Unleashing the power of quantum computing

In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, businesses are constantly seeking ways to gain a competitive edge. One emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionise industry is quantum computing. Over the past month, I have attended several industry-focused events, like the Economist’s Commercialising Quantum Global event, where I discussed what quantum computers can offer UK industry and its applications, from medicine to aviation.   

Katherine Royse

Quantum computing was first conceived in the 1980s using the principles of quantum mechanics to offer unparalleled problem-solving capabilities that cannot be matched with traditional computers. It was not until 1998 that the first working quantum computer was introduced, and since then companies like D-Wave, IBM and Google have made significant strides in developing quantum computers. Quantum computing is still in its infancy, and we are not yet able to run applications at industry-scale, however it is expected that in the next 10 years we will be seeing this emerging technology move into the mainstream. It is crucial for UK organisations to stay informed and explore potential use cases, we can already predict several industries which could achieve a significant advantage with quantum computing.

Credit: Adobe Stock

Transforming drug and material discovery

To discover new drugs or materials and bring them to market is a time-consuming and costly process, quantum computing can facilitate models and simulations which are faster and more complex than on traditional supercomputers. We can already see how the field of medical research is benefiting from the power of quantum computing. Quantum machine learning can expedite the research and development process by simulating and analysing numerous possible molecule combinations for potential materials or medicines.  By leveraging the capability of quantum computing, manufacturing companies can streamline their product development and reduce waste by being virtually test more detailed prototypes, which otherwise would be costly to produce. Pharmaceutical companies can also reduce costs and accelerate the discovery of potential treatments and cures for diseases. At the Hartree Centre, we have explored how our quantum-integrated workflow can provide an advantage in virtual drug discovery. Similarly, we have also explored how we can model the molecule reactions in more detail with quantum machine learning, helping to discover potential medical treatments and new materials.

Optimising travel and logistics

Quantum computing can create exciting possibilities for the future of transport, which can play a crucial role in optimising battery technology, transportation systems and self-driving algorithms. Quantum systems have the potential to model travel and logistics significantly more complex than currently possible on supercomputers, reducing both time and costs. Through our Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) programme, we are exploring how quantum computing can improve supply logistics by optimising travel routes. We developed a practitioner’s guide for using quantum algorithms for optimisation to give organisations a comprehensive overview of quantum optimisation techniques and their practical applications. You can already see industry giants like Airbus, Google and Volkswagen investing in quantum computing for their operations to reduce travel times and optimise logistics. Hartree Centre experts have collaborated with Ocado Technology to investigate the potential of quantum computing technologies to solve complex logistical problems by mapping routes for a team of Ocado’s packing robots in real-time.

Quantum Computer, credit: Adobe Stock

Strengthening digital security

When it comes to advanced cryptography, quantum computing has the power to reshape how we encrypt sensitive information. Traditionally, supercomputers have used brute force to break encryptions, a time-consuming process that relies on large prime number factorisation. Quantum computers have the potential to accelerate this type of decryption exponentially, equally they would have the capability to enable significantly stronger encryptions that would enhance digital security and protect sensitive information, helping to protect data for businesses and individuals.

Uncovering hidden insights and improving forecasting

Accurate predictions and forecasting are crucial for businesses and finding patterns in data and using them to predict possible future outcomes can red use waste and help industries meet Net Zero targets by tracking electricity consumption and machine usage. Quantum computing can unlock new possibilities in pattern matching, enabling businesses to make more informed decisions as traditional simulation methods often fall short when it comes to handling large and complex data sets like weather patterns. In our ongoing collaboration with the Met Office, we have worked on a series of projects to improve weather prediction like Climate Resilience Demonstrator which uses a digital twin  to model and predict potential flooding areas across the UK. Many of the artificial intelligence and machine learning tools we have used and developed across these weather prediction projects can be adapted for modelling on quantum computers.

A photo of fast moving river with the riverbank in the background.
Credit: Pexel

Looking forwards

As businesses embrace quantum computing, organisational design and structure will need to adapt to fully leverage its full potential. This new computing technology will coexist with classical computing, providing access to quantum technologies when advanced calculations are required and supplementing classical computing. This will help us tackle global challenges like climate change and sustainable manufacturing. Cloud-based quantum computing will in the future become widely available, allowing organisations of any size in any industry to harness the power of quantum technology.

The future of quantum computing holds immense promise and unlimited potential, as the technology continues to mature, businesses must stay informed and prepared to harness its power. By embracing this emerging technology, businesses can gain a competitive advantage, solve complex problems and lead the way into a new era of advanced computing.

At the Hartree Centre, we can help businesses explore quantum computing with our training courses or through our HNCDI programme.


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