantum network that holds qubits, not bits. This can happen through the use of quantum key distribution, which encodes keys in PKE as qubits. When a hacker tries to steal the key, the information the hacker is trying to obtain decomposes into a state of incoherence. The most well-known quantum internet, as it is currently envisioned, is first and foremost a quantum key cryptographic network being developed in stages with many new quantum cryptography features. This article originally appeared in EE Times’ sibling post. Written by Lawrence Gassman, Founder and President, Inside Quantum Technology.