Recent research from the CSIRO has predicted that quantum technology will reach $6 billion and generate more than 19,000 Australian jobs by 2045.
Noel Derwort General Manger Defence, and Lead of our recent Quantum computing activity believes there is great opportunity for various industries to benefit from this, saying, “Australia has a history of being at the forefront of technological development. We ushered in the age of high-speed, always-on wireless connectivity and are currently a recognised global leader in quantum computing, sensing research and other areas of quantum-enabled technology.
“It is expected that quantum computing will harness a new understanding of physics akin to harnessing electricity in the 19th century and contribute to new discoveries that will be applied across society.”
What is quantum computing?
While a quantum computer and a classical computer may look similar, the systems inside them and their processes are entirely different. The laptop sitting on your desk today has taken over seven decades to develop. It’s expected that quantum computing will follow a similar trajectory of continuous technological improvement.
Quantum computing is vastly complex, and much of it remains theoretical. At a simplistic level, it is computed technology based on the principles of quantum theory. It harnesses the unique ability of subatomic particles to store multiple numbers and process them simultaneously. This could result in processors that work millions of times faster and require less energy than the ones we use today.
In comparison, most classical computers store numbers and process them one at a time using transistors, logic gates and algorithms. The more complex the problem is to solve, the more steps the computer needs to take, the longer it needs to do it, and the more energy it uses.
Why do we need quantum computing?
Despite the time and energy savings promised by quantum computing, classical computers have done a great job so far, which begs the question, why do we need it at all?
There are several reasons:
- We’re reaching the limit of classical computers’ processing power, and the cost to develop improvements will become prohibitive.
- Processors can’t get much smaller than they are now.
- Being able to process data in an entirely new way opens a whole other paradigm of computing with enormous potential benefits to humanity.
- As with past technology evolutions, whole new industries are likely to emerge.
What are the benefits of quantum computing?
The novel way a quantum computer harnesses the laws of quantum physics to process data, provides three main benefits.
- Perform at greater speeds
Quantum computers will be able to perform calculations in seconds that would take classical computers thousands of years.
- A higher level of precision
Quantum computing will help us develop materials with new properties—a task that a normal computer can do but without the same level of accuracy.
- Can address complex problems
Quantum computers have the potential to solve problems classical computers lack the power to solve.
A Futures Thinking approach to quantum computing
Quantum computing plays an active part in Noetic’s future’s thinking methodology— investigating an organisation’s current state in the broader landscape, identifying signals and drivers of change, and building on trend analysis to inform what futures are probable.
Designed to bridge the gap between guesswork and readiness, it empowers organisations with foresight, enhancing their ability to anticipate change and direct the necessary resources to build on their desired outcomes.
“In our experience, most companies working in quantum computing have a reasonable idea of what can be achieved in the next few years. In four to ten years, there is a vague awareness of what is possible, but there is almost no real ability to predict beyond that.”
“Despite this disparity in predictions for quantum computing’s future, there are many potential commercial applications for the longer term. This is why government, industry and organisations should include quantum computing in their futures thinking and strategic plans so they can utilise this new technology as it becomes available.”
Opportunities for its application
The following areas, use cases and opportunities for quantum computing in the short-to-medium term are extracted from the Quantum Computing Insights Paper research paper.*
*The author of the Insights paper is Noetic under contract to the Department of Defence.
Some of the earliest work on quantum computing is related to highly complex chemistry modelling, particularly the optimisation of molecules.
Use case 1: Material design
Quantum computing-designed materials may lead to:
- Supporting high-speed rail and mobility of other transport platforms in different environments
- Delivering better protection and survivability in hazardous environments
- Producing lightweight and more durable equipment and machinery
- Developing efficiencies in manufacturing
- Enabling cheaper and more energy-efficient housing.
Use case 2: Pharmaceutical development
Potential to quickly design bespoke drugs and medicines for specific diseases. For example, the design of catalyst molecules that attack cancerous tumours.
May be beneficial for a range of complex system optimisation issues. Applications will depend on how problems can be formulated and integrated with classical computers, and hybrid systems would be necessary to provide the best performance.
Use case 1: Financial transactions
Optimisation algorithms play a role in finding solutions to complex problems quickly to speed up financial transactions.
Use case 2: Logistics
Route optimisation is simple to understand but can be challenging to solve with current limitations sitting at around 20 destinations.
- Supply chains
- Logistics planning
- Public transport routes
- Deployment of first responders to disasters.
Use case 3: Autonomous mobility platforms
Optimisation applications used for logistic operations could be combined with sensing technologies to support broader activities requiring autonomous mobility platforms. For example, casualty evacuation from land or sea.
Encryption, decryption, and encryption breaking is a competitive field in terms of both measures and countermeasures. Maintaining the cyber security and privacy of everything from internet banking passwords to personal medical information and critical infrastructure is essential. Quantum computing is likely to outsmart our current cryptography systems and make them redundant
Progress and predictions
Quantum computing’s progress so far is already forcing industries and governments to consider its application. This is being seen in banking, where public key encryption is widely used and could potentially be a target for quantum computer-aided attacks.
It is a transformative technology, and the returns are potentially enormous, but its current state is not yet powerful enough to truly know. There are broad-ranging predictions regarding its future.
At the optimistic end, by 2040 we may see the emergence of full-scale quantum computers— pervasive and integrated into everything we have and do. At the other end are the sceptics regarding its development and application. Potentially only useful for a small number of niche cases, but transformative in specific sectors.
Find out more
To find out more about quantum computing read our Insights paper. from the Emerging Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium.
Noetic would like to acknowledge the insights provided during subject matter expert interviews of a range of people drawn from academia, industry, and Defence, which underpin the development of this paper. This paper also leverages previous work undertaken by Noetic and Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) for the 2021 Quantum Computing: In Focus event. Noetic also wishes to acknowledge the review and arising comments on the draft paper provided by DSTG and EDTAS Technology Opportunities Event Partners.