Enterprise

Why now is the time to get ready for quantum computing

Comment

leadspace background

For the longest time, even while scientists were working to make it a reality, quantum computing seemed like science fiction. It’s hard enough to make any sense out of quantum physics to begin with, let alone the practical applications of this less than intuitive theory. But we’ve now arrived at a point where companies like D-Wave, Rigetti, IBM and others actually produce real quantum computers.

They are still in their infancy and nowhere near as powerful as necessary to compute anything but very basic programs, simply because they can’t run long enough before the quantum states decohere, but virtually all experts say that these are solvable problems and that now is the time to prepare for the advent of quantum computing. Indeed, Gartner just launched a Quantum Volume metric, based on IBM’s research, that looks to help CIOs prepare for the impact of quantum computing.

To discuss the state of the industry and why now is the time to get ready, I sat down with IBM’s Jay Gambetta, who will also join us for a panel on Quantum Computing at our TC Sessions: Enterprise event in San Francisco on September 5, together with Microsoft’s Krysta Svore and Intel’s Jim Clark.

Gambetta, of course, agrees that now is the time to start thinking about how to get ready. But he also noted that there’s still plenty of misunderstandings around quantum computing. “Not everything is going to be sped up by a quantum computer,” he said.

“That’s kind of the myth and that goes back to people thinking that classical computers can do everything. Computers are so good that people have forgotten that there are problems that are really hard for classical computers. And we know they are hard, so we find ways around them, or we don’t even you attempt to solve them. So what quantum does, it gives you a different lens that allows you to look at problems that you would never be able to look at with a classical computer.”

The principles of quantum computing are very different from those of classical computing, though, so developers need to develop a new kind of intuition for them. “We don’t see superposition — or experience superpositions — in our everyday life or experience entanglement. So how to make an analogy for something when you live in a classical world. That is a different set of equations that govern how things behave,” Gambetta said.

In the current state of the industry, the mission for a lot of companies, including IBM, is to get early machines — or even just simulators out there — so that developers can start developing this intuition. IBM and Rigetti make their quantum computers available in the cloud, for example. Microsoft, which doesn’t have a working quantum computer year, offers a quantum programming language and a simulator.

IBM unveils its first commercial quantum computer

Gambetta believes that it will take people five to ten years (or maybe more) of using quantum computers to develop this intuition. For the time being, we can still use classical computers to simulate the current set of physical quantum computers.

“That’s why we want to start early and get the quantum computers into [developers’] hands, even while we can still simulate the current devices on our classical computers because it won’t be long before they will be beyond what is possible,” he noted.

Today, we can simulate an ideal machine up to fifty qubits. But there’s a winkle there, because those ideal machines don’t have any noise, something that in many ways defines quantum computers.

When you start simulating noise, a lot of the resources go to that alone, but in real machines, noise is going to be one of those things that developers will have to contend with. And developers will have to start developing algorithms that are resistant to the noise that these machines will have, but today’s classical computers can only simulate the noise of machines of up to maybe ten qubits.

Obviously, there’s still lots of work to be done before we arrive at a general-purpose quantum computer, but that’s also what makes the current state of the technology so exciting and Gambetta believes that this gives the community a chance to influence this next generation of computing now and — maybe most importantly — to have the tools in place to make use of these machines once they arrive.

“I think we have this unique opportunity to bring in the next wave of computation. If we follow the path that we did last time, where we develop the technology, people write compilers, and people use compilers and then eventually people did applications — that takes a long time,” he argued. “If we can shorten that down by developing the compiler in the open, working with clients on applications and giving systems to people to explore and see what they can do, I think that allows us to reduce that timeline.

On the other hand, though, enterprises are now looking into actual practical applications of quantum computing. Chemistry problems, especially, is what Gambetta thinks companies should focus on right now because quantum computers are ideally suited to solving them.

In addition, he’s also bullish on quantum machine learning. Not to speed up standard machine learning we do today, but to offer different types of feature-space mappings that are equivalent to quantum circuits that would be very hard for classical computers to do.

publications background

For now then, given the limitations of what’s possible today Gambetta believes that developers should focus on ‘toy problems.’ “You can come up with a sort of interaction that goes on inside a lithium ion battery or something like that,” he said. “You can try that and you can say: we can test this on a quantum computer to look at scaling. And that’s important to asses how this is progressing for this kind of application.”

And that’s pretty much the state of the industry right now: developers can start to work on problems that go beyond trivial research experiments but they can’t quite run complex applications just yet. That’s what also makes today so exciting for quantum computers. There’s hardware, there’s software and now developers and researchers get to define how we’ll use these machines once they come out of the lab and reach the point where they can’t be modeled on a classical machine anymore.

More TechCrunch

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI is removing ChatGPT’s AI voice that sounds like Scarlett Johansson

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft Build 2024: All the AI and hardware products Microsoft announced

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says